Our Opinion: Helping hospital help community

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Information, as has been said before in this space in recent weeks, is of critical importance in getting us through the coronavirus pandemic. Berkshire Health Systems is now getting more of it, not only enabling it to more quickly treat those who have the coronavirus but get a firmer grip on the nature and extent of the situation in the Berkshires.

The hospital has begun experimenting with a drive-through testing system behind Berkshire Medical Center on Seymour Street and awaits authorization for opening it in the days ahead. ("BHS to ramp up testing; Berkshire cases rise to 14," Eagle, March 18.) The logistics are complicated and only those with symptoms and a physician's order will be eligible, but once on site testing is established, and once the hospital is able to test samples on its own machines rather than send them out to a lab, the hospital will be able to quickly identify those who are infected. This will be of great benefit to a hospital staff that at this point must find a room for anyone who has symptoms of the virus, even though they may not have it.

The introduction of testing will mean that the number of cases, which as of Tuesday were 14, will surely increase. This will be unsettling but it will also indicate that the system is working. At a meeting at The Eagle Tuesday, chief medical officer Dr.James Lederer said the hospital is exploring a variety of ways to address a surge of patients.

Darlene Rodowicz, the vice president of BHS, told The Eagle that many of the nurses that were quarantined because of exposure to those with coronavirus are returning to work. It was also noted at the meeting that many of those hospitalized with the virus have since recovered and gone home. These are encouraging signs at time when everyone can use some encouragement

BHS, however, needs the help of everyone in the Berkshires if it is to fight this pandemic successfully. This means following the CDC guidelines for self-care, such as thoroughly washing hands and avoiding touching your face. It also means shoppers must behave responsibly. If you are hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitizer you are depriving both from people who need them. Think of others outside your circle while you're at the supermarket.

Social distancing is critical to slowing the spread of the disease. Social distancing is difficult, however, at an unsettling time when our instincts are to come together. At least a partial antidote is regular phone calls, texts and emails to friends and family members, and offers of help to those who need it. The Eagle's letters to the editor are almost exclusively about the coronavirus, and many have been remarkably empathetic about how residents can run errands or even offer a needed kind word to those feeling isolated and alone. We urge you to read them in print and on-line. They speak well of our community's response to a difficult time.

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