Coronavirus cluster at Massachusetts hospital: 23 employees, 13 patients infected

A coronavirus cluster has emerged at a Massachusetts hospital on a non-COVID unit after an employee recently traveled to an out-of-state hotspot region, the hospital’s top official said on Monday.

More than 30 people have tested positive for the virus as a result of the outbreak at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Baystate Health President and CEO Mark Keroack announced at a press conference.

Thirteen patients and 23 employees have tested positive, he said. One of the hospital’s employees had recently traveled to an out-of-state coronavirus hotspot, Keroack said.

Another factor that sparked the cluster, he said, was hospital staff members together in break rooms removing their masks without observing social distancing protocols.

“These simple lapses were able to happen in spite of our screening employees for fever and other symptoms before every shift, mandating mask usage and social distancing throughout the facility,” Keroack said.

“We know there’s no guarantee that this virus cannot spread even when precautions are taken,” he said. “Asymptomatic people may shed the virus and those who feel that they’re somehow in an area without virus may let their guard down from time to time with serious consequences.

“We’ve seen this in too many other areas throughout the country,” Keroack added. “This event reinforces that COVID-19 is highly contagious and requires vigilance in order to contain its spread.”

Baystate Health has reached out to all patients who received care on the unit from July 15 to 23.

The hospital has also been testing and contact tracing employees working on the unit, as well as employees who spent more than 15 minutes on the unit.

For the patients who tested positive, they’re performing contact tracing in collaboration with the state Department of Public Health and local boards of health.

“We’re deeply disappointed that this outbreak has occurred,” Keroack said. “And we’re committed to an ongoing review of our safety practices to ensure that they’re aligned with the current guidelines and science.”

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