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New England News

More Than 20 Breakthrough COVID-19 Cases At North Adams Nursing Home

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Berkshire Healthcare
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https://www.berkshirehealthcare.org/

A nursing home in North Adams, Massachusetts is experiencing an outbreak of breakthrough COVID-19 cases.

Berkshire Healthcare spokesperson Lisa Gaudet says the North Adams Commons has more than 20 cases among vaccinated residents and staff, with at least four hospitalizations. Initially, only three cases were reported. WAMC spoke with Gaudet this afternoon about the situation, which has led to the suspension of visitation at the facility.

GAUDET: We currently have 20 residents at North Adams Commons that are positive and two staff members. All except for one resident were vaccinated. Same thing with the staff.

WAMC: Now, at this point, do you have a sense of where this outbreak emerged from?

We do not. We are doing our tracing, our contact tracing, in conjunction with epidemiology at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

What is happening now at North Adams Commons to address the situation? What kind of cohorting is going on for residents?

I don't have the details around that. I could tell you that when we have outbreaks, we revert to cohorting recommendations that DPH provides to us. I will tell you that cohorting of residents looks different post-vaccination than it did prior to when we had vaccinations. So I don't have the details on that that I could specifically answer that for you at the moment.

At this time, are there other Berkshire Healthcare facilities with active COVID-19 cases? And if so, are they similarly breakthrough cases?

There are no other Berkshire Healthcare facilities across the state currently that have any active cases.

Specifically in regards to breakthrough cases- How does this change policies for Berkshire Healthcare moving forward, knowing that some of the state's most vulnerable could possibly experience breakthrough cases?

Yeah, I don't know that it changes policies as much as it is continues to be a public health issue that our industry as well as the general public need to be aware of, that we are now seeing these breakthrough cases, you're hearing more being articulated in the national news in the local news around this Delta variant, how it has taken hold as a result of percentage of the population being unvaccinated and how the virus has morphed. And I think this is potentially one of the outcomes that we're seeing is that it is more contagious and that we're seeing breakthrough cases. The Department of Public Health, the state Office of Health and Human Services, and as well as the governor and the CDC and other leading health organizations will be the ones that will dictate what changes with what we're doing, but this is all very new and evolving.

When we last spoke, you talked about the fact that not all of the staff at Berkshire Healthcare had accepted the vaccine. Is there a mandate at Berkshire Healthcare to receive the vaccine? And do you have a sense of what percentage of the staff are at this time vaccinated?

We do know what the percentage of the staff that are vaccinated are, and at North Adams Commons in particular, we have 67% of the staff is vaccinated, and 89% of the residents are vaccinated. In Berkshire County facilities that we own and operate, we actually have 94% of our residents vaccinated and 76% of our staff are vaccinated. So we are above national averages. We have not mandated vaccination for our staff. I will tell you that you're seeing more conversation taking place, both in the healthcare arena as well as just in general organizations looking at whether or not to mandate vaccination for their for their workers. We too are having that kind of a conversation, but have not currently mandated anything.

WAMC learned of the full scope of the outbreak through a leaked memo from Berkshire Health Systems Chief Medical Officer Dr. James Lederer, which also revealed that around 800 of the company’s employees remain unvaccinated. After the email, Lederer told WAMC the all-staff communique was in light of both the North Adams Commons situation as well as the spread of the potent Delta variant of COVID-19.

“This was at last a plea to just say, please, this is still your opportunity to get vaccinated, mitigate your risks, mitigate the risks to your children and loved ones, and the colleagues you work with,” he told WAMC Friday.

Berkshire Health Systems does not have a vaccine mandate in place for its employees.

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