With COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths surging in the county in recent days, word of the imminent delivery of vaccines was a welcome dose of good news Wednesday.

“There is tremendous relief,” said Lisa Gaudet, a spokesperson for Berkshire Healthcare Systems, which operates numerous long-term care facilities across the county. “It would be an understatement if I said there wasn’t.”

Just this week, an outbreak of COVID-19 at Hillcrest Commons Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Pittsfield, owned by Berkshire Healthcare, has become the county’s deadliest. Gaudet on Wednesday reported a 30th resident has died from the disease.

And while the vaccine may be too late to impact the tragedy that has unfolded at that facility, it brings hope that further such outbreaks can be avoided.

Under the distribution plan unveiled on Wednesday by Gov. Charlie Baker, health care workers across the state could begin receiving the vaccine as soon as next week. The plan puts health care workers who are caring for COVID-19 patients on the top of the vaccination priority list, followed by long-term care residents.

The three-phase plan starts this month, with the first 60,000 doses set to arrive to the state by Tuesday. Millions of doses could be available statewide by the spring.

Berkshire Health Systems expects to receive its first shipment next week, and will begin vaccinating health care workers, according to spokesperson Michael Leary. Each shipment contains 975 doses of the vaccine, he said.

“We’re hopeful that the doses will come next week as the governor has indicated,” he said. “This was the timeline he has been talking about for many weeks now, and we’re glad to see that it does appear that’s going to be the first week of vaccination.”

Leary said that BHS has been ordering and receiving dry ice that will be used to store and distribute the Pfizer-manufactured vaccine, which must be kept at minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit.

BHS has also begun surveying staff this week to see which employees are willing to receive early doses, Leary said. The system has about 4,000 employees, and it is not clear when more vaccine shipments will arrive, following the first delivery.

“I’ve heard some people saying they will not want a vaccine immediately and will want to wait to see if there are adverse reactions,” he said. “And I’ve heard a number of people in the health system say absolutely they’d take the vaccine.”

The first doses will arrive as the hospital battles what Leary describes as a “surge” in cases. There are currently 42 patients at Berkshire Medical Center hospitalized with COVID-19, and state data shows some 350 new infections across the county in the last week alone.

The vaccine distribution plan was met with approval by long-term care groups across the state. Among those celebrating the news was Berkshire Healthcare. Gaudet said the company was glad to see Massachusetts prioritizing health care workers and long-term care residents.

“It’s been a terrible thing to witness for our industry,” she said. “Our workers have gone through an awful lot, holding the hands of people they love and care for, seeing them be sick and seeing them die.”

The company is working with CVS and Walgreens for the initial vaccine rollout, she said, but does not have a precise timeline on its first vaccinations yet. The company has been advised to vaccinate all residents, regardless of whether they have already been infected, Gaudet said.

“Our hope is that this is the beginning of the end,” she said.

Indeed, the outbreak at Hillcrest has shown signs of abating recently.

As of Tuesday, the facility reported 86 residents and 38 staffers that remained positive, down from 126 residents and 47 staff on Monday. Nearly 80 residents and staff have recovered; 18 remain hospitalized.

At Kimball Farms Nursing Care Center in Lenox, also owned by Berkshire Healthcare, 32 residents and nine staffers remain positive, Gaudet said, with no additional deaths as of Monday. Four residents have died so far.

At least 58 nursing home residents in Berkshire County have died since the pandemic began, including 24 at Williamstown Commons and four at Fairview Commons in Great Barrington this spring. Nearly two-thirds of the more than 11,000 COVID deaths in Massachusetts have taken place in long-term care facilities; a similar trend holds true for Berkshire County, where there have been 87 total COVID deaths.

In Phase One of the vaccine rollout, doses also will become available to first responders, workers and residents at congregate care settings such as shelters and correctional facilities, home-based health care workers and those in the health field who are not involved in COVID care.

Officials representing homeless shelters and the Berkshire County Sheriff’s Office told The Eagle they have not been given concrete timelines for receiving the vaccine. The first phase is expected to last through February.

The second phase of the vaccine distribution will include people at high risk for COVID-19 complications, older people and certain essential workers. Vaccinations for the general population are then set to begin as early as mid-April 2021, according to the governor’s timeline.

Alan Kulberg, chairman of the Pittsfield Board of Health, said that the vaccine news was “auspicious,” but he emphasized that early distribution efforts would not mark the end of the crisis.

“We’re not in the home stretch,” he said. “We’re at the back turn, before you get to the final turn before you get to the home stretch.”

He urged residents across Pittsfield and the county to be cautious over the winter, continue to social distance and keep any holiday gatherings small.

“It’s a long-term effort,” he said. “And we’ve got to continue to do what we’ve been doing.”

Francesca Paris can be reached at fparis@berkshireeagle.com and 510-207-2535.