PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Nearly three-quarters of the new COVID-19 cases detected in the Berkshires over the past two weeks have been in Pittsfield.
Pittsfield health officials are attributing the rise in numbers mainly to large private gatherings, including house parties and group dining at restaurants.
"The cases are exploding and they are related to a couple of specific gatherings," said Health Director Gina Armstrong. "The ripple effect is significant. That's why we are urging residents to follow the safety guidelines. Avoid indoor and close quarter gatherings as these spaces are prime environments for spreading COVID."
Over the last 14 days, health officials reported 46 new positive novel coronavirus cases in the city, and the state has reported, as of Thursday, 64 new cases overall in the Berkshires. The city added 30 cases just since Oct. 27 as of Thursday. The updated public health data was shared during the city's COVID-19 Task Force meeting on Friday.
Mayor Linda Tyer said the city is strengthening all of the protocols established in the winter and spring that helped the community navigate the initial surge of the pandemic. This will include increasing the number of public health nurses to support contact tracing efforts for new cases.
"The alarming rise in new cases ought to grab everyone's attention. We must all double down on the COVID-19 safety practices that got us through the surge," Tyer said. "When we adhere to these safety protocols, we're protecting ourselves, our family, friends, and our colleagues."
The governor has instituted new restrictions designed to reduce the number of social gatherings, including having restaurants stop serving seated patrons at 9:30 p.m. and issuing a stay-at-home advisory from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. for those who do not need to be out at night. State health officials say the state's rise in cases over the past weeks have been due to large social gatherings where people are not taking masking and distancing cautions.
While these gatherings have resulted in additional cases, they have also sparked tremendous concern among those who believe they may been exposed to COVID-19, prompting a desire to be tested immediately, said Public Health Nurse Kayla Donnelly-Winters. This is understandable, but there's a very specific set of actions that need to be followed to ensure the most accurate test results, she said.
"First, self-quarantine as soon as you know you've been around someone with COVID-19. Second, individuals who are experiencing COVID-19 related symptoms should promptly seek testing through the Berkshire Medical Center testing site," said Donnelly-Winters. Throughout the pandemic, the BMC testing site has served as the city's health-care partner. To arrange a test, call the BMC Link Line is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. seven days a week.
However, for those who are not symptomatic, but who believe they may have had exposure to COVID-19, it's extremely important that they are not tested prematurely, she said.
"I understand why people would want to be tested immediately, but there really needs to be a four-day incubation period after first learning of exposure to prevent a false negative," said Donnelly-Winters.
Individuals who are identified as close contacts will also receive a call from a public health nurse to provide further guidance on testing. For more information, please visit the COVID-19 page on the city's website at cityofpittsfield.org.
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Homelessness Advisory Panel Reprimanded For Internal Disrespect
By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
Chairwoman Kim Borden warns advisory committee members to be on their best behavior after 'inappropriate' communications.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- The Homelessness Advisory Committee reportedly experienced recent issues with "highly inappropriate behavior and communication, threats and the spreading of misinformation" and Chairwoman Kim Borden is not having it.
At the third meeting as a newly established committee on Wednesday, Borden shared her thoughts on the current climate of the committee.
"In the last month, I've been subjected to highly inappropriate behavior and communication, which has include bullying threats and the spreading of misinformation," Borden said. "At this time, I will not identify the specific depict individuals as I do not believe in public shaming. This is not what I signed up for and more importantly, I do not believe that other committee members should be subjected to this extraordinarily destructive dynamic."
This type of communication or behavior may result in a request that appropriate steps be taken to remove the person or persons creating a hostile and/or unproductive environment, she said.
At this time, no committee members are being removed. If any are removed, they will be replaced with individuals with an "appropriate level of civility and a desire to work together as a team and respect others."
Chairman Nicholas Caccamo said the petition's language was not sorted out well enough, so the committee voted on it as a concept that will be sent back to the City Council with a negative recommendation.
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The topic sparking controversy was the reclassification of Human Resource Director Michael Taylor's position and a salary increase of roughly $7,500. It passed 4-1 with Maffuccio voting in opposition.
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