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Hinds: Free COVID-19 Testing Important Tool to Stop County Spread

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — State Sen. Adam Hinds applauded the expansion of the state's Stop the Spread COVID-19 testing program to the Berkshires.

The program was created in July as a way to provide cost-free surveillance testing to areas with high transmission rates of the novel coronavirus. 

Hinds said when it was announced over the summer, the Berkshire delegation was upset to see that there were not any sites in Berkshire County. The closest site for asymptomatic testing for some time was Springfield.

"We felt it was important to make sure we had this type of a tool for the region," Hinds said.

Berkshire Health Systems, in partnership with the state Department of Public Health, began offering the free testing of asymptomatic individuals this week at three locations. 

Testing will also continue to be conducted at BHS's three centers for those who are symptomatic or had close contact with someone who has tested COVID-19 positive with the cost being covered by the individual's insurer. In all cases, the testing is by appointment.

The testing is being done at the existing locations  at 98 Church St. in North Adams, 505 East St. in Pittsfield, and 10 Maple Ave, in Great Barrington.

There has always been testing available through Berkshire Health Systems, but the difference between these new sites and previously available testing is that there is no cost and they are open to anyone wishing to be tested. Residents do not need to be demonstrating symptoms or have health insurance to be tested at Stop The Spread sites.

The Berkshire delegation collectively wrote letters to bring this program to Berkshire County and have been pushing this for quite some time. That combined with the uptick of cases in the county, with Pittsfield, in particular experiencing a surge, seemed to push this to the point of implementation, Hinds said.

The senator said numerous employers have spoken to him expressing the need for free accessible testing to make employees feel confident in going to work.

With this expanded testing, the hope is to create a system that is functioning well and responsive to public health.

"I think the reality is that the anticipated surge that we were going have this winter is upon us, and so it's absolutely the case that we have to pull out all of the stops and make sure that we are doing everything we can to stay on top of this as we tiptoe toward the vaccine being widely available," Hinds said.

The next challenge after obtaining these testing sites is making sure that test results are available in a timely manner, the senator said.  

Right now, Hinds said it is important to get the word out about the campaign and make people more likely to get tested the moment they are feeling symptoms or have an area of concern.

To access COVID-19 testing, individuals must call the BHS COVID-19 Hotline, 855-BMC-LINK, or 855-262-5465, which is available daily from 8 am to 4:30 pm. All of the testing locations will be closed on Christmas and New Year's Day.

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Over 400 Get Vaccine at Berkshire County Arc

PITTSFIELD, Mass. Over the course of three weeks, CVS staff visited almost all of the 43 BCArc residential programs, vaccinating BCArc staff and the individuals with disabilities who live in the homes.

With the first round complete, the second and final shot is scheduled for February.

"This is a great opportunity for our staff and I’m glad most of them took advantage of it," Ken Singer, President & CEO said. "They worked through the entire pandemic, 24-7. So while it is a privilege to be part of Phase I, they earned it and I’m so proud of the way they took care of the individuals we serve. A recent meeting with the families of the BCArc community gave our staff the highest of marks."

Employees who missed the first round can still receive the vaccination, and as new staff join BCArc, they will have access to the vaccine as well, given their status as essential workers.

A number of homes were quarantined and missed the first round of shots. They will be scheduled for the vaccine once they are cleared by the Board of Health.

"So many people deserve credit for this," Singer said. "While I’d like to one day say that BCArc is 100 percent vaccinated, for now every person in the BCArc community who has been vaccinated protects all of us that much more."






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