(JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.) Gov. Mike Parson has announced Missouri Veterans Homes will be subject to an outside review after 41 veteran residents have died since the beginning of September amid a coronavirus outbreak.
Parson’s office said Friday it has ordered an external review of all seven Missouri Veterans Homes and their COVID-19 operations. The Governor has stopped short of calling it an investigation and the “external review” will be conducted by the current Missouri Veterans Commission (MVC) Chairman Timothy Noonan.
MVC oversees all seven of the state-funded facilities that offer veterans health care, hospice care, and residential accommodations.
“Data presented yesterday in a briefing with the Governor raised concerns regarding how well Missouri Veterans Homes are uniformly and systematically operating to prevent and, if necessary, contain COVID-19 outbreaks among their staff and residents,” a statement from the governor’s office said.
The statement did not specify what information was presented to Parson Friday.
In figures released Friday, MVC said that 41 veterans have died at Missouri Veterans Homes in the month of September, according to a statement provided by MVC. Officials said that while there were active COVID-19 cases among veterans at the seven homes, the number of deaths that were caused by the virus is not known at this time.
Here’s the breakdown of deaths reported for September:
- Cape Girardeau Veterans Home – 21 total deaths reported
- Mt. Vernon Veterans Home - 7 total deaths reported
- St. James Veterans Home - 10 total deaths reported
- Warrensburg Veterans Home - 3 total deaths reported
Before September, there has been one resident’s death at the St. Louis Home in April 2002, the MVC statement said. There had been an active COVID-19 case in the home at the time but it does not say whether the veteran’s death was caused by the virus.
In the news release from Parson’s office, he said they were deeply saddened to hear about the deaths and the recent loss of dozens of veterans' lives in state care, “unacceptable.”
“As a veteran myself, I care a great deal about the quality of care our veterans receive at the Veterans Homes in our state and have raised an alarm bell more than once when I felt we as a state weren’t meeting the standard of care I believe they are owed,” the statement said.
The Governor had visited at least two of the seven MVC homes in September before he and his wife, First Lady Teresa Parson tested positive for COVID-19 on Sept. 23. During the visits, Parson met with residents, families, and staff at the homes.
Parson visited Mt. Vernon Veterans Home on September 15. The home reports there are 27 veterans and 4 staff members with active COVID-19 cases.
The Governor also visited Cameron Veteran’s Home on Sept. 10. He was scheduled to also visit Warrensburg Veteran’s Home earlier in the day but the visit was canceled due to bad weather. Cameron Veterans Home reports there are two veterans and two staff members with active COVID-19 cases. The two veteran cases were reported on Thursday.
At the time, the Governor said he was visiting the Cameron home to thank the staff at the facility for their sacrifice and applaud their efforts at keeping Missouri veterans safe, according to previous KQ2 reporting.
“When it comes to the administration of the veterans home and the people that work here just wanted to say thanks and just appreciate what an outstanding job they did in one of the toughest environments we’ve all been through,” Parson said at the time.
The veterans home in Cameron has the lowest case count of the seven state facilities. The Warrensburg Veterans Home reports 12 veterans and four staff members have active COVID-19 cases.
The state is now sending Abbott BinaxNow rapid antigen tests to Missouri Veterans Homes with an initial shipment of 2,400 tests delivered to the Commission’s headquarters Friday.
As of Friday, MVC Veterans Homes have active COVID-19 cases in 6 of the 7 facilities.
- Cameron Veterans Home – active COVID-19 cases: 2 veterans (reported Oct. 1); 2 staff members
- Cape Girardeau Veterans Home – active COVID-19 cases: 57 veterans; 12 staff members
- Mexico Veterans Home – active COVID-19 cases: 0 veterans; 0 staff members
- Mt. Vernon Veterans Home - active COVID-19 cases: 27 veterans; 4 staff members
- St. James Veterans Home - active COVID-19 cases: 24 veterans; 9 staff members
- St. Louis Veterans Home - active COVID-19 cases: 0 veterans; 2 staff member
- Warrensburg Veterans Home - active COVID-19 cases: 12 veterans; 4 staff members