WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The town's health inspector said Thursday he has no idea why the commonwealth's COVID-19 Community Level map is showing Williamstown as the lone "yellow" community in Berkshire County.
"I don't know where those numbers are coming from," Jeff Kennedy said. "I'm checking my computer. I'm checking the communicable disease database. I talked with my public health nurse.
"We only have, basically, one positive [COVID-19 test] in town right now, and that's the one you know about at Williams that's under isolation."
Late Wednesday, the state Department of Public Health posted its latest weekly map categorizing all 351 Massachusetts municipalities as "higher risk (red), moderate risk (yellow), or lower risk (green)" for the current rate of spread of the novel coronavirus.
According to the map, Williamstown has had five cases in the last two weeks and an average daily incidence rate per 100,000 people of 4.85.
It is one of four communities in Western Massachusetts designated as yellow, joining Easthampton, Holyoke and Wilbraham on that list. Monson is the lone town in the region listed in the red, with an incidence rate per 100,000 of 8.47, according to the commonwealth.
Williamstown's Kennedy was at a loss to explain how the town of 7,700 moved from grey (fewer than five reported cases) to yellow (4 to 8 cases per 100,000) in the period from Sept. 2 to Sept. 9.
"It's one of the glitches in the system," he said. "I wasn't aware of it until I got a couple of emails coming in, including one from Win Stuebner."
Stuebner, a member of the town's Board of Health, said Thursday morning he was not aware of the town's designation as yellow until after he received a phone call from iBerkshires.com seeking comment.
"Of course, we knew we had the two at the college," Stuebner said.
Williams College maintains a public "dashboard" of test results from the testing program it stood up on Aug. 17. It currently shows two positives since Aug. 17 out of 7,427 tests; one positive was in the last seven days.
"The first case at Williams, there were no exposures [in town]," Stuebner said. "He or she was dropped off by their parents and went right to the testing area. The second one at Williams came by bus. Ten other students are currently quarantined as well as the driver. But no cases I'm aware of have popped up from that."
Kennedy speculated it was possible that Williamstown is being "credited" with a diagnosis that happened outside of town of someone, like a student, who lists the North Berkshire community as their hometown.
He said he would ask the town's designated public health nurse to contact DPH to find out why the map designation does not match the numbers on the ground.
Kennedy said he has notified officials at the Mount Greylock Regional School District, which has triggers in its reopening plan based on the town's status under the green/yellow/red designations, that the designation as yellow appears to be without basis.
"I don't know how we got yellow," Kennedy said. "Maybe someone got overambitious with a highlighter."
iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue; please keep comments focused on the issues and not on personalities. Profanity, obscenity, racist language and harassment are not allowed. iBerkshires reserves the right to ban commenters or remove commenting on any article at any time. Concerns may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue. Name-calling, personal attacks, libel, slander or foul language is not allowed. All comments are reviewed before posting and will be deleted or edited as necessary.
this shows 4-8 per 100,000. Since Williamstown only has a population of 7,000. Even one case would exceed the standard, duh! In fact one case = 14 per 100,000 residents.
100,000 divided by 7,000 = 14.3
If population = 9,000, 100,000 divided by 9,000 equals 11.1 per one case.
In response to the above comment: I thought the same, until I read through the interactive map linked in the story. They are defining the x cases per 100,000 population *daily average* over a 14-day period (Aug. 23 - Sept. 5).
So the math would be: 5 cases (supposedly) in 14 days = 5/14 = .357 per 7700 population or 4.63 percent per 100,000 population.
It does seem like a very convoluted way of presenting the data.
And by the way the map is extremely inaccurate in showing actual rates of risk from town to town. The "less than 5 cases" cutoff is completely arbitrary. Consider if the town of Florida (pop. 752), 1/10th the population of Williamstown, had 4 cases in the past 14 days. They would be grey. Yet their per capita daily cases rate would be 4/14 = .286 / 752 = 38.0 cases per 100,000, nearly 9 times higher than Williamstown's.
The facts for Williamstown are that during that two-week period there has been probably the largest influx of people and the most robust testing per capita anywhere in the county, yet with an incredibly low infection rate. We should be thrilled with those numbers.
Why iBerkshires found it necessary to be all gotcha with town officials over a color on a map is maybe the real question in this nonstory.
Mount Greylock School Committee Gets Report on Start of School Year
By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Mount Greylock Regional School District on Tuesday evening plans a community forum on the start of the school year.
The School Committee last Thursday heard that things are going as well as can be expected as the PreK-12 district re-invents the way it teaches students during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We are really appreciative of the fact that we've had a couple of weeks of remote learning actually, despite some challenges," said Joelle Brookner, who this summer transitioned from being principal at Williamstown Elementary School to being director of curriculum and instruction for the district.
"Bringing in small groups of people that we have in each of the student support centers in the schools has its own set of challenges, and it's allowed us to work out some kinks. It's allowing us to anticipate some of what the problems are probably going to be when we have more students in the building, such as distancing."
Last week, the president of Williams College announced to the school community that the college will provide office space to the Stockbridge-Munsee Community’s Tribal Historic Preservation Extension Office.
click for more
Appearing with Baker at his regular press availability, Riley twice declined to say what enforcement actions the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will take against more than a dozen districts who last week received a letter challenging their preference for remote learning to start... click for more
In all, there are four School Committee seats up for grabs in November. One, the lone seat for a Lanesborough resident up for election this cycle, has a single candidate, Michelle Johnson, running unopposed for a four-year term.
click for more
The Diversity, Inclusion and Racial Equity Committee on Monday discussed a statement of principles to guide the group's work as it seeks to work for justice in the college town of 7,700. click for more