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Great Barrington Town Manager Mark Pruhenski demonstrates that the South County town is COVID-19 safe because it follows CDC and public health guidance. A declaration using the town's name calls for attaining herd immunity through infection.

Great Barrington 'Riled' by Think Tank Declaration on COVID-19

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GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — Town officials are upset with a statement released by a local libertarian think tank that used the town's name on a controversial statement endorsing "focused herd immunity." 
 
In a communication sent to iBerkshires, town leaders say Great Barrington has strived to be a safe community from the transmission of the novel coronavirus and that the "Great Barrington Declaration" from the American Institute for Economic Research is undermining that. 
 
The town had no role in, or forewarning of, the declaration bearing the town's name, say officials, and that it's publication has "riled" many local residents, business owners and town leaders.
 
"We are a COVID safe community, we are not tossing off our masks," said Town Manager Mark Pruhenski. "This declaration has gained national headlines and has created harmful misperceptions — just as we are doing all we can to protect residents, employees and visitors."
 
The declaration, written by epidemiologists and professors Dr. Martin Kulldorff of Harvard University, Dr. Sunetra Gupta of Oxfor University and Dr. Jay Bhattacharya,  of Stanford University Medical School, says the physical and mental health impacts created by COVID-19 policies outweigh the benefits. They support the concept of "focused protection" by allowing those least at risk from COVID-19 to become immunized through infection, and later a vaccine if possible, and keep the most vulnerable — largely the elderly and those with underlying conditions — protected. 
 
"Those who are not vulnerable should immediately be allowed to resume life as normal," they wrote, later adding "People who are more at risk may participate if they wish, while society as a whole enjoys the protection conferred upon the vulnerable by those who have built up herd immunity."
 
It is co-signed by more than 40 international academics in a variety of medical fields. 
 
The U.S. Centers for Disease Controls has consistently stated that large groups, particularly inside buildings, and close contact can spread the disease. It encourages wearing face coverings, washing hands, avoiding travel to affected areas and social distancing at least 6 feet. The declaration refers to proper hygeine and hand washing but says nothing about face coverings and encourages the reopening of schools, universities, and work places, and the resumption of sports. 
 
It does recommend all precautions be made for the at-risk population. 
 
COVID-19 has proven particularly deadly to those with comorbidities, which are illnesses or underlying conditions. An estimated 45 percent of the population has at least one chronic condition, which can range from obesity to heart disease to diabetes to cancer. 
 
Townspeople have been following protocols for preventing virus transmission, say Great Barrington's leaders, by following CDC and other public health guidance, and common sense. Businesses are following the town's GBSafe program for both employee and customer safety.
 
"We wear masks, keep safe distances as we can in public," said Selectboard Chair Stephen C. Bannon. "We find enjoyment in our vast open spaces, trails, lakes and rivers, hiking, biking, and exploring. We have safe social pods with neighbors, family and friends.
 
"We are among the lowest risk towns in the state, and we hope to keep it that way."
 
The Berkshires have been at a low level of transmission risk from the start and is currently categorized among the lowest in the state. As of Wednesday, Great Barrington had a total count of 84 positive cases since March and one positive report within the past week. 
 
In there communication, town leaders say they believe "herd immunity is a dangerous COVID-19 strategy: Achieving herd immunity levels could cost millions of lives, and this is unacceptable, particularly in a nation where far too many people live with risky, underlying health conditions. Many hospitals and front-line workers have been overwhelmed by vast waves of stricken patients."
 
The Berkshire Edge reports that Selectboard member Leigh Davis will be presenting a communication to the board at Monday's meeting denouncing the Great Barrington Declaration and asking the town to disassociate itself from the views presented within it.
 
In the meantime, town officials are inviting anyone to visit and "see how COVID-safe works in a small New England town."

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Monument Mountain Awards & Scholarships 2021

GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — The following awards and scholarships were presented to the Monument Mountain Regional High School's class of 2021.
 
President's Educational Awards: Elena Samara Angerman, John Paul Arias, Alec Matthew Bachman, Avery Susan Ball, Joseph Taylor Beardsley, Isaiah Aiden Bennett, Marlena Aisulu Benson, Gianna Margaret Bertelli, Jackson Joseph Blanchard, Donovan Michael Bond, Talia Helene Caine, Izabella Castro, Stephanie Lucero Celis, Andrew B Churchill, Cassius Easton Combs, Maggie Elizabeth D'Aniello, Dylan Joseph DeCelle, Emily Antonela Delgado, Emily Nicole Erickson, Angel Xicohtencatl Espinoza-Bergins, Emelia McCarthy Fedell, Lucien Firth, Kamila Marijka Forfa, Pyper Morgan Forfa, Zoe Francisco, Abigale May Fredsall, Myles Jarvis Gennari, Emily Sara Goudey, Savannah Jade Granger, Sarah Liang Harding, Hope Louise Harrison, Payre Robert Hartcorn, Callan Lucas Hoff, Nickolas Huertas, Meghan Elizabeth Kinne, Jessica Elizabeth Kopiec, Laszlo Paul Koval, Peter Ward LaRochelle, Keegan Charles Leach, Colby Reed Lederman, Jordyn Marie Louison, Charity Leah Loy, Sydney Elizabeth Mack, Sage Leigh Macken, Karina Jigneshkumar Mahida, Avery Alan Manzolini, Madeline Christine Mason, Hannah Morghan Massey, Beck Andrew Mathews, Andrew Joseph McCarthy, Alice Echegaray McDonald, Talia Jovanna McElhiney, Madeline Riley McMillan, Rebecca Isabelle McTeigue, Asher James Mervis, Shane Michael Messina, Alec Michael Morrison, Calista Rose Nelson, Liam Harte O'Gara, Bodhi Ostellino, Sophia Yzzabelle Estuart Pasia, Eliza Margaret Philp, Laurel Louise Ralph, Ariana Rave, Paige Ann Raymond, Fisher Jonathan Riiska, Rebecca Alina Robertson, AnnaMarie Lauren Romano, Benjamin Macrae Ryel, Kieran Patrick Santos, Samuel Fowle Schroeder, Paige Allison Scott, Yangmei Small, Stephen Jackson Smith, Antonia Rose Taylor, Logan Donald Tonini, Amber Lauren Troiano, Sierra Joelle Valicenti, Ethan Thomas Vaughan, Kyla Jenee Vogel, Michael William Walsh, Aidan Williams Watson, Ashley Wellenkamp, Sahn Yook, Abigail Elizabeth Zeik, Marley Elizabeth Zorn
 
Valedictorian Certificate: Karina Mahida
Salutatorian Certificate: Abigail Zeik
 
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