Soldiers' Home Superintendent Removed as Contagion Spreads

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HOLYOKE, Mass. — The superintendent of the Soldiers' Home has been suspended effective immediately.
 
In a brief statement late Monday, Health and Human Services Deputy Secretary Dan Tsai said Bennett Walsh was being put on administrative leave. 
 
"It is imperative that the Holyoke Soldiers' Home provide a safe environment for the veteran residents, and the dedicated staff who serve them," he wrote. 
 
A veteran at the 300-bed Soldiers' Home tested positive for COVID-19 more than a week ago. Western Mass News on Sunday reported that the contagion had since spread to both patients and employees and that the state's Emergency Management Agency had set up tents on Friday to screen all employees entering the facility.
 
According to a statement from the long-term nursing and independent living center, employees' temperatures were being taken before they enter the facility, hand sanitizing stations were being installed, movement within the facility was being restricted and residents monitored. 
 
Walsh, a lieutenant colonel and 24-year Marine veteran, was named superintendent four years ago.
 
The home's Twitter feed on March 18 included a quote from Walsh that "The Soldiers' Home Team has stepped up, making sure our Veterans are getting the best care with honor & dignity," in relation to the novel coronavirus. 
 
Val Liptak, a registered nurse and chief executive officer of Western Massachusetts Hospital, is stepping in as interim administrator of the Soldiers' Home. 
 
"We have also implemented an onsite clinical command team comprised of medical, epidemiological, and operational experts responsible for the comprehensive and rapid response to the outbreak of COVID-19," stated Tsai. "Today's actions underscore the state's commitment to our veterans and frontline health care employees during this unprecedented public health crisis."

Tags: COVID-19,   veterans services,   


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Sheriff's Office Delivers Thanksgiving Turkeys to Christian Center

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

Sheriff Thomas Bowler with Food Service Director Richard Millis. The Christian Center brings turkeys donated to the center to the House of Corrections, where they are cooked and carved for the Thanksgiving and Christmas meals the center provides. 
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Sheriff Thomas Bowler and his staff delivered cooked Thanksgiving turkey to the Christian Center on Wednesday. 
 
The Christian Center is anticipating the distribution of at least 350 meals to people in need on Thanksgiving.
 
This has been a long-standing tradition between the sheriff's office and the Christian Center. For the last decade, staff and inmates at the Berkshire County House of Corrections have prepared Thanksgiving meals for hundreds of people at the center under the guidance of Food Service Director Richard Millis.
 
"I have been here for 10 years, and chef Millis has been cooking for 11 years, so the previous administration was doing this as well," Bowler said.
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