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Fourth resident at Williamstown Commons dies from virus

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WILLIAMSTOWN — Another resident of Williamstown Commons has died at the facility after a battle with the COVID-19 virus, according to a spokeswoman for Berkshire Healthcare Systems, the owner of the nursing home.

And as the virus plays out, staff are preparing to aid the ill residents in their recovery.

The death Saturday marks the fourth at the center. The number of residents infected remains at 36, with no increase shown since Thursday, said Lisa Gaudet, vice president of communications for Berkshire Healthcare. One resident remains hospitalized. There have been no additional staff infections.

Williamstown Commons has been dealing with a robust outbreak of the coronavirus since March 24.

As the disease moves through its phases, Gaudet said, officials expect that some of the ill residents will move into the recovery phase one or two at a time. So, staff members are preparing to set aside space as a coronavirus recovery unit. There, the patients will go through rehabilitation to help them get stronger and move past the infection.

"We'll start to have some people moving into recovery this week," she said. "That will be helpful, because once the virus moves through its process, the patient is immune. That will help to tamp down further infections. It will be helpful to have some folks who have developed an immunity."

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Gaudet cautioned that the fight rages on, and that other residents still might be lost to the virus.

"I don't want to give false hope," she said. "We may have more who will not survive, but some who will."

Staff members at the facility are looking forward to their reward — seeing the patients moving into recovery, Gaudet said.

"They are like family to many of the staff," she said. "Some of the people these professionals have been working with for so long will be getting better — something they are really looking forward to."

Meanwhile, State Rep. John Barrett III, D-North Adams, is demanding that the Massachusetts Department of Public Health begin testing all the residents at Williamstown Commons in an effort to separate the residents who test negative for the virus, as has been done at similar facilities farther east.

"The ball's been dropped. Nine days have passed since I brought this to their attention and asked them to get somebody out here, and nobody's come," Barrett said. "Since then, there's been five deaths and no explanation. I am livid."

Scott Stafford can be reached at sstafford@berkshireeagle.com or 413-629-4517.


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