NORTH ADAMS — The COVID-19 outbreak at North Adams Commons swelled to 45 cases Tuesday, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention elevated the transmission rate in the Berkshires to “substantial.”
Through Monday, the CDC’s data tracker had listed Berkshire County as having a “moderate” level of transmission. The change means that residents now are advised to mask indoors under the revised guidelines issued last week.
The state Department of Public Health last week also advised people to resume masking while indoors statewide, regardless of the level of community spread.
The transmission rates in the Berkshires come as the outbreak continues to grow at the North Adams Commons Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. More than 40 percent of residents at the facility have tested positive for COVID-19. The number of positive cases grew by 10, from 35 on Monday.
“We currently have 40 positive residents,” said Lisa Gaudet, vice president of business development and communications at Berkshire Healthcare Systems, which owns the facility. Six residents were in the hospital as of Tuesday afternoon. There are five staff cases as well.
The majority of people who tested positive are vaccinated, she said. Of the 45 cases, four residents and two staff were not vaccinated, and one resident was vaccinated partially. Of the six hospitalized residents, five were vaccinated, according to Gaudet.
Berkshire Healthcare has been told that those at the hospital are doing well, Gaudet said.
“They are not on mechanical ventilation,” she said.
The facility, which has 91 residents, is working on contact tracing, and sequencing is being conducted to determine if the delta variant is behind the infections.
Visits to North Adams Commons are suspended, and the facility is providing monoclonal antibody treatment to residents, Gaudet said.
Vaccines are effective, and a small percentage of vaccinated people will get COVID-19, according to the CDC.
As of July 4, 89 percent of residents and 67 percent of staff at North Adams Commons had gotten vaccinated for COVID-19, Gaudet said. Across all facilities, 94 percent of residents and 76 percent of staff were vaccinated, she said.
Unvaccinated employees will take a rapid test before work at North Adams Commons and other Berkshire Healthcare facilities, Gaudet said. The company owns and operates rehabilitation and skilled nursing facilities in Massachusetts.
Will Berkshire Healthcare require vaccination for employees?
“We absolutely are considering it. We’re having a conversation about that at the executive level,” Gaudet said. “We have to be very thoughtful about how we do it, when we do it, and if we do it. We’re working through our state association, as well as having conversations with other health care providers across the state.”