PITTSFIELD — The death toll from COVID-19 has risen to 24 at Hillcrest Commons Nursing and Rehabilitation Center — an increase of nine since Thursday, according to facility owner, Berkshire Health Systems.
Berkshire Healthcare spokeswoman Lisa Gaudet confirmed Sunday afternoon that the spike is due to residents who were already in the later stages of the coronavirus. She said the figure had been steady at 15 as of Thursday, rising to 24 over the weekend.
But Gaudet noted the news is also good for many other Hillcrest Commons residents battling COVID-19.
“We have just as many people recovering and the recovery numbers will get bigger,” she told The Eagle.
As of Saturday evening, she said 18 residents were hospitalized, “with a number expected to return.”
State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, had posted on social media the number of deaths at Hillcrest was 17, but Gaudet said that was as of Saturday. The Pittsfield Democrat also claimed the number of residents infected with the virus has climbed to 166 — 74 percent of the total resident population of 224. But per BHS information from Saturday, only 124 residents were currently positive for COVID-19 while 168 have contracted the virus to date.
The number of dead residents from the virus equals the outbreak at Williamstown Commons Nursing and Rehabilitation Center from the beginning of the pandemic. There were also deaths from COVID-19 at Fairview Commons in Great Barrington in the spring, and Kimball Farms Nursing Care Center is also currently dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak.
As of Sunday, 28,084 cases have been confirmed among residents and staff of long-term care facilities. In all, 402 facilities have had at least one confirmed case and have seen 6,889 deaths linked to COVID-19.
In addition to the Hillcrest residents that have tested positive, 71 staff members have also tested positive, according to Farley-Bouvier, who attributed her information to the city of Pittsfield. Berkshire Healthcare numbers, however, put the number of currently infected employees at 61 as of Saturday, and 73 to date. Hillcrest, the second largest nursing home in the state, has over 200 employees, according to BHS officials.
In her post, Farley-Bouvier attributed the outbreak directly to large gatherings in the community that are believed to have contributed to community spread of the virus.
“I simply do not know how else to say this so that people will listen ... but individual actions have REAL consequences. These residents are not merely a data point. They are your neighbors, your neighbors’ parents and grandparents,” she wrote. “They taught you or your parents in school, ran small businesses, and were active in the community.”
Early on in the pandemic, nursing homes and assisted living facilities were ground zero for the coronavirus. The number of cases nationally began to stabilize, according to the COVID Tracking Project, but in the last week of November, 3,000 cases were reported, the highest one-week total for such healthcare facilities since June. The nonprofit group reports that nursing and assisted living places account for 5.7 percent of coronavirus cases, but 39 percent of the deaths, across the country.