Bump in COVID-19 Cases Seen at Two County Nursing Homes

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The operator of six nursing homes in Berkshire County said a recent spike in COVID-19 cases associated with two of those facilities is tied to incidents in the community at large.
And all but four people found positive at a South County facility are fully recovered, according to a spokesperson for Integritus Healthcare.
Integritus, formerly known as Berkshire Healthcare, operates nursing homes in Great Barrington, Lenox, North Adams, Pittsfield and Williamstown.
Two of those sites, Fairview Commons in Great Barrington and Williamstown Commons, saw significant jumps in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases among residents in the month of November.
At Fairview, which reported 103 total cases from March 2020 through Oct. 31 of this year, 49 more cases were reported in November — nearly a third of all the facilities cases since the start of the pandemic.
At Williamstown Commons, Integritus reported 183 cumulative cases from March 2020 through the end of October. The most recent total is 220 — 37 new cases, or 17 percent of the facility's total positive cases.
Among Integritus' other four county sites, only one saw any increase in the month of November. North Adams Commons saw two new cases among residents in the last week to bring its total from 128 as of Nov. 1 to 130 as of Dec. 1.
"As you can surmise, increased cases of COVID in our affiliates trend along with the community," Integritus' marketing communications director Margie Laurin wrote Thursday in response to an email seeking comment. "At Fairview Commons we have only three remaining residents that are positive and are recovering well and only one remaining staff member that is out and is expected back shortly. We have been testing staff daily since earlier [last] month."
By comparison, Berkshire County went from 32,762 cases over the life of the pandemic as of Oct. 27 to 33,279 cases on Nov. 24, the most recent date available at the time on the state's website. That means about 1.6 percent of the county's total positive cases (March 2020-December 2022) occurred during November.
But the population at a facility like Fairview is different than the general population, Laurin pointed out.
"In addition to community spread we are committed to caring for residents and admitting them from hospitals regardless of their COVID status to allow for hospitals to focus on acute care needs," she said. "We are required by DPH to not discriminate based on a resident that is COVID positive or not. In the case of [Fairview Commons], this could certainly also [contribute] to the higher number of cases in the building."
Nursing homes have been a focus since the early days of the pandemic.
The commonwealth's first efforts in testing and, later, vaccination were targeted toward the at-risk populations in the congregate care facilities.
Integritus, which publishes a daily report on cases on its website, integritushealthcare.org, says "all our affiliates are doing everything possible to ... further prevent or limit the spread of this virus."
Based on guidance from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Integritus has a number of preventive measures in place, including: personal protective equipment (PPE) coaches; restrictions on visitation; symptom screening of residents, staff and essential visitors;  telehealth options for residents; and testing programs.
Still, operating a nursing home can prevent unique challenges when it comes to COVID-19.
"At Williamstown Commons, the cases of COVID are contained within our unit that primarily cares for residents with dementia," Laurin said. "When one resident in a unit such as this becomes positive, although staff adheres to all COVID related protocols, it can be challenging to limit the spread as residents with memory care issues will often remove their masks and cannot be limited to staying in their rooms at all times.
"Having said that only two staff members have tested positive and we test staff working in this unit daily."

Tags: COVID-19,   nursing home,   

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Clark Art Screens Experimental Animation Short Films

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — On Feb. 2 at 7 pm, the Clark Art Institute screens a selection of short films covering experimental animation from the 1960s and '70s in its auditorium. 
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In the midst of the Cold War, animation artists explored alternative realities. Their artistic explorations enabled them to venture outside of the ideological boundaries of international politics. Some of these realities reached back to fairytales, like the animations of the Soviet Union's Yuri Norstein. Other artists, like the Canadian-Scottish animator Norman McLaren, pursued abstraction, looking for basic first principles that might be shared across the animation frame.
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