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DPH Changes COVID-19 Reporting; Child Care, Camp Criteria Released

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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BOSTON — The number of confirmed COVID-19 in the state crossed the 100,000 mark and Berkshire County's jumped by 23 after several static days. 
The number of deaths is also expected to rise with changes in the reporting of confirmed and probable cases of the novel coronavirus, according to the Department of Public Health. 
In a statement at the top of the daily COVID-19 dashboard, the DPH says this change is in accordance with guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to include probable cases in collection efforts. 
"This change will increase the number of cases and deaths reported in Massachusetts. Today's newly reported totals are a
result of a retrospective review of probable cases and deaths dating back to March 1, 2020," says DPH.
The number of deaths has been steadily decreasing over the past couple weeks but it jumped to 189 on Monday, with 48 of those newly reported deaths and 141 probable cases. It is not clear if the 141 probably deaths are the only ones being added or if more review is being done. 
The "probable" is based on patients who had positive antibody test, which looks for signs that one of two types of antibodies are in the blood. Positive results give an idea of when the individual may have contracted the disease. A second criteria is whether the individual had generally recognized symptoms of COVID-19 and was known to have been exposed to a positive case. 
Probable cases also include individuals whose death certificate listed COVID-19 as a cause of death but who were not tested. COVID-19 is known to affect the body in different ways, with respiratory distress among the most common symptoms, particularly pneumonia.
Gov. Charlie Baker also signed an executive order allowing retail operators to begin on Monday preparing their stores for an anticipated reopening next week as part of Phase 2 and released health and safety requirements for reopening of child-care programs, recreational camps and municipal or recreational programs not traditionally licensed as camps.
Most nonessential establishments have been closed since mid-March to prevent spread of COVID-19 and only a number of limited child-care facilities serving essential workers were allowed to stay open. 
"We will continue to put out more details and guidances as this reopening process continues, and will carefully monitor the data between today, June 1, and June 6," said the governor. "And then on the 6th, based on that data, make an announcement and a decision in respect to Phase 2." 
The commonwealth is looking at a four-phase reopening of the economy based on public health data and mandatory safety measures. Some outdoor activities, such as golf, and personal service fields like barbers and hairdressers have already opened. Last week, the reopening advisory committee released criteria for hotels and for restaurants to allow limited dining. Hotels have only been open for essential workers and restaurants have switched to takeout. 
"I do want to say with respect to summer camps, child care, the amazing amount of work, the lieutenant governor [Karyn Polito], [Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders], [Secretary of Education Jam, and so many others in the field, put into putting together a very comprehensive and we believe effective and implementable proposal with respect to how to open up child care and how to support summer camps," Baker said. "I think we all know how important both of those operations and enterprises are to families here in the commonwealth."
The state's COVID-19 command center also submitted its testing proposal to the federal government for $374 million in funding for expanded access. 
"The commonwealth plans to increase lab testing capacity to 45,000 tests a day by the end of July," the governor said. "Ensure on-demand access to testing for all symptomatic individuals, their close contacts and high-risk populations. Prepare a testing infrastructure for potential second surge in the fall, and continue to operate the best-in-class contact tracing program."
Testing has currently ranged from about 7,000 a day to 12,000 a day. About 600,000 tests have been done to date and about 45,680 antibody tests. 
"We've also said for a while now that as we ramp up our tracing program, you have to ramp up your testing program," Baker said. As the economy reopens, people begin to interact more, which in turn can spread the disease. "You're going to want to test more, because you're going to want to collect that data."
The goal is to alert people as soon as possible that they may have been exposed so they can isolate instead of spreading the coronavirus. It will also mean more people will know if they have antibodies that are now being used on patients for treatment purposes. 
"The contagious nature of the virus to begin with, the speed with which it spreads, the impact of doing something about the reproduction rate of the virus, which in my opinion is its greatest and most potent evil, you can't do that alone," the governor said. "You can only do that as a community and I think it's important for everybody to understand they have a stake in that community."

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County Cultural, Entertainment Venues Get $9M in SBA Grants

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Berkshire County cultural venues were awarded more than $9 million in U.S. Small Business Administration funding to alleviate the impacts of having to close during the pandemic.
Grants ranged from $2.7 million for Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and $1.5 million for Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in Becket to  $124,765 for Images Cinema in Williamstown and $15,187 for Athlone Artists in Lenox.
U.S. Rep. Richard Neal on Monday announced $20,010,864 in grant funds for the 1st Massachusetts congressional district from the Shuttered Venues Operation Grant program. The congressman was at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield with the museum's President and CEO John Doleva; the Hall of Fame received $3,740,728 in funding.
"These funds are incredibly instrumental to operations like the Basketball Hall of Fame who suffered greatly because of the pandemic," said Neal. "For the safety of the American people, the government forced these agencies to close their doors. And now, it is the government again stepping in to make sure that they are able to get back on their feet."
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