HOLYOKE, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- Several employees at Holyoke Medical Center are recovering from COVID-19.

The CEO of the hospital believes the outbreak is linked to employees taking their lunch break together.

Western Mass News got answers from the CEO who said this is the first time a cluster of employees have tested positive for the coronavirus at the hospital.

More than a dozen employees are on the road to recovery after testing positive for the coronavirus.

CEO Spiros Hatiras said 15 employees tested positive about two weeks ago.

“We think we traced it back to employees eating a meal together in a break room, and obviously when you are eating a meal, you take your mask off and they contracted it from one employee who was positive,” Hatiras said.

Many have heard of coronavirus fatigue where people become lax about wearing personal protective equipment.

Holyoke Medical Center is making sure their employees continue to follow COVID-19 safety precautions by putting new rules in place.

“We want to make sure that people interpret the guidelines appropriately,” he said. “What you find sometimes is that with this fatigue is that six feet sometimes becomes five feet and sometimes four feet. We have now also put capacity limits in our break room.”

He said two of the employees came back to work on Monday, the rest are still at home.

This came as Holyoke is one of the seven communities considered high risk in western Mass on the latest state COVID-19 risk map.

In an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the state sent out a phone alert to high-risk communities Monday night. It’s similar to an Amber Alert and encourages people to do their part to stop the spread.

As for Hatiras, he said the hospital will continue to serve the community safely.

“The important thing is that we do continue to be vigilant,” he said. “Holyoke Medical Center is one of the safest places to be with a great job responding to the pandemic, and people should continue to feel comfortable using the Holyoke Medical Center.”

Officials said anyone who may have come into close contact with those medical center employees have been contacted.

Copyright 2020 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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