Two charged over US nursing home outbreak

Two former leaders of the Holyoke Soldiers' Home face charges of mishandling a coronavirus outbreak.
Two former leaders of the Holyoke Soldiers' Home face charges of mishandling a coronavirus outbreak.

Two former leaders of a US home for ageing veterans where nearly 80 people sickened by the coronavirus died have been criminally charged for their handling of the outbreak, Massachusetts' attorney general says.

Former Holyoke Soldiers' Home superintendent Bennett Walsh and former medical director David Clinton were indicted by a grand jury, Attorney General Maura Healey told reporters.

Each is charged with 10 counts - five counts of criminal neglect and five counts of serious bodily injury.

"We believe this is the first criminal case in the country brought against those involved in nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic," Healey said.

The charges come three months after a scathing independent report said that "utterly baffling" decisions made by Walsh and other administrators allowed the virus to spread there unchecked.

The "worst decision" was to combine two locked dementia units, both of which already housed some residents with the virus, said investigators led by former federal prosecutor Mark Pearlstein.

Since March 1, 76 veterans who contracted COVID-19 at the home have died, officials said.

The first veteran tested positive on March 17.

Even though he had shown symptoms for weeks, staff "did nothing to isolate" him until his test came back positive, allowing him to remain with three roommates, wander the unit and spend time in a common room, investigators said.

Australian Associated Press