Two former managers of a veterans' home in Massachusetts have been charged criminally for their actions which led to almost 80 of the residents getting sick from the coronavirus.
This is possibly the first case of officials in long term care facilities having criminal charges brought against them that have to do with the current pandemic.
According to AP News, a grand jury returned indictments against Bennett Walsh and Dr. David Clinton, the superintendent and medical director of the Holyoke Soldiers' Home. The charges cite an action taken in March, where two dementia units were combined, exposing residents from one unit to those from another unit where there were active cases of the virus.
Attorney General Maula Healy commented on the indictment, stating that the "utterly baffling" decisions made by Walsh and his subordinates at the facility allowed the spread of the virus, which ultimately led to the death of 76 of the veterans living there.
"[These residents] risked their lives from the beaches of Normandy, to some the jungles of Vietnam and to know that they died under the most horrific circumstances is truly shocking," mentioned Healy in an interview.
The first veteran living in the Holyoke Soldiers' Home tested positive for the coronavirus on March 17, but he had been symptomatic for weeks prior. Staff was, however, instructed to not isolate him. He stayed with this three roommates and interacted frequently with many other residents in common areas the whole time, until the positive results came back.
The decision to combine the units left the residents at very close proximity, with over 40 of them inside a unit that was originally designed for a maximum of 25 residents.
The investigation that eventually led to the grand jury being convened also found that a dozen additional body bags were ordered for the unit. The day after, a refrigerated truck to potentially hold bodies in case the morgue reached capacity arrived at the facility.
A staff member claimed that she felt like she was walking the residents "to their death." Another staffer questioned the decision to combine the two units and was told that it didn't matter because [the veterans] were all exposed anyway and there was not enough staff to cover both units."
Walsh denies any wrongdoing, citing a "dire staffing shortage."