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Berkshire, Statewide COVID-19 Trends Appearing to Decline

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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — There are signs the Bay State may be turning the corner on the novel coronavirus that has so far caused more than 5,000 deaths in Massachusetts. 
The Department of Public Health on Tuesday recorded the lowest number of reported deaths since March 4: 33
The number of hospitalizations has continued to decline at 4 percent. The number of patients in intensive care on Tuesday morning was 818, less than a third of the total of 3,127 hospitalized. 
The Berkshires' death toll has remained at 37 for past week and had been at 36 for almost the week before that. The majority of deaths are linked to an outbreak of the highly contagious disease at Williamstown Commons that caused the deaths of 21 patients at the nursing and rehabilitation center. 
As of May 11, the nursing home reported 49 residents had recovered, seven were positive and five positive community residents had been admitted into the isolated unit. 
Berkshire Medical Center on Tuesday reported four patients and Fairview Hospital, one; there more were awaiting test results. Of the 5,000 or so tests given by the hospital, the positive rate is about 9 percent, on par with the state average. 
The number of positive cases reported in Berkshire County is now 485, about an 8 percent increase over the past two weeks compared to the last two weeks of April that saw the number of cases jump 16 percent. These totals are cumulative and include people who have recovered. 
"If you look at the data, the trend over the past two weeks locally and statewide has been encouraging," Mayor Thomas Bernard said on Tuesday evening. "We really have seen a leveling off over the past two weeks. But it's important to remember, at all times that that is thanks to, and it will only continue if, we continue to follow state guidance. That's the stay-at-home advisory that's the mask order."
Those age 60 and older continue to be the most vulnerable to the novel coronavirus, with two-thirds of the casualties being age 80 or older even though they don't make up a significant number of the positive cases at only 15 percent. Almost all of these deaths occurred in a nursing home. The average age of COVID-19 cases is 53 and the average age of those hospitalized is 68. 
No children or teens have reportedly died from the coronavirus but five people in their 20s and 16 in their 30s have. The number jumps significantly for those in their 60s: 504 compared to 230 deaths of people in their 40s and 50s.
The number of new cases has also been declining statewide even as testing for COVID-19 has expended. New positive cases were reported on Monday at 669 and on Tuesday at 870. These are the lowest numbers since the end of March (with the exception of a dip of 765 on April 5).
Gov. Charlie Baker touted the state's testing capacity on Monday, noting that 12,000 tests had been processed in the last round and nearly 400,000 tests total had been processed. About 9 percent of the tests were coming back positive, compared to the first weeks in April, when between a quarter and a third of all tests were positive. 
Those testing numbers "continues to make us a national leader," he said. "And if we were a country, we'd actually be a global leader on a per-capita basis."
Two of the key markers the state would need to see to "reopen" are decreases in the number of positive test results and the percentage of hospitalizations. 
Baker on Tuesday said the number of tests reported was about 6,300 but put figured it was a little lower "because people didn't want to go out and get tested on Mother's Day."
About 12 percent were positive, which he said continues to be in the range of the past week. And while the lowering percentage of hospitalizations is promising, "we also crossed the sobering and sad threshold yesterday of more than 5,000 individuals who have died here in Massachusetts as a result of COVID-19."
"We remain one of the hardest hit states by the COVID-19 pan and we still have a lot to do and a way to go to contain the infection rate and reduce the number of people who need serious hospital care," the governor said. "While these numbers have been encouraging on hospitalizations, positive tests and some other measures, we're not yet out of the woods."
The governor's advisory board on reopening is expected to produce a roadmap next Monday that will guide the state through a four-phase process of gradually loosening restrictions based on continued review of public health data. 
Businesses and patrons will still be required to abide by public health dictates that include social distancing and wearing a mask when that is not possible to aid in preventing the contagion from resurging.

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North Adams Preparing to Launch New Website

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city is finally getting a new website designed to be far more user-friendly than the current one. It's set to be launched on Aug. 24.
The city's website is more than a decade old — ancient in internet terms — and hasn't had much in the way of upgrades since. 
"The current city website has a lot of shortcomings. First and foremost is security," said Mark Pierson, the city's chief information officer. "The site is very vulnerable, it is hard to navigate, it is not modern at all. You cannot resize this for a tablet, a phone, it's very clumsy."
He told the City Council on Tuesday that editing the site is extremely difficult, the content management system is limited, it has a lot bugs and is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, something the city is under order from the Department of Justice to fix. 
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