Another Pittsfield resident under quarantine after traveling to China

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PITTSFIELD — A second quarantine is underway in Pittsfield for a person who recently traveled to China, according to the city's health director.

Gina Armstrong said Wednesday she was advised by the state that another traveler from a low-risk area of China is now undergoing a precautionary 14-day quarantine. A city family that went under household quarantine last month will wrap up their 14-day quarantine this weekend.

The second quarantine started Thursday, Armstrong said. Like the first one, the newer quarantine is precautionary.

"This person also remains asymptomatic," she said.

Those quarantined in Pittsfield stand among some 719 statewide who have been isolated since the disease began to spread. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health began testing at its own lab this week, and has so far tested 20 people.

As the new coronavirus continues to spread, local and state leaders are rolling out new measures to mitigate the contagion. Gov. Charlie Baker pushed the state's schools and universities to cancel upcoming international trips, and Berkshire Health Systems issued new protocols for patients.

The organization's staff will ask all patients about contact with anyone known to have tested positive for the new coronavirus, about recent international travel as well as any symptoms they might be feeling.

To date, BHS staff have not collected any cultures for testing, according to Michael Leary, director of media relations for BHS. If a patient or their caregivers suspected a coronavirus infection, medical professionals at BHS would collect a sample and ship it to the state's testing lab in Jamaica Plain, Boston.

In a letter home to primary care patients, BHS asks patients feeling ill to call ahead for appointments and to wear a face mask and use an alcohol-based sanitizer upon entering any of the system's facilities.

And if considering visiting loved ones in the hospital, Leary said BHS asks anyone with flu-like symptoms to postpone their visits until 48 hours after symptoms clear up.

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On Tuesday, Superintendent Jason McCandless canceled an upcoming student trip to France and the U.K. He said families will be offered a voucher for travel with a future group or for an individual trip.

Asked about past international trips, McCandless said students went to Spain and Italy over February break. Students returned before Italy was listed among the countries from which travelers were asked to undergo 14-day quarantines.

"We did keep an eye on these students and have now passed the two week watch-period," McCandless wrote in an email to The Eagle.

McCandless and other city leaders did not answer questions about what the city's monitoring of these travelers looked like. It remains unclear how much time has elapsed since the students' return.

A student group in Rhode Island went on a similar trip over break, and several members of the group have since come down with the new coronavirus.

Clinicians who have patients they think may have symptoms consistent with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, should contact DPH at 617-983-6800.

Health care providers who collect cultures for testing are asked to ship them to the state lab in Jamaica Plain, the only authorized testing location in the state. Such specimens should be labeled accordingly, and the laboratory should be alerted to ensure proper specimen handling, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website.

A spokeswoman for Mass. DPH declined to answer questions about how they determined that the number of test kits the agency has on hand is "adequate." The agency's website says the average turnaround time for tests is 24 hours.

Officials continually advise the public to wash their hands, clean surfaces and avoid touching their face.

Local boards of health are responsible for monitoring people under quarantine, and so the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission will soon convene a refresher course on isolation and quarantine. 

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296. 


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