A COVID-19 cluster involving 15 staff members at Holyoke Medical Center in western Massachusetts probably started in a break room, the hospital’s chief executive said.
“We traced it back to employees eating a meal together in a break room, and obviously when you eat a meal you take your mask off, and they contracted it from one employee who was positive,” Holyoke CEO Spiro Hatiras told Western Mass News.
Hatiras said the hospital has since put capacity limits on break rooms.
The employees who became ill began to show symptoms two weeks ago. Of the 15 who tested positive, 10 worked exclusively in the emergency department, according to reports.
As of Monday, two staff members were cleared to return to work. The rest remain at home, according to the local news outlet. The hospital did not return a MedPage Today request for comment as to their various conditions.
Hatiras warned about “COVID fatigue,” even among hospital employees: “We want to make sure that people interpret the guidelines appropriately. What you find sometimes with this fatigue is that 6 feet sometimes becomes 5 feet, sometimes 4 feet.”
Holyoke Medical Center is located just north of Springfield, the third largest city in Massachusetts. The town of Holyoke recently scaled back to the first of its three-step pandemic reopening, according to a local television report, because the region has been hit by a resurgence of COVID-19 cases.
It is one of a few western Massachusetts communities considered high-risk, according to a state database, with 12.7 average daily cases per 100,000 people and a 2.5% positivity rate as of the end of last week.
Holyoke Medical Center has 1,200 employees and 198 beds, according to its website. It is part of Valley Health Systems but identifies itself as an independent community hospital.