SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- Baystate Medical Center has reported an outbreak of COVID-19 infections, affecting patients and employees.

It marks the first time since the pandemic began that Baystate said there has been transmission of the virus between patients and staff.

Baystate Health President and CEO Dr. Mark Keroack said it was an employee who came back to work after traveling to another state considered to be a hot spot.

Keroack spoke Monday during a weekly briefing with Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, who had strong words of his own on stopping the spread of COVID-19.

Keroack said the outbreak affects 23 employees and 13 patient and that it was discovered early last week on a non-COVID unit.

The Baystate employee was diagnosed after returning from a known hot spot state and did not self-quarantine, which - until a new regulation takes effect August 1 in the Bay State - is a recommendation, not a policy.

Keroack also said it has also been determined that staff were gathering in break rooms and removing masks without proper social distancing protocols.

“These simple lapses were able to happen in spite of our screening of employees for fever and other symptoms before every shift, mandating mask usage, and social distancing throughout the facility. We know there is no guarantee that this virus cannot spread even when precautions are taken. Asymptotic people may shed the virus and those who feel that they're, somehow, in an area without virus may let their guard down from time-to-time, with serious consequences,” Keroack explained.

Keroack told Western Mass News that contact tracing is well underway, reaching out to all patients who received care on the unit between July 15 and July 23 and, moving forward, Baystate employees will have to follow the state's new travel policies.

“This is a public health issue. You have groups, holding events, selling food with no permits, no COVID-19 plan and these groups are charging money to vendor on top of it,” said Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno.

Sarno also spoke out following reports of parties being held in the city without social distance protocols.

“So we're giving you fair warning right now and we understand there are some events scheduled and we ask that they not be done or they will be shut down,” Sarno added.

With regards to the outbreak at Baystate, Keroack said the 23 employees are at home under quarantine – three are asymptomatic, others report mild symptoms.

Of the 13 patients infected, seven are still in the hospital, one in the ICU. Six are discharged and under quarantine.

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