Williamstown Commons sees 13th death, but 7 move to recovery

Staffers at Williamstown Commons are shown in the recovery unit at the facility. Seven residents who have COVID-19 have been moved into the unit.

WILLIAMSTOWN — Another Williamstown Commons resident died of the coronavirus this week, and seven are on the mend in the nursing home's recovery unit.

The additional death brings to 13 the number of residents who have died of COVID-19, according to Lisa Gaudet, communications vice president for Berkshire Healthcare Systems, which owns Williamstown Commons. Some 48 residents have tested positive, 49 were negative and tests results are pending for two additional residents.

The uptick in virus-positive residents follows a testing initiative on Monday. The testing was prompted by a push from state Rep. John Barrett III, D-North Adams, to conduct more widespread testing in the building rather than wait for symptoms to present themselves, as state guidelines suggested.

Gaudet said the state's Department of Public Health released new guidelines on Friday that empower facilities like Williamstown Commons, a "designated hot spot," to conduct buildingwide testing without regard for the presence of symptoms.

And when that level of testing happens, more cases inevitably reveal themselves, Gaudet said.

"We knew the numbers were going to go up," she said. "When you test the whole house it's going to expose people that were asymptomatic, which it did."

The new guidelines also make way for testing of even asymptomatic staff in the building, she said.

"I believe that that's the path they're going to go down," she said of state guidelines. "It just came out this morning."

The good news for the facility is that seven residents are recovering, she said, and she expects that number to increase in the coming days.

"We have more people starting to move into recovery, which maybe is a sign that we're closing in on the end of this," she said.

And for vulnerable residents able to mark that moment, she said, "it's a real win."

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-464-2859.