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The state has released tips for a safe Thanksgiving: keep it small, wear your mask.

Baker Warns of Coronavirus Spread Through Younger Population

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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BOSTON — The number of positive cases of COVID-19 in the over-60 crowd compared to the under-30s has flipped since April. 
 
While this is good news for the state's most at-risk residents, the rising number of cases of the novel coronavirus in younger people is concerning, say public officials, pointing to numerous social and sports gatherings with lax protocols as propelling the increase. 
 
"According to our most recent data, about 300 people per day under 30 have contracted COVID-19, tested positive for it, with about 38,000 people in this age group diagnosed since March," said Gov. Charlie Baker at Tuesday's update on the pandemic. "Rising cases in this demographic has implications.
 
"First, our contact tracing shows over half the commonwealths' new cases are attributed to housing social gatherings and household transmission. The science is quite clear that COVID spreads rapidly indoors, particularly in combined confined spaces when people aren't wearing face coverings are practicing social distancing. ...
 
"Local officials especially continue to report that house parties and gatherings are happening now indoors as the weather cools and as people have let down their guard down."
 
The number of communities in the "red" or highest transmission level is now 20 percent, largely in the eastern part of the state. Boston Public Schools last week moved to full remote learning because of the spike and several known parties held over the past month have forced other schools into remote, including schools in Marblehead and Wilmington after police broke up a house party on Friday. 
 
The state's also shutdown ice hockey rinks for two weeks after the Department of Public Health investigated multiple positive cases related to the sport. 
 
Baker said DPH investigated 30 clusters and discovered more than 100 positive cases and 22 probable that have impacted 66 communities. 
 
"The data is real and probably undercounted due to the lack of cooperation by so many adults who are contact tracing team reached out to and to the fact that most teams wouldn't make rosters available so that we can follow up with the kids and the families on the teams," he said. "It's likely coming from all the activity around hockey, and some irresponsible behavior from parents and coaches when it comes to COVID."
 
Baker said teams and parents are gathering at rinks, staying there all day during while games are played or traveling to out-of-state rinks and doing the same activities.  
 
"Parents and coaches have an obligation to protect their kids and themselves and their teammates," he said, adding "we've worked hard to open up most of our economy. We urge people to pursue what we would describe as supervised and organized and safe events out there social network, try to stay away from the stuff that clearly has a lot to do with what's driving the virus."
 
Secretary for Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders said new outbreaks are being seen in two particular settings — social clubs and churches being used for retreats or social gatherings. They are not coming from schools — public or parochial — or worship services. Officials said there have been 120 positive cases out of 450,000 schoolchildren.
 
The new dashboard being rolled out over the next couple weeks will more closely identify where these clusters are occurring.
 
The governor and Sudders also had some sobering news for Thanksgiving — it's not a good time for traditional family gatherings. 
 
"I know that's hard to say and in some respects it will be even harder to do," Baker said.
"The science on this one's pretty clear. gathering in groups indoors for an extended period of time with family and friends is likely the worst possible scenario for spreading the virus."
 
The DPH has released advice on how to safely celebrate the iconic holiday that started in Massachusetts. It shouldn't be 18 people around a dinner table, said the governor, referring to how his family celebrated last year. Small gatherings, and virtual connections are the way to go, he said. 
 
"Every family here in the commonwealth needs to think long and hard about the well-being of your loved ones before you make your plans," Baker said. "If you have a loved one who's at high risk for COVID, it's simply a bad idea to risk exposing."
 
The public health officials are recommending small get-togethers in line with the state's limits, not sharing food or utensils, keeping windows open for ventilation, single-use servings and disposable dinnerware, social distancing and mask wearing inside, and isolating before and after holiday gatherings. 
 
"November, December or months of significant holiday gatherings, from Thanksgiving to Hanukkah to Christmas. It's a time when family and friends come together," said Sudders. "We know Thanksgiving is top of mind once we get by Halloween. Being with one another is something that many of us need and want more than ever.
 
"But we must remain vigilant and incorporate code and safety precautions into everything we do, including holiday celebrations."
 
When asked if his faith in citizens have been shaken by the recent upsurge in cases (the last week has seen positive numbers comparable to May), Baker said he understood that people are "hungry" for social connections after so many months. 
 
However, throughout the presser, he stressed the need to wear masks and social distance to avoid the "silent spread of COVID."
 
"If people let their guard down, if they don't do their part, all that preparation and all that sacrifice that we've made to bring our numbers down won't be sustained," the governor said.
 

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Storm System Could Bring Region's First Nor'easter of Season

The dusting of snow the Berkshires got on Wednesday — after enjoying temperatures in the high 50s the days before —may have been a warning of things to come. 
 
The National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y., has posted a winter storm watch for the Berkshires this weekend and some forecasters say this could be the first Nor'easter of the season. 
 
"It looks like as we go forward we are going to see a strengthening storm coming up the Eastern Seaboard, but the forecasting dilemma, and it always is, is the exact track of the storm," AccuWeather Chief Broadcast Meteorologist Bernie Rayno said on Thursday.
 
NWS is warning of heavy snow and accumulations of 6 inches or more in the Berkshires and Southern Vermont. The storm is expected to hit Saturday morning and run through Sunday morning. Travel could be difficult because of covered roadways and low visibility. 
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