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State Senator Hinds says the western counties seem to have passed their COVID-19 peaks and may be ready to open sooner than the rest of the state.

Hinds: Berkshires May Be Ready for Reopening Ahead of State

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — State Sen. Adam Hinds is floating the idea that the Berkshires may be ready for a phased opening sooner than other parts of the state based on the number of COVID-19 cases. 
 
In an interview on iBerkshiresTV on Thursday, Hinds noted that Gov. Charlie Baker is considering how the state will "reopen" after the stay-home advisory expires on May 18. 
 
"Everyone's keenly aware that we don't want to open up and then have another surge medically on our health institutions," said Hinds.
 
But, he said, it's also apparent that the "surge" in medical cases of the novel coronavirus is peaking at different times across the commonwealth.
 
"The Berkshires are different from Boston, in a lot of ways," Hinds said. "But, you know, first and foremost, the data basically says we peaked at the start of April. Over in the valley, you know, Franklin, Hampshire, Hampden, seems to have peaked around Easter and Boston is maybe right now coming off of a peak. And so that's nearly a month difference."
 
Hinds is representing the state Senate as an observer (and likely member) on the economic reopening advisory board set up by the Baker administration to develop guidelines for reopening businesses. Led by Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, the board includes representatives from a wide range of business, medical and municipal fields. 
 
The senator said the challenge will be looking at different industries and how they can open safely regarding sanitation and social distancing, and ensuring that personal protective equipment is available. 
 
"That's why you kind of hear a difference in opinion on things like construction," he said. "Whereas, you know, if you're doing a construction in an outdoor environment versus in a skyscraper in downtown Boston, it's a very different scenario."
 
Officials have been watching what other states and nations are doing as they gradually reopen from lockdowns to contain the pandemic, Hinds said, and Massachusetts doesn't want to get into a situation where there's a spike in COVID-19 from opening too soon. 
 
However, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is looking at how restrictions could be eased by mid-May in Upstate New York, which has had far fewer cases than New York City. 
 
"Personally, I'd like to see that here. And especially as we're trying to get into our summer season," Hinds said, while also being thoughtful about mental health and other impacts. "If we can achieve it here, then let's start to do that, because we're in a different scenario."
 
One of the first cases of community transmission of the novel coronavirus in the state occurred March 7 in Clarksburg, which caused a shutdown of public buildings in the small town that rippled into the surrounding communities. 
 
The Berkshires saw its numbers jump from that one case to nearly 300 in one month. Three weeks later, the number stands at 442. Over the past two weeks, the average increase in daily cases has been 3.9. The number of deaths in Berkshire County is now 35, with just over half from a local nursing home. There have been nine deaths over the past two weeks. 
 
The consensus of infectious disease experts is that restrictions should not be eased until new cases consistently drop over a two-week period and testing is available to track spread. The state has embarked on an ambitious testing and tracing program but testing is still limited to those showing symptoms or who are in certain front-line positions. 
 
Hinds said the advisory board's discussions, the examples being set around the world and the continued tracking of the Berkshires will have to be watched.
 
"So all that feeds into the considerations and where we'll end up," said Hinds. "But for the time being, we're locked down for another three weeks."
 
Look for Jeff Snoonian's full conversation with state Sen. Adam Hinds later Friday.

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Markey Speaks at Last-Minute Rally in Park Square

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

Markey is running for a second full term and has visited the Berkshires several times during the campaign. 

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Edward Markey drove straight from Washington, D.C., to Pittsfield on Tuesday at the tail end of his campaign for re-election to the U.S. Senate to condemn the Republican administration and promise better days if Democrats win next week.

"This is the birthplace of freedom, right out here in the Berkshires," he said. "In 1776, they declared independence. ... well, our declaration of independence is on Nov. 3, 2020, from Donald Trump."

He was greeted by more than a dozen supporters as he spoke about the importance of the general election just a week away. The Democrat is seeking a second full term against Republican challenger Kevin O'Connor.

Markey said the Democrats are in a revolution to rid the United States of President Donald Trump by voting for Joe Biden on Nov. 3. By doing this, he said, voters will be protecting health care for hundreds of thousands of Americans with pre-existing conditions, fighting for a livable wage, taking action to save the planet, having a future where where leaders believe in science

The progressive, who is known for proposing the Green New Deal with New York's U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, was supported by Mayor Linda Tyer, state Sen. Adam Hinds, state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, and City Councilors Patrick Kavey, and Helen Moon.

Tyer said she was notified on Monday evening that Markey would be driving from Washington to Pittsfield for this last-minute rally.

"What we all know is that this election is a train running down the tracks," Tyer said. "And for all of us that share the values that Senator Markey has exhibited in his time in the Senate, is important for us to come and recommit ourselves to all of those values and to stand with him today and with all Democrats who share these values because this election is probably going to be the most important election for many of us in our lifetimes."

On Monday, Markey was at the Capitol to vote against Amy Coney Barrett's appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. Barrett was confirmed 52-48 by the Senate along party lines, with the exception of GOP U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who is in close race for re-election in Maine. 

Markey opposed Coney Barrett, saying her appointment puts civil liberties on the chopping block, including marriage freedom, reproductive freedom, and voting rights for already disenfranchised communities. Democrats also believe that she will help gut the Affordable Care Act; the court is expected to hear arguments on its constitutionality on Nov. 10. 

Referring to the protection of the Affordable Care Act, Markey got a chuckle from the crowd when he said. "We know that we can have the ACA, we can have the ACB, but we cannot have both, we cannot have the ACA and Amy Coney Barrett at the same time."

"In order to see this future we need to elect Joe Biden and usher in a new wave of diverse progressive leadership," Markey said. "And we need to remove the most racist and incompetent President in American history from the White House."

In a statement on the Senate floor on Monday, Markey said Coney Barrett's philosophy of originalism, which is looking back to what the Founding Fathers meant in 1787, is dangerous for the United States.  Originalism is racist, sexist and homophobic, he said, and will lead to the pretense that allows the overriding of Roe v. Wade, the Affordable Care Act, Civil Rights and civil liberties that have progressed over generations.

"Yesterday, Trump and his Republican lapdogs steamrolled Amy Coney Barrett onto the U.S. Supreme Court. In doing so, Republican leadership violated their own rule which was that the Senate would not consider nominations for our Supreme Justice in the last year of a presidential term," Markey said, referring to the Republican-led Senate's refusal to consider President Obama's court choice in 2016. "Hypocrisy is too weak of a word to describe the sham that [Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell and Republicans have made out of this appointment process, any senator so blatantly breaking his or her own word on such a profound appointment is just plain wrong."

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