In what she described as the first case in the country involving criminal charges linked to long-term care facility deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic, Attorney General Maura Healey announced Friday that two top leaders at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home will be arraigned for their role in a fatal outbreak there.

Healey alleged that Superintendent Bennett Walsh and former medical director David Clinton directly contributed to the deaths of veterans who lived at the home by combining residents who were symptomatic or COVID-positive into close quarters with residents who were still asymptomatic when the highly-infectious virus hit the facility.

On March 27, Walsh and Clinton decided to consolidate two dementia units, placing 42 veterans into a space that normally accommodates 25 residents, Healey said. Nine beds were placed into a dining room just "a few feet apart" and next to a room holding residents with confirmed COVID-19 infections.

Walsh and Clinton will each be charged with five counts of criminal neglect and five counts of causing or permitting serious bodily injury or neglect of an elder, Healey said.

"They were the ultimate decision-makers," Healey said. "They were ultimately responsible for the deadly decision to consolidate these two units."

At least 76 veterans died as a result of the outbreak that swept through the facility in February and March.

— Information from State House News Service

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