Holyoke, Massachusetts, April 21, 2020 — The recently released State data on positive cases in long term care facilities is alarming, but to the best of our local knowledge, it is an undercounting of the true nature of the spread of this virus in these facilities. The Holyoke Board of Health has been speaking with local long-term care facilities weekly, and more recently, daily, regarding their ability to combat the virus. We believe the situation has become too dire to continue with status quo operations. In partnership with our local Board of Health and our Emergency Management Team, I am calling for immediate State intervention at Holyoke long-term care facilities with positive COVID-19 cases, and for the State to implement a plan for direct emergency operational control or physical oversight of all long-term care facilities with positive cases in Massachusetts.
These facilities, regardless of ownership structure, have proven unprepared to deal with the veracity of this pandemic. Some administrators have suggested to the City and State that they have things under control, while others have become more vocal in their calls for assistance. We find it unlikely that this is a situation unique to Holyoke as caseloads at long-term care facilities across the Commonwealth have grown exponentially.
Rather than place blame, or trust the word of facility administrators, what we need most is urgent intervention to save lives. The Department of Public Health and National Guard have thus far provided support for testing and PPE procurement, but it is abundantly clear that more support is needed.
Additional support must include: maintenance of adequate staffing levels, implementation of proper PPE usage policies, and assurance of proper isolation and quarantine for healthy and sick residents.
While these measures may come off as excessive, we don’t need to imagine what the alternative is, we are seeing it every day in growing case counts and obituaries. These people are not just statistics, we can not ignore their names, faces, and families. Many of these facilities are being governed by boards and executives far removed from the crisis. It’s time we listen, and heed the call for action from the frontline workers who are treating and caring for these patients.