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Families Of Veterans Lost During Holyoke Soldiers' Home Coronavirus Outbreak Plead For Changes

HOLYOKE (CBS) – Family members of veterans who live at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home, and relatives of some who died at the facility, testified Tuesday at the Massachusetts State House.

Tuesday marked the first meeting of a special commission created to investigate one of the deadliest COVID-19 outbreaks in the country.

Since March 1, 76 veterans at the facility died from coronavirus. Two former administrators are facing charges.

"My dad would want me to do it. He would want answers," said Susan Kenney, who testified before the state's special legislative commission. "The numbers kept rising and I still didn't know if my father was dead or alive," she recalled.

Kenney was so desperate back in April, she drove to the home with a crayon message on her car window asking about her father. He did not survive.

The commission also heard from Laurie Beaudette, who held a photo of her late father as she described the last time she saw him, which was Easter Sunday. "That's when I had to tell my dad the hardest thing I ever had to tell him, it was OK to let go," she said. "Please make sure a disaster like this doesn't happen again."

Family members told lawmakers they had little communication about what was actually going on at Holyoke Soldiers' Home.

Over the weekend, state officials say some veterans who had recovered from the virus were suddenly displaying COVID-like symptoms again. "…They were immediately isolated and tested, and out of an abundance of caution visitation has been temporarily suspended," said a spokesperson. "The veterans have since tested negative."

Others whose loved ones survived the first round, say problems persist. "As close as Sunday when another possible outbreak could have happened with a veteran, we received communication that we would be contacted if our veteran was on that floor," Cheryl Turgeon told the commission. "Guess what? I wasn't contacted."

Family members and supporters are calling for more funding and staffing. They also want a new upgraded facility to replace the current Holyoke Soldiers' Home.

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