News Brief: GBFM early closing; Berkshire Health Systems initiates COVID-19 antibody testing

The antibody test will tell the individual, who may have had no symptoms or might at some point earlier this year have had respiratory illness, whether they had COVID-19 from an historical perspective.

Farmers’ market to close early June 6

Great Barrington — The Great Barrington Farmers’ Market will close at noon on Saturday, June 6. The early closure is in support and solidarity with the Black Lives Matter protest occurring at Town Hall, 334 Main St., Saturday, June 6, at noon.

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Berkshire Health Systems initiates COVID-19 antibody testing: Testing available to anyone with physician order

Pittsfield — Berkshire Health Systems has begun providing COVID-19 antibody testing in the community, which will help residents to know if they have had COVID-19 at some point in the past, but stress the testing does not ensure immunity from the virus. The testing is available through a blood test and only with a physician order. Interested residents can ask their primary care physician to submit an order to the BHS laboratory for a test to be drawn at a BHS blood draw station. The result will then be provided to the physician, who will relay the result to the patient.

Patients accessing the antibody testing will be responsible for any co-pays, deductibles or self-pays required by their health insurers, and if they have questions regarding whether insurance will pay for the test should, they contact their insurance providers.

“We believe this will be important in the long run to help determine what percentage of the Berkshire population may have had COVID-19, with many people likely having contracted the virus but did not develop serious, or in some cases, any symptoms,” said James Lederer, M.D., BHS chief medical officer and chief quality officer. “Unfortunately, at this early stage of antibody testing nationwide, the test will not answer some key questions the public may have, including whether they have any immunity as a result of a positive antibody test. It may be some time before we know if there is immunity, and the longevity of that immunity.”

“As we face the possibility of a resurgence of COVID-19 in the upcoming fall and winter months, this testing may help us to better understand how widespread the virus was locally in this first phase,” said Jessica Krochmal, M.D., BHS chair of pathology. “The test itself is a simple blood draw with a fairly fast turnaround, so that we can inform the primary care physician who ordered the test in a short timeframe.”

In Berkshire County to date, nearly 8,500 people have been tested for COVID-19 through a nasal swab test that determines if the individual has the virus at that time, and of that number, just over 500 have been positive. The antibody test will tell the individual, who may have had no symptoms or might at some point earlier this year have had respiratory illness, whether they had COVID-19 from an historical perspective.

“We would stress that those who test positive for antibodies understand that this does not mean they are immune going forward,” said Lederer. “People should continue to follow all of the precautions put in place across Massachusetts and locally to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, including social distancing and masking where required.”

Anyone wishing to obtain an antibody test should contact theirr primary care physician and ask for an order to be placed with the BHS lab. Once that is ordered, the individual can go to any BHS blood draw station for the test. Individuals should contact their primary care physicians for more information.