BOSTON (AP) — A legislative panel investigating a coronavirus outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home that took the lives of nearly 80 veterans discussed at its sixth meeting Tuesday what qualifications the home's next leader should have.
State officials and soldiers home trustees answered questions from the Joint Legislative Oversight Board, led by chairs Rep. Linda Dean Campbell and Sen. Walter Timilty.
Former Superintendent Bennett Walsh didn’t have a license to run a nursing home, and Maj. Gen. Gary Keefe, the new chair of the trustees, said he doesn’t think the next superintendent needs a license to run the home, as long as his subordinates have one.
Isaac Mass, another trustee, disagreed, calling the requirement for industry experience “common sense.”
“You would not pick a fire chief that had no experience in firefighting, and you would not pick a police chief with no experience in law enforcement,” he said.
Participants also addressed the need for a long-term strategic plan for both the Chelsea and Holyoke veterans homes that would include addressing the needs of future veterans.
One idea would be to create satellite clinics associated with the soldiers homes, especially in more rural areas, so veterans who choose not to live at a facility don’t have to travel to Holyoke, Chelsea or a VA hospital for services.
The virus had been blamed for the deaths in spring of 76 veterans who lived at the state-run care center, one of the country’s worst outbreaks at a long-term care facility. Two former top administrators at the Holyoke home have pleaded not guilty to criminal negligence charges connected to the deaths.
In other pandemic news:
The number of newly confirmed coronavirus deaths in Massachusetts rose by 68 on Tuesday, pushing the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to 14,821 since the start of the pandemic.
The number of newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 increased by more than 1,300 and its confirmed caseload rose to more than 519,000.
The true number of cases is likely higher because studies suggest some people can be infected and not feel sick.
There were about 1,400 people reported hospitalized Tuesday because of confirmed cases of COVID-19, with about 320 in intensive care units.
The average age of those hospitalized was 68. There were an estimated more than 55,000 people with current active cases of COVID-19 in the state.
The number of probable or confirmed COVID-19 deaths reported in long-term care facilities rose to 8,268.
VIRUS RULES VIOLATIONS
Massachusetts officials investigated more than 1,400 complaints about violations of the state’s coronavirus restrictions last year, ranging from allegations of employees and customers not wearing face coverings to failing to report positive tests among workers.
Of those cases, only 25 led to citations, while another 159 resulted in warnings, The Salem News reported Monday, citing information from the state Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development. Another 56 businesses received cease-and-desist orders and some remain under investigation.
A wide range of businesses were hit with complaints, from gyms, ice cream parlors and nail salons, to restaurants, bars, supermarkets, retail stores, auto dealerships and golf ranges, the state said.
Some complaints were also lodged against local governments or officials. For example, a town official on Martha’s Vineyard needed to be reminded about wearing a face covering in town buildings, according to a complaint log provided by the state.
The state also received a complaint against Pfizer’s Andover research facility. The pharmaceutical company developed a COVID-19 vaccine that is being distributed worldwide. The complaint alleged that employees weren’t wearing masks or practicing social distancing, and that contact tracing wasn’t being used to inform other employees about potential infections.
The company in a statement said it investigated the complaint and “responded to all relevant officials including the Department of Labor’s Industrial Health and Safety Inspector who confirms our Andover site is in compliance.”
The Boston Ballet's plans to resume live, onstage and in-person performances in May have been put on hold given ongoing health concerns caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen and Executive Director Meredith Hodges said in a statement Tuesday.
“It had been our fervent hope to return to the Opera House stage with live, in-person performances starting in May 2021. However, given the realities of this enduring pandemic and our continued dedication to the health and safety of our community, we have come to the difficult decision to cancel ‘Off the Chart’ and the female-led ‘ChoreograpHER’ this season," they said.
They said they hope to stage the performances next season.