|Berkshire County's First Coronavirus Case Confirmed|
|Staff Reports, |
03:05AM / Sunday, March 08, 2020
|Precautions have been in place at Berkshire Medical Center for weeks.|
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Berkshire Medical Center has confirmed that a patient has tested as presumptive positive for COVID-19.
In a statement of facts to press, Director of Media Relations Michael Leary said the patient is an older man who lives in Berkshire County. He is listed in stable condition.
The patient could not be tested before Friday, when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the state Department of Public Health rules were changed to allow him to be tested. The CDC had limited testing to those who had traveled to areas where the disease was prevalent or had contact with someone who had.
The man had been admitted to BMC several days earlier but at that time did not meet the CDC requirements to permit testing at the only authorized laboratory — a DPH lab in Jamaica Plain
Leary said the Board of Health in the individual's home community has been notified by the DPH and BMC and that board is responsible for conducting tracing of those who have come into recent contact with the patient.
Several first-responders who came in contact with the patient were reportedly asked on Saturday to self-quarantine. The recommended quarantine is 14 days.
Also, two students at Monument Valley Regional Middle School have also self-quarantined, according to Berkshire Hills Regional Superintendent Peter Dillon, who notified parents. The students had been visiting a country that the CDC had raised the warning level for after they had returned.
The state now has one confirmed case of the coronavirus and 12 "presumptive." According to the state website, 719 individuals have been subject to quarantine and 470 have concluded the two-week period. Another 249 are still in quarantine.
The DPH reported eight presumptive cases on Friday morning and five more on Saturday afternoon, including the Berkshire County man described as being in his 60s.
Three of the cases had a "direct connection" to an employee conference for Biogen held in Boston last week, according to DPH, and a fourth had traveled to northern Italy. DPH said the fifth — presumably the Berkshire County case — was under investigation.
The vast majority of those who contract COVID-19 will not have severe symptoms but may have fever, coughing and shortness of breath. There is also the possibility of pneumonia.
Older individuals and those with underlying medical issues are at greater risk.
The disease has spread to more than 70 countries and killed more than 3,500, with the highest numbers in China where the virus originated. Nineteen people have died in the United States, 16 of them in Washington state. Vermont reported its first case late Saturday night.
BMC says it has been following CDC and DPH guidelines for caring for the patient and is identifying staff who may have been exposed to the patient prior to when he was tested.
Anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms is being asked not to visit Berkshire Health System facilities until their symptoms are gone. Anyone with severe symptoms should contact their physician by phone before going to their office or the hospital emergency department.
If anyone in the community feels the need to visit the hospital because of flu-like symptoms, BMC officials are urging them to first call the hospital at 413-447-2000.