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At Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, 3 more veteran residents, 1 more staffer test positive for COVID-19  

  • An ambulance arrives at the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke on Tuesday, March 31, 2020. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 8/6/2020 5:19:54 PM

HOLYOKE — Over the past week, four veteran residents and seven staffers at the Soldiers’ Home have tested positive for COVID-19 after having previously recovered from the coronavirus disease.

Those numbers mark an increase from last week, when news broke that one veteran who had clinically recovered from the coronavirus tested positive again and was transferred to the hospital. He later tested negative, but his positive test triggered another round of testing in the facility, where an additional three residents and seven staffers — all of whom previously had COVID-19 and recovered — tested positive again.

“All of these individuals do not have symptoms or are suspected to have an alternate non-COVID explanation for their symptoms,” Brooke Karanovich, a spokesperson for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS), said in the state’s weekly Soldier’s Home update released to reporters Tuesday.

The state said it is following the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which evolves as the medical community’s understanding of COVID-19 expands with new information. The Health and Human Services update noted that the CDC recommends ending a patient’s isolation and determining that the patient has recovered based on symptoms and time elapsed from the infection.

“Since the start of the pandemic, more than 80 residents had been determined clinically recovered, which means that they at one point tested positive for COVID-19, but are now considered clinically recovered as defined by federal CDC guidance,” the statement said.

The statement went on to say that people who have recovered from the virus, as defined by CDC guidance, may still test positive.

“This is a known consequence of the PCR test, which is extremely positive to picking up virus or viral remnants even weeks after recovery,” the statement said.

The Soldiers’ Home is continuing to conduct “full-house” testing of residents and staff every two weeks, the state said. 

But the state also has confirmed that testing is not mandatory within the facility. In Tuesday’s update, EOHHS said one resident has declined testing and that of 328 total staffers, only 289 agreed to testing last week.

Family visitation has been suspended until Aug. 11 at the facility, where one of the country’s largest COVID-19 outbreaks occurred earlier this year. At least 76 people died after contracting COVID-19 in the home. The state has not reported a death from the coronavirus at the home since May 26.

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