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The Checkup: Access to COVID-19 tests thin in region

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With this daily feature, The Eagle runs down breaking local developments in the coronavirus crisis.

`NO COORDINATION' IN TESTING: A report by Karen Brown of NEPR notes that getting a timely COVID-19 test isn't easy in Western Massachusetts, particularly for summer travelers hoping to avoid a quarantine.

Health officials in the region told the station that they expect access to testing for the virus to tighten, and for longer waits for results. The CEO of Valley Medical Group said things are likely to get even worse once college students return.

"There's no national plan for this," said Joel Feinman, of Valley Medical. "There still is no coordination among the states and the manufacturers and the processes."

The lab at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton is so beset by requests that it is giving preference to those most in immediate medical need. It can take days to schedule a test.

Another provider, the nonprofit Tapestry Health, is providing tests for the virus under contract to the state Department of Public Health in Springfield and Agawam. But a spokeswoman noted that testing hours are limited and the agency was prepared to administer only 200 tests over two weeks.

THE NUMBERS: Berkshire County's death toll held at 46 as of Monday. The confirmed COVID-19 case count was also steady, at 657, the state Department of Public Health said.

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The DPH said 10 new deaths were reported in Massachusetts, pushing the statewide total to 8,427. The number of confirmed cases rose 165 to 110,595. Meantime, probable cases (a separate tally) rose by 34 to 8,062.

The case totals (and death counts) in neighboring counties: Franklin, 405 (60); Hampshire, up three to 1,139 (127); Hampden, up 10 to 7,477 (up one to 699).

As of Monday, 24,244 cases have been confirmed among residents and staff of long-term care facilities. In all, 376 facilities have had at least one confirmed case and have seen 5,508 deaths linked to COVID-19.

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LEADING INDICATORS: The state Department of Public Health provides the following statistics daily as indicators in the fight against coronavirus infection. Each provides a number and then a percentage change since April 15. Monday's figures:

- Seven-day weighted average of positive test rate: 2, down 93 percent.

- Three-day average of number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals: 383, down 89 percent.

- Number of hospitals using surge capacity to care: 3, down 86 percent.

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- Three-day average of COVID-19 deaths: 12, down 92 percent.

TWO WEEK LOOKBACK: The Eagle is also calculating results for a 14-day lookback on some leading indicators. As of Monday, positive tests over a seven-day period showed a 24.3 percent increase from two weeks ago. The three-day average of the number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals represented a 22.3 percent decline. The three-day average of confirmed COVID-19 deaths rose 16.13 percent from two weeks ago.

AT THE HOSPITALS: As of Monday, Berkshire Medical Center reported caring for one patient, not in intensive care. Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington had no cases.

The COVID-19 patient count for other western Massachusetts hospitals: Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, two cases, neither in ICU; Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield, no cases; Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, 33 cases, three in ICU; Mercy Medical Center in Springfield, seven cases, two in ICU; Holyoke Hospital, eight cases, none in ICU; Baystate Noble Hospital in Westfield, one case, not in ICU.

The numbers include both confirmed and suspected cases.

Statewide, as of Monday there were 375 people hospitalized, with the latest daily admission of 177 people. Of those hospitalized, 64 are in ICU and 24 are on ventilators.

BAYSTATE'S BOOMLET: As the hospital numbers above make clear, Baystate Health's main hospital in Springfield has seen a jump in COVID-19 patients — and that's been the case over the last week or so. The count for the past three days, according to DPH figures, has been 19, 31 and 33. The higher numbers follow an outbreak among staff and patients in late July. Nearly two dozen staff were found to be positive for the virus, as well as 13 patients. The outbreak was attributed to out-of-state travel by at least one worker to a "hot spot" and, closer to home, less-than-rigorous use of face coverings off the hospital floors, according to Dr. Mark A. Keroack, president and CEO of Baystate Health.To contribute news to The Checkup, please email lparnass@berkshireeagle.com or call 413-588-8341.


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