PITTSFIELD — In response to declining infection rates and increased vaccine supply, Berkshire Health Systems (BHS) announced several measures to further gradual reopening in the Berkshire community, including an updated visitation policy at all BHS facilities and daily opportunities for vaccination at community testing sites in Pittsfield, North Adams, and Great Barrington.
“We were excited to hear [the] CDC recommendations regarding the relaxation of masking requirements,” said Darlene Rodowicz, executive vice president of Berkshire Health Systems. She expressed optimism that this guidance marks an early step in returning to a more normal, pre-pandemic routine; however, she cautioned that the new recommendation does not apply to healthcare settings.
“Berkshire Health Systems’ policies regarding masking, distancing, and hygiene have not changed, and all patients, visitors, and staff must continue to wear masks. Our policies remain in accordance with the most recent CDC and Massachusetts guidelines, and we continue to be vigilant to ensure that we provide the safest possible environment for all patients, especially those with compromised immune systems who depend on us for care.”
Simultaneously recognizing that COVID infection rates are dropping in the Berkshire community, BHS has updated its visitation policy to increase the number of visitors allowed in certain inpatient areas and for outpatient procedures, as well as expanding visiting hours in medical, surgical, and observation inpatient units. Two healthy visitors will now be allowed on adult medical, surgical, and observation units between noon and 8 p.m. Patients undergoing surgical, laboratory, or radiology procedures may have one adult healthy visitor for the duration of the test or procedure.
Additionally, BHS COVID-19 testing centers will begin working with the Berkshire Vaccine Collaborative to offer both scheduled and walk-in vaccinations beginning this week. On Tuesday, May 18, the Pittsfield Testing Center, in collaboration with the BHS Urgent Care Center, will be the first to offer ongoing vaccinations at the 505 East St. location. Vaccinations will be available from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. To pre-register for an appointment at the Pittsfield testing center, visit www.maimmunizations.org and search for appointments in Pittsfield. Walk-ins are also accepted seven days a week.
Anyone with questions about vaccination can call the COVID-19 hotline at (855) 262-5465 (press 3) to speak with an experienced COVID nurse. The centers located in North Adams and Great Barrington are not yet open for walk-in vaccinations, but expect to be able to provide broad access to COVID-19 shots in the near future.
“We are pleased to be able to offer these new options that can help remove some barriers to vaccination,” Rodowicz said. “We hope that our community members who have not yet been vaccinated will be able to have their questions answered and take advantage of these ongoing appointments across the county.”