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BHS Limits Visitations as COVID Cases Rise

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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Berkshire Health Systems is changing it visitation guidelines beginning Wednesday to one visitor per patient and requiring medical-grade masking within its facilities.
 
Berkshire County has seen a significant uptick in COVID-19 cases, suspected to be the Delta variant, and an increase in hospitalizations. 
 
Some 60 new cases were reported over the weekend, and more than 100 since July 22 as well as two deaths. More than half the new cases in the past week are from North Adams Commons, where 30 residents and five staff members were found to be infected. Much higher numbers are being seen in the eastern part of the state.
 
"COVID-19 is resurging across the nation, but, for now, Berkshire County remains among the areas of low to moderate positivity," said Dr. James Lederer, BHS' chief medical and quality officer. "Our health-care facilities are safe, and our community should have no hesitation in seeking out the services they count on from our health-care providers. 
 
"Those who are vaccinated run a far lower risk of being infected, and if there are breakthrough infections, research has shown that the vast majority come with less severe symptoms or no symptoms at all."
 
As of Monday evening, Berkshire Medical Center had eight patients (of whom four are from the nursing home) and 11 pending tests. The statewide hospitalization numbers have doubled from 100 to more than 200 in the past two weeks with the average age being 35. 
 
Public health officials say the Delta variant is more easily transmissible even among vaccinated but is less likely to cause serious consequences in protected individuals. The Berkshires vaccination rate for eligible individuals (12 and older) stands at about 68 percent.
 
This still leaves a significant portion of the population, including children, unprotected. According to an internal BHS email, about 800 of its employees are still not vaccinated. Residents are strongly urged to get vaccinated.
 
Berkshire Medical Center and Fairview Hospital will limit visitation to one "healthy" visitor per patient in both adult medical/surgical units and pediatrics, compared to two visitors allowed previously. Visitation hours remain unchanged and are available from noon to 8 daily in the adult medical surgical units and 2 to 8 p.m. in the Critical Care and Progressive Care units.
 
Visitation guidance has not changed for maternity, the hospitals' Emergency Departments, outpatient services and physician practices where one visitor has been allowed per patient for some time.
 
 
All patients and visitors must wear a new medical-grade mask upon each entry to the facility and must use that mask during their visitation or appointment. The free masks will be given to anyone entering a BHS facility and provide enhanced protection for patients and visitors compared to re-used masks that likely have degraded in quality over time. This policy will be implemented in accordance with new Massachusetts Department of Public Health guidelines on masking.
 
COVID-19 vaccinations continue to be offered across Berkshire County, with vaccines being administered in Pittsfield and North Adams at the BHS COVID-19 testing facilities and in Great Barrington at Fairview Hospital. Walk-ins are welcome. Testing and vaccine appointments can also be made by calling the BHS COVID Hotline, 855-262-5465, open daily from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The hotline is also available for any questions involving COVID-19, vaccination and testing.
 
For more information on Berkshire Health Systems and COVID-19, visit www.berkshirehealthsystems.org/coronavirus.

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