PITTSFIELD — A relatively small rise in COVID-19 cases does not worry Berkshire health professionals.
The 14-day average daily case in Pittsfield detected 44.2 cases per 100,000 people, up from a low of 26 cases on July 7.
These cases are not, however, reaching the hospitals. Berkshire Medical Center has eight hospitalized patients at its main campus in Pittsfield, and one at Fairview Hospital, according to Michael Leary, the hospital’s spokesperson.
Dr. James Lederer, chief medical officer and chief quality officer at Berkshire Health Systems in Pittsfield, said the number of hospitalized patients has not been changing much.
“We’ve seen an ebb and flow of cases now for months. Our hospitalizations are pretty stable,” he said. “On the whole, the summer has been pretty stable. I don’t think it necessarily suggests that we’ve got something imminently coming.”
Leary said some of the hospitalized patients didn’t even realize they had the virus. “Some are ‘incidental’ patients, meaning they were admitted because of something other than COVID, but tested positive so they have to be isolated from the non-COVID patients,” he said.
Lederer said it is difficult to account for COVID-19 reinfections, because they are not being tracked down.
“Nationwide, we’re seeing some reinfections. It tends to be in the older individuals. People with slightly weaker immune systems. We are seeing it in people who have had two, three and four vaccinations,” he said.
Amy Hardt, regional public health nurse leader at Southern Berkshire Public Health Collaborative, said that, anecdotally, reports of reinfection are not uncommon.
“Especially lately, with the current sub-variants BA.5, BA.4,” she said. From her experience, mild infections were common in patients who had been reinfected.
The test positivity rates in the Berkshires have also been on a slight incline, now at 10 percent. Lederer attributes that in part to a general decrease in testing volume.
Home testing adds to this issue of unknown positivity rates. “What we can’t account for is how many people are getting home tests, and what would that positivity rate do,” said Lederer.
Citing a lower demand, Berkshire Health System announced this week it would not perform COVID-19 tests during weekends in Pittsfield and North Adams, starting Aug. 15.
Dr. Lederer suggests that if infected with COVID-19, people with comorbidities, such as heart disease, diabetes and asthma, reach out to their primary care physician or call the COVID-19 hotline to consider medication.
The medication comes with risks, though. Hardt said that taking Paxlovid, an antiviral drug used to treat COVID, has led to a COVID-19 rebound in 5 to 10 percent of those prescribed.
“This may or may not involve symptoms, but it typically does involve a resurgence of infectiousness,” said Hardt.
“Anyone who has been prescribed Paxlovid, especially if they have another vulnerable person in the home, is well-advised to continue isolating for a few extra days after they’re done with their meds and to use a rapid test before leaving isolation to confirm they are now negative,” she said.