Hospital Traces COVID Cluster to Break Room

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.

  • Ryan Basen reports for MedPage’s enterprise & investigative team. He has worked as a journalist for more than a decade, earning national and state honors for his investigative work. He often writes about issues concerning the practice and business of medicine. Follow

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Sri Lanka orders more curfews over virus cluster

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Authorities in Sri Lanka have closed the country’s main fish market and widened the curfew in many parts of the island nation following a surge of coronavirus infections related to a new cluster centered on a garment factory.

The government imposed a curfew Thursday in parts of Colombo and some areas outside the capital. Officials already isolated at least six villages elsewhere in the same province, where the new cluster was discovered early this month.

Authorities also suspended operations at Sri Lanka’s main fish market after 49 traders tested positive. Health workers are conducting tests on hundreds of other traders at the market on the outskirts of Colombo.


Schools and key public offices are also closed, public gatherings banned and restrictions imposed on public transport.

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— Spain reaches 1 million cases of coronavirus

— North Dakota Republican governor calls National Guard to help with test results

— CDC redefines coronavirus close contact, adds brief encounters

— Next up in hunt for COVID-19 vaccine: Testing shots in kids. Pfizer received permission last week to test its vaccine in U.S. kids as young as 12.

— Boston schools will switch to all-remote learning in response to rising coronavirus cases in the city.

— Brazil President overrules own health minister, rejecting purchase of 46 million doses of a potential coronavirus vaccine tested in Sao Paulo state.

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Follow all of AP’s coronavirus pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has 121 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus, its first triple-digit daily jump in a week amid concerns about the country easing social distancing restrictions just last week to cope with a weak economy.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said Thursday that South Korea’s caseload is now at 25,543 for the pandemic, including 453 deaths.

Hundreds of recent infections have been tied to hospitals in major cities such as Seoul and Busan. Officials are testing 130,000 workers at hospitals, nursing homes and senior facilities in the Seoul metropolitan area hoping to reduce outbreaks.

South Korea has enforced its lowest level of social distancing measures since Oct. 13, allowing high-risk businesses and karaoke bars to reopen and fans to return to professional sports.

MEXICO CITY — Mexican health officials estimated Wednesday that the country has risen above 1 million coronavirus cases, though the figure includes both confirmed infections as well as suspected cases.

Officials put the country’s apparent deaths from COVID-19 at 102,293, again including cases in which patients were not tested for the virus.

The Health Department says its pandemic caseload tally has reached 1,005,938. That includes people who have displayed symptoms of COVID-19 but were not given tests or whose samples could not be processed. Test-confirmed cases total 867,559.

The agency attributes 102,293 deaths to the pandemic, adding in deceased patients who weren’t tested but had symptoms judged to be caused by COVID-19. Test-confirmed deaths

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