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Legislative Oversight Committee to hear testimony on Soldiers’ Home COVID tragedy Oct. 20

State Sen. John C. Velis.

BOSTON – Families of veterans affected by the Soldiers’ Home at Holyoke COVID crisis will be heard by the Legislative Oversight Committee beginning Oct. 20.

State Sen. John C. Velis, D-Westfield, led the charge for a legislative investigation last spring, which resulted in the formation of the Oversight Committee.

Seventy-six residents of the Home contracted the virus and died in March and April, and even more residents and staff became infected. Velis, a supporter of the Soldiers’ Home where he has hosted office hours in the past, has been working with the committee for months and said Friday evening that the hearing date was finally secured.

The hearings will be hosted at Holyoke Community College, something Velis fought for from the start.

“This happened here,” he said. “It’s important that the hearings take place here — it only makes sense. It had to happen in western Mass.”

The announcement came a week after former Soldiers’ Home Superintendent Bennet Walsh and Medical Director Dr. David Clinton were indicted on charges of neglect and serious bodily harm for their actions during the outbreak. Attorney General Maura Healey specifically stated that Walsh and Clinton’s decision March 27 to combine units of COVID-19 positive patients with asymptomatic residents led to the spread and deaths.

Velis said the oversight committee is  affording every family of every veteran affected by the Soldiers’ Home outbreak an opportunity to be heard.

“Families have a lot to say and deserve to be heard,” Velis said.

The details of the public hearings are still being hammered out. Velis said they are planning to have the testimony take place publicly and in person.

“Of course everyone will be required to follow state guidance for COVID,” Velis said.

The Westfield News will update this story as more information is a available.

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