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Williamstown Commons Reports COVID-19 Case

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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — A resident at Williamstown Commons' skilled nursing facility has tested positive for COVID-19.
 
In a post on the nursing home's website on Tuesday, Administrator Jodi Ouimette wrote that that the facility will be working with the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, and the state and local health departments "to isolate this situation and mitigate any future problems."
 
"Please be assured that we have been preparing for this situation for the last several weeks knowing that the virus is present in our local communities," she wrote. "We are confident that our team of clinicians, nurses, aides and other support staff at Williamstown Commons are well prepared to protect the ongoing health of our residents."
 
Nursing and rehabilitation centers were among the first to have restrictions put in place as the first cases began to appear Massachusetts. Emergency orders put in place by the state on March 12 called for screening employees, vendors and clients and banned visitations. 
 
"We continue to assess our residents and staff daily for signs or symptoms of COVID-19," Ouimette wrote. "It was the strict adherence to these protocols that enabled us to identify this case and resulted in a swift response in caring for this patient and putting immediate precautions in place to help isolate the situation."
 
More than 800 Americans have died of the novel coronavirus, including 11 in Massachusetts as of Tuesday afternoon. The infection has affected all ages but is particularly dangerous for older people and those with existing medical issues.  
 
An extended care facility in Washington State became ground zero for the coronavirus in February because of an infected visitor. More than 30 residents and staff has since died and the contagion swiftly entered the community.
 
Williamstown Commons says it is more prepared to contain and isolate the affected patient to prevent spread. 
 
"Throughout this entire public health crisis, we have been guided by, and consulted with, key federal and state agencies who are involved in the prevention and mitigation of the coronavirus," Ouimette wrote. "Their infection control, screening and assessment protocols have been instrumental in our preparedness for this situation."
 
She said the nursing facility and staff share the same concerns as the community during the pandemic.
 
"We recognize that time-sensitive and candid communication with our residents, families and community is critical to how we all respond to this health crisis," she wrote.

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Baker: Education Commissioner's Letter 'Not Bullying'

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker and Education Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley on Thursday pushed back against the charge that the state was pressuring school districts to return to in-person instruction despite local preferences.
 
Appearing with Baker at his regular press availability, Riley twice declined to say what enforcement actions the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will take against more than a dozen districts who last week received a letter challenging their preference for remote learning to start the year.
 
"I think we're going to wait and see what happens," Riley said when asked if DESE would "force the hands" of districts who continue to shy away from hybrid or in-person instruction models. "We're going to wait for the written responses and see what next steps are from there."
 
Moments later, Riley was asked a second time whether those written responses could lead to a mandate from the commonwealth.
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