Dozens of residents have died after a coronavirus outbreak at a Massachusetts nursing home for veterans, and a federal lawmaker is now speaking out.
Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., weighed in Monday on the situation at Holyoke Soldiers' Home, where 40 veterans have now died, 33 of whom tested positive for COVID-19.
"This is an American challenge," Neal said. "It's an international problem, but an American challenge."
Neal addressed the devastating infection rate and death toll the novel coronavirus has caused worldwide and in his own district, which includes the Holyoke facility.
"A lot of people at the Soldiers' Home have died. I've been in touch with the staff, the nurses and others, we've talked back and forth," Neal said.
The congressman has said he was heartbroken and shocked to learn of the deaths of veterans who had served their country with honor and distinction.
As more residents there have died over the past two weeks, and many more have become infected, the battle against COVID-19 at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home has become personal for Neal and his family.
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"My uncle Bob Garvey has been there for a while," said Neal. "My uncle has tested positive."
As someone who knows the Soldiers' Home well, Neal says accountability in the form of the current state and federal investigations is important – but there also needs to be perspective on the realities there.
"Many people think of it as a hospital," he said. "It's really a residence, and the proximity, particularly in the dementia unit, you can see sitting next to each other how the contagion would spread very, very quickly, and it did."