A Missouri senator who serves on the Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill is closely tracking the increasing number of COVID-19 deaths at state veterans homes.

Missouri Senator Josh Hawley (2020 file photo courtesy of Senator Hawley’s office)

The Missouri Veterans Commission (MVC) says four more veterans died last week, bringing the total number of deaths at the homes to 71, since September 1. U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley (R) tells Missourinet that to lose anyone to COVID is a tragedy, and to lose 71 veterans in veterans homes is disturbing.

“It’s very, very concerning and I’m glad that the governor has taken this action to order a review, an investigation, and I look forward to the results of that,” Hawley says.

The MVC says three of the new deaths happened at the home in northwest Missouri’s Cameron, where 34 veterans currently have COVID. MVC says ten Cameron staff members are in isolation in their homes, and another 20 staff members there have recovered.

MVC confirms it’s now utilizing medical staffing from the Missouri Disaster Medical Assistance Team (MO DMAT-1), which is deployed to provide Missourians the medical care they need immediately.

As for Senator Hawley, he emphasizes it’s important to get to the bottom of this.

“I look forward to action being taken to make sure that the standards of care are at the highest possible level. We owe that to our veterans,” says Hawley.

He also says that if changes need to be made, they should be made as quickly as possible.

MVC says there are now 12 veterans with active cases at the veterans homes in southern Missouri’s Mount Vernon and St. James. At Mount Vernon, six staff members are in isolation in their homes, and 21 staff members have recovered. At the St. James facility, four staff members are in isolation at home, and 18 staff members have recovered.

The veterans home in southeast Missouri’s Cape Girardeau has had the largest number of deaths since September 1, with 29. MVC says 44 Cape Girardeau staff members have recovered.

MVC spokesman Jamie Melchert says the MVC’s veterans homes are following best practices for battling COVID, including using daily testing using PCR and antigen testing. He says MVC is also focusing on enhanced personal protective equipment (PPE) training, as well as cleaning and disinfecting. Central office leadership from Jefferson City is also providing some additional supervision.

Missouri Governor Mike Parson tells Missourinet that he acted immediately when he learned about the spike in deaths at veterans homes, ordering an external review. The governor has said that the box-in strategy is being used, which involves testing, contact tracing, isolation and quarantine.

Mr. Melchert notes MVC commissioners selected St. Louis-based Armstrong Teasdale as the outside firm undertaking the external review of the Veterans Commission. He says Armstrong Teasdale is conducting staff interviews at the homes, and that no findings have been made available, at this time.

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