As the delta variant spreads, more infected people are getting access to one key treatment, monoclonal antibody therapy, and Berkshire Health Systems continues to keep pace with much-larger hospital systems in delivering the drug.
Monoclonal antibody therapy is intended to help high-risk COVID-19 patients who have not been hospitalized yet, and the treatment has been shown to reduce hospitalizations and the length of the illness. Last winter, it was restricted to people older than 65 or those with very specific risk factors; this spring, though, the eligibility criteria were expanded to include a much-larger subset of people at risk for severe illness.
Since the therapy became available in Massachusetts, amid the winter surge, Berkshire Health Systems has treated more than 800 people, including 151 in August, according to the hospital system. That is up from 23 in July. During the first week of September, 37 patients received the treatment.
And while hospitals across the state and the country are trying to keep pace with demand for the treatment, Berkshire Health Systems said it has not yet run into any capacity issues.
“We do prioritize based on risk (unvaccinated, immunocompromised, multiple risk factors for severe covid) somewhat in our scheduling, but thus far, haven’t had appropriate people not able to be treated, unless they had a long lag from symptom onset to testing/results,” Dr. William DeMarco, chair of Medicine at Berkshire Medical Center, said in a statement to The Eagle.
“Infusion is only approved within 10 days of symptom onset, otherwise it is not likely to be effective.”
A rate of about 150 treatments each month puts Berkshire Health Systems on par with much-larger institutions. As of early September, Mass General Brigham had the capacity to give out slightly more than 160 monthly doses, according to The Boston Globe.
The Globe also reported that Massachusetts providers have been delivering about 210 monoclonal antibody doses each week in total, which would mean Berkshire Health Systems is responsible for nearly 18 percent of all the treatments in the state.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, BHS is the only monoclonal antibody provider in Western Massachusetts outside the Springfield area.
People who test positive for COVID-19 and think they might be eligible for the treatment should talk to their primary care provider. Physicians can use the hospital system’s online form to request the treatment.
KEY STATS: Berkshire County saw two new COVID-19 deaths during the past week. To date, the county has 306 reported deaths. The confirmed case count rose by 165 over the past week, to 7,639. The most recent 14-day test positivity rate reported for the county was 2.4 percent, as of Sept. 4.
STATE PICTURE: The state Department of Public Health said 63 new confirmed deaths were reported during the past week, pushing the statewide total to 17,972 as of Thursday. Over the past week, confirmed cases rose by 10,688, to 725,359.
VACCINATIONS: According to the state’s latest report, 72 percent of Berkshire County residents have received at least one shot and 64 percent are vaccinated fully.
Note that this data, while the best available estimate, still might not accurately reflect the county’s vaccination rates for several reasons.
Part-time residents who moved to the county during the pandemic, or who left and received their shot elsewhere, might be artificially raising or lowering the rate. People who got vaccinated in other states are not counted in the data. The rates provided by the state also rely on census estimates, rather than new census data.
Town-by-town rates provided by the state also are inaccurate in many cases, since the state collects that data by ZIP code, and many Berkshire County municipalities share ZIP codes.
BIDEN'S MANDATE: Under a new Biden administration effort to stem the spread of COVID-19, employers with 100 or more workers now will have to require vaccinations or weekly testing for workers. In the Berkshires, that mandate now will fall on a large number of local employers, including Walmart, Stop & Shop, CVS Health, General Dynamics and more.
COMMUNITY DATA: Here are this week’s figures from the DPH on confirmed coronavirus cases by city and town. In alphabetical order, this lists all Berkshire County communities. The first number is the total number of cases during the pandemic. The second is the number of new cases during the past 14 days.
Adams: 444; 38
Alford: Fewer than 5; fewer than 5
Becket: 85; 7
Cheshire: 155; 7
Clarksburg: 58; 7
Dalton: 349; 20
Egremont: 23; 0
Florida: 19; 0
Great Barrington: 528; 26
Hancock: 18; 0
Hinsdale: 82; 7
Lanesborough: 137; 15
Lee: 382; 20
Lenox: 278; 14
Monterey: 27; fewer than 5
Mount Washington: 6; 0
New Ashford: 5; fewer than 5
New Marlborough: 30; fewer than 5
North Adams: 746; 27
Otis: 84; 12
Peru: 13; fewer than 5
Pittsfield: 3,362; 143
Richmond: 46; fewer than 5
Sandisfield: 49; 8
Savoy: 21; 0
Sheffield: 134; fewer than 5
Stockbridge: 81; fewer than 5
Tyringham: 9; 0
Washington: 15; 5
West Stockbridge: 51; fewer than 5
Williamstown: 324; 18
Windsor: 26; fewer than 5
WIDER WORLD OF COVID: Global cases top 223,600,504, with 4,612,018 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. has seen at least 40,731,352 cases and 656,248 deaths.
Across the world, more than 5.6 billion vaccine doses have been administered, Johns Hopkins reports. More than 377 million of those have been administered in the U.S.
HOSPITAL CHECK: Berkshire Medical Center reported caring for 10 COVID-19 patients as of Friday. Statewide, 624 people are hospitalized, 168 are in intensive care units and 86 are on ventilators.
COVID-19 VACCINES: For information on vaccines and to schedule an appointment, visit getvaccinatedberkshires.org.
Appointments now are available seven days a week for walk-ins at the testing sites at 505 East St. in Pittsfield and 98 Church St. in North Adams. Vaccines are available from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in both cities.
BMC Urgent Care, also located at 505 East St. in Pittsfield, is providing appointments until 7:30 p.m.
In South County, Fairview Hospital is administering vaccinations on-site at the hospital from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Appointments are required. Call 855-262-5465.
TESTING: “Stop the Spread” testing sites are open at three Berkshire Health Systems locations. Tests will be conducted for any reason, with the state picking up the cost. To schedule a test, call the toll-free hotline, 855-262-5465, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily.
Locations are: Pittsfield, 505 East St., St Luke’s Square, adjacent to BHS Urgent Care Center; North Adams, 98 Church St., next to the city library; Great Barrington: 475 Main St. Tests also can be obtained through CVS by filling out a form online.
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