The Massachusetts Attorney General has appealed a state judge’s decision to drop criminal charges against two former top officials of a Massachusetts veterans home where 76 residents died during a major COVID-19 outbreak in 2020.

Attorney General Maura Healey filed a notice of appeal in December, seeking to reverse a decision by State Judge Edward McDonough Jr. The latter dismissed criminal charges against former Holyoke Soldiers’ Home Superintendent Bennett Walsh and David Clinton, the home’s former medical director. A grand jury had indicted Walsh and Clinton on charges of caretaker causing or permitting bodily injury, neglect or mistreatment of an elder.

The case has drawn national attention and is believed to be the first COVID-related criminal case against nursing home officials in the United States. The charges, which were filed by Healey’s office, allege the two officials endangered residents’ health by merging two dementia care units, combining COVID-19 positive residents with asymptomatic ones. More than 160 residents and staff at the 247-bed facility contracted the virus early in the pandemic.

In his November 2021 decision to dismiss, McDonough wrote there was insufficient evidence presented to the grand jury that the merging of the two dementia units contributed to the deaths. Walsh, Clinton and other former leaders of the home also face civil suits brought by survivors and staff