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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Pittsfield Police Advisory Board Wants Voice in Use of Body Cameras

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Following the City Council's endorsement of dashboard and body cameras on Pittsfield Police, the Police Advisory Review Board would like to review the equipment's policy before anything is implemented.

Chair Ellen Maxon this week asked the board members if they would like to take a vote to support body cameras but some were unsure of their stance. Instead, the panel motioned Tuesday to request that in the event that the Police Department adopts such a program, PARB reviews the governing policies before implementation.

The conversation is in response to the death of Miguel Estrella at the hands of a police officer in late March, which has sparked a significant community response along with conversations about police accountability and the lack of mental health support.

"I still have a pretty mixed opinion because I feel like something like body cameras, people think that's going to be the end all, be all and we don't have to do any more work," board member Erin Sullivan said, adding that there is a bigger problem beyond video surveillance.

Board member Dennis Powell, who is also president of the Berkshire NAACP, wished not to share his thoughts on body cameras at the moment.  

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