Covid swab test

In Berkshire County wait times for a coronavirus test have crept up to between 24 and 48 hours. A representative for Berkshire Health Systems said testing demand is exceeding the testing sites' staffing capabilities.

PITTSFIELD — Amid the latest surge of COVID-19 cases, local health care providers say demand for tests also has risen.

But while people may need to wait a bit longer to receive a test, a spokesperson for Berkshire Health Systems said the organization has adequate supplies to handle the increased demand.

“We’re currently exceeding our testing capacity most days,” said Michael Leary, director of media relations for BHS. “We do have to at times ask people to come in the following day due to the fact that we only have a certain number of staff who are able to do [the tests].”

He said that BHS has tried to match staffing to meet periods of elevated testing demand.

The company performed 3,965 tests last week, up slightly from 3,892 tests the previous week. About 4 percent of the most recent tests yielded a positive result.

Leary said that within Berkshire Health Systems, patients are waiting on average about 24 to 48 hours to receive a coronavirus test after they contact the COVID testing hotline. Once tested, results are generally ready within the next 24 hours.

Leary added that call-in wait time to speak with a nurse or customer service representative was about 12 minutes or less last week.

An online scheduler for testing at the CVS locations in Berkshire County showed a similar 48-hour wait for testing availability as of Monday.

Pittsfield Director of Public Health Gina Armstrong said the city’s contact tracing nurses had talked with “one or two” people who had more than a 24-hour wait to get a test but that “it was nothing significant.”

Countywide data from all COVID-19 test providers is released each week by the state, on a one-week delay. As of Aug. 14, according to the most recent data released, the two-week Berkshire County positivity rate — which includes tests by BHS and all other providers — was at 2.83 percent.

That was below the 3.05 percent rate that the county reached in early August, but well above the rates in May and June, which had fallen below 1 percent.

During the height of the county’s winter surge, positivity rates soared above 4 percent for several weeks.

The high rates this summer come as the county is testing significantly fewer people than during the winter surge.

There were some 10,000 tests performed in Berkshire County over the first two weeks of August, compared to more than 20,000 in the last two weeks of January — and both periods had similar positivity rates. The infection rate this summer is still much lower than the winter peaks but continues to climb.

Meg Britton-Mehlisch can be reached at mbritton@berkshireeagle.com or (413) 496-6149.

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