Williamstown nursing home says it has a resident, 3 staff with COVID-19
Read Friday's latest update on Williamstown Commons.
WILLIAMSTOWN — One resident and three staff members at Williamstown Commons have tested positive for the coronavirus, despite a ban on visitors and temperature checks at the door.
Nursing home leaders in the Berkshires said these cases speak to the insidious nature of the virus, which appears to spread through even asymptomatic people.
Some 71 county residents had tested positive for the coronavirus as of Wednesday afternoon, according to the state’s Department of Public Health, and two had died.
Lisa Gaudet, communications vice president for Berkshire Healthcare Systems, which owns Williamstown Commons, said the resident who tested positive has not been strongly symptomatic. “They seem to be doing well,” she said.
Three members of the staff also came down with symptoms and did not report to work, Gaudet said. They sought testing after their symptoms worsened, and the results back positive.
“When they were delivering care in the building they were asymptomatic,” Gaudet said of the staff who tested positive.
Citing recommendations from DPH, she said it’s likely that more residents of the nursing home will be tested.
“At this moment, I don’t know that here have been any additional patients [tested] besides this person’s roommate,” Gaudet said.
Updates will be posted to the facility’s website, she said.
Nearly two weeks ago, Gov. Charlie Baker barred visitors from entering the county's nursing homes. At that point, Gaudet said the facility established a rigorous screening process for anyone entering the building. Entry was limited only to essential employees, she said, and those employees were screened for fevers and other symptoms at the door.
Still she said, "it got in."
“We don’t know how, but we’re going to do everything we can to mitigate its spread,” Gaudet said.
State Rep. John Barrett III said he was concerned to hear about the virus reaching such a vulnerable population, especially considering how careful this particular nursing home has been.
“Here’s a case where they took every precaution that there was and it still found its way in there,” said Barrett, D-North Adams. “Hopefully they can trace it back.”
Given the devastating impact earlier this month at a nursing home in Kirkland, Wash., Barrett said he has obvious concerns about further spread. And he’s worried, too, about staff who could take the disease home to their families.
“I’m very concerned about them,” he said. “Just about everybody in Northern Berkshire County knows somebody there or who works there. It’s always been a very well-run facility.”
The town’s health inspector, Jeff Kennedy, said he is aware of the situation at Williamstown Commons and that the facility is following the appropriate medical guidelines.
“The Board of Health continues to monitor the community as a whole, instituting and enforcing Federal and State guidelines and directives,” Kennedy wrote in an email.
Gaudet said that administrative staff have been redirected to searching for more protective gear for frontline staff.
“Like everybody across the nation, we are all scrambling with that shortage of personal protective equipment.”
As it stands, she said the resident who tested positive remains isolated at the facility, and would only be moved to Berkshire Medical Center if symptoms get more severe and a higher level of care is required.
“That’s really the best place for a lot of these folks,” she said. “‘Cause this is their home.”
Because nearly two weeks have lapsed since residents had any visitors, Gaudet asks members of the public to send cards and letters to an increasingly isolated population. The Williamstown facility's mailing address is 25 Adams Road, Williamstown, Mass., 01267. (For parents looking for projects for their children, a full list of addresses for BHS nursing homes in the Berkshires can be found online at berkshirehealthcare.org.)
“It would be a real boost to them,” Gaudet said. “The longer this goes on, I think the harder it will be emotionally for them.”
George Mercier, administrator at Mount Carmel Care Center, said it’s been alarming to see how people can unknowingly spread the virus to others. “This is the most insidious part of this outbreak,” he said.
At his long-term care facilities, Mercier said leaders are taking the same precautions that those Williamstown Commons described. He said he is adamantly stressing the importance of his staff keeping up with social distancing, and he’s in touch daily with the state’s Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“All we can do is follow all of their guidance,” he said.
Amanda Drane can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-464-2859.
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