Epidemiology and Prevention

The first cases in Massachusetts were associated with a conference at Biogen in Boston, with attendees from around the globe.

As work went on to trace contacts related to this event, shock waves went through the state linked to the discovery of a case at Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield on March 11 with no clear links to any known clusters.

Baystate Health experienced its first case on March 14.

Because of the uncertainties related to the coming surge, BH suspended all elective surgeries and procedures on March 15, a day before the Governor ordered this approach for all hospitals in the state. By March 20, there were 17 confirmed positive cases at BH, with 147 negatives and 124 pending results. Confirmed positives rose to 52 on March 25, 106 on March 29, and 142 on April 4. Of the 142, forty required critical care, often leading to weeks on a mechanical ventilator. Cases reached a peak of 170 by April 8, after which they began a slow decline. Because of the growing awareness of the spread of virus from asymptomatic carriers, universal mask wearing was soon required in all hospital settings, with more extensive precautions being followed on units caring for patients with COVID-19.

Masks Required

With better awareness of the mechanism of viral transmission from individuals without symptoms, as well as improvements in treatment, cases steadily declined from late April into July. The Center for Analytics developed a set of dashboard reports to ensure reliable data for both financial and public health reporting purposes.

In late July, a cluster of infections related to a lapse in infection control affected 35 employees and 25 patients on one COVID-19 unit at Baystate Medical Center. Following a redoubling of efforts to ensure consistent adherence to guidelines and provisions for expanded break room space, the decline resumed. By the end of the year, the pandemic was hitting a second wave. At BH, the inpatient case count at its four hospitals had risen from eight in September to over 160 in December. Fewer individuals now require intensive care, a testament to improved treatments and a lower age group being attacked.

Active outreach was made for vulnerable patients cared for by BH primary care physicians. Among the over 40,000 patients in our Medicaid Accountable Care Organization (ACO), BH providers, in partnership with clinical leaders from Health New England (HNE), reached out to over 3,000 vulnerable residents of Springfield to assess care needs and to provide protective equipment, supplies and knowledge about how to protect themselves and their families from the virus.

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