'They sent them literally into a death trap': Families recall horror as Covid-19 ravaged Massachusetts veterans home
Updated 1959 GMT (0359 HKT) June 26, 2020
(CNN)While serving in the Navy during the Korean War, Robert Blais once jumped overboard to rescue a fellow sailor.
"He gave his life jacket to save a man," his daughter Sheryl Blais said, recounting a favorite story of the man she so admired. Her father didn't drown that day in the Pacific. But he would drown by Covid-19 many decades later on the morning of March 30, when the disease flooded his lungs with fluid.
Blais, who was 90, spent his final months of life at the Soldiers' Home in Holyoke, 90 miles west of Boston. As the virus ravaged the facility, no fewer than 94 veterans lost their lives, at least 76 of those lost testing positive with Covid-19.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker commissioned an independent investigation, with the final 174-page report released Wednesday.
In one line of that report a social worker calls out a decision superiors gave to consolidate infected and healthy veterans together in a single ward. The worker noted that transferring the former soldiers downstairs was "like moving the concentration camp — we (were) moving these unknowing veterans off to die."
Another harrowing interview in the investigator's report described a health worker soothing one veteran while "across from him is a veteran moaning and actively dying."
The worker explained that nearby "is another veteran who is alert and oriented, even though he is on a locked dementia unit. There is not a curtain to shield him from the man" in his last throes.