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Williamstown Commons COVID-19 Contagion Spreads
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
07:11PM / Friday, April 03, 2020
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Some 36 people at Williamstown Commons have tested positive for COVID-19; three people have died.

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Three residents at Williamstown Commons nursing home have now reportedly died from complications of COVID-19.

Administrator Jodi Ouimette, in her latest update on April 2, reported that two residents died on Wednesday night and that 36 residents have now tested positive for the novel coranavirus. The first death was reported on March 29.

The 180-bed has seen cases rise since the first positive test results on March 24. Within three days the number had jumped to 14. Currently, there are 118 patents at the facility, that number normally is about 135, according to a spokesperson from Berkshire Healthcare Systems.

"Despite continued tireless efforts and tremendous care by the Williamstown Commons staff, the positive cases of residents infected with COVID-19 has continued to grow," Ouimette wrote. "As of today, Thursday, April 2, we have a total of 36 residents who are currently in-house that have tested positive and seven more pending results. A small win is that 14 residents have also tested negative."

Long-term care centers have become hot zones for the highly contagious novel coronavirus, largely because their residents fall within the most vulnerable population — older, immunocomprised or having underlying medical conditions.

BHS spokesperson Lisa Gaudet said that the Williamstown Commons was closed to new admissions after the first positive test for the novel coronavirus, per the direction of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

The patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 have been isolated in a particular unit in the facility, and measures are in place to keep maintain social distancing for all other residents.

“Folks have been restricted to their rooms in most nursing homes since the virus
Broke out,” Gaudet said. “We’re creating distance and trying to keep people in their space. … On March 14, we closed to visitors. Since then, we continued keeping residents in their rooms.”

The first American fatalities from COVID-19 occurred at Life Care Center of Kirkland in Washington State in February; some 37 people linked in some way to the facility have now died.

In Holyoke, the state-run Soldiers' Home is being investigated after rash of deaths were reported last week. Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders reported Friday afternoon that 21 veterans have now died and that 15 of those tested positive for COVID-19; two were negative; one unknown and the rest were awaiting results.

The entire Holyoke facility has now been tested and 59 residents have tested positive and 160 negative.

"We have created basically separate units within the home," she said at the governor's daily briefing on Friday. "So we have created units for individuals who have tested positive units for people who have tested negative, so that we can ensure that people are appropriately isolated."

Fifteen deaths have now been reported at Charlwell House in Norwood just over the past 12 days and seven have so far tested positive for COVID-19, according to media reports.  

"We've put in place mobile testing for nursing homes specifically because we understood that for nursing homes to take patients or  residents from nursing homes to hospitals to be tested was not humane, compassionate or good," Sudders said. "This week we rolled out mobile testing, again with our National Guard, and we're expanding that for residents and the like. ... We have both nurses from the Department on Public Health and epidemiologists on-site and in contact with nursing homes that have clusters of patients in their homes."

Gaudet said that Berkshire Health Systems has not been informed when the commonwealth’s mobile testing unit will be in Williamstown. On Tuesday, Sudders said that the state planned seven such units. Gaudet noted there are 400 nursing homes in Massachusetts.

Ouimette said protocols remain in place at Williamstown Commons, including screening all staff for any symptoms and following guidelines provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the state Department of Health in this matter.

“We ask those questions every day — have you traveled out of state, do you have symptoms — and we take the temperature of every employee when they report to work,” Gaudet said. “If they trigger any of those, we ask them to go home and self-isolate and check with their doctor. They’d need a doctor’s order to do testing.”

"It is extremely difficult at times like this to continue to remain positive, but I will tell you that it has been made possible through the tremendous support Williamstown Commons has received from the community," Ouimette wrote. "From medical supplies, signs of encouragement posted throughout the community to full meals and everything in between our staff has felt very cared for. This has encouraged them to push on and continue to care for our residents in tremendous ways during this unfathomable time."
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