Medical personnel wait to screen people arriving at a special COVID-19 testing site in Boston on Saturday. The drive-thru testing site is only open to qualified first responders who meet the state criteria for testing. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. Credit: Michael Dwyer | AP

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BOSTON — The superintendent of a Massachusetts veterans home was removed from his duties Monday after 11 residents died, including at least five who had tested positive for coronavirus and another five whose results are pending.

Bennett Walsh was placed on paid administrative leave following the deaths at the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke, The Boston Globe reported.

Gov. Charlie Baker mourned the victims Monday evening, calling the deaths a “shuddering loss for us all.”

“As someone who has visited the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home on many occasions to catch up with staff and residents, I am heartbroken by today’s news,” the governor tweeted.

[Our COVID-19 tracker contains the most recent information on Maine cases by county]

Another surviving 11 residents have tested positive for the virus at the home, as have five staff members, according to the state Department of Veterans Services.

Health and Human Services Deputy Secretary Dan Tsai said the state has created an onsite clinical team to respond to the situation.


Federal officials have approved the state’s request for at least 1,000 ventilators to help care for those with severe respiratory COVID-19 symptoms, Baker said Monday. The state should begin receiving those ventilators soon, he said.

The state also received a delivery of personal protective equipment like masks and gloves for health care workers from the strategic national stockpile, Baker said. Deliveries began Saturday and continued through Sunday, he said, and the state also has $50 million on order for additional supplies.

To help boost its supply, Massachusetts has also created an online portal to let companies and individuals donate or sell surgical masks, goggles, sanitizing wipes, protective gowns and gloves to the state.

Local companies have also stepped up, Baker said.

Boston-based athletic shoe company New Balance is manufacturing face masks for those battling COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, he said. The company is producing prototypes and hope to scale up production soon.


Baker said he expects a surge in COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts to begin between April 7 and April 17.

Baker declined to offer any estimate about how many Massachusetts residents may die from the disease, saying he wants to work to make sure that everybody who can be saved is saved.


The number of people in Massachusetts who have died from COVID-19 has risen to more than 55 since the start of the outbreak.

Public health officials said the number of residents who have so far tested positive for the disease stands at more than 5,700.

Nearly 42,800 have been tested, and more than 450 have been hospitalized.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

Adult nursing facilities

Baker said Monday that the state is working with long-term care providers to set up dedicated skilled nursing facilities for older adults infected with COVID-19.

Baker said the effort will begin at the Beaumont Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Center in Worcester, which will bring 300 skilled nursing facility beds online, half of them by Thursday.

The Republican said the creation of dedicated skilled nursing facilities for COVID-19 patients will let hospitals move more patients into the recovery phase and out of hospital beds and into a safe setting.

Baker said ultimately the administration would like to have 1,000 beds available for older residents.

Law enforcement

The Boston Police Department has 22 employees who’ve tested positive for the coronavirus, a department spokesman announced Monday.

Nineteen officers and three civilian employees tested positive. Sgt. Detective John Boyle told The Boston Globe there are no clear connections between the cases as the officers work at different sites around the city.

Boyle said the force remains fully staffed and patrol activity is going on at normal levels.

“The residents of the city of Boston can feel safe knowing the police are out there working, and our staffing levels are safe,” he said.

The department reported its first positive case on March 21.

The Massachusetts bar exam has been postponed due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.

The Supreme Judicial Court and the Board of Bar Examiners announced Monday that the exam will not be administered as planned on July 28 and 29. The exam will instead be administered in the fall. The new dates for the exam have yet to be determined.

The court and the Board of Bar Examiners said if limits on large gatherings continue into the fall, alternative means for administering the exam will be devised.