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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Staff Member Tests Positive for COVID-19 at ServiceNet Shelter
By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A staff member has tested positive for COVID-19 at ServiceNet's winter homeless shelter in the former St. Joseph High School.
On Monday morning, ServiceNet became aware that the shelter employee produced a positive test.
The employee was asymptomatic and had not been to work since Wednesday of last week, Senior Vice President of Shelter & Housing Jay Sacchetti said.
ServiceNet has an emergency protocol that occurs in the case that a visitor or employee tests positive for the virus in any of their group homes or shelters.
The shelter did not shut down for the night, but went into quarantine and will test all employees and guests Wednesday. Since learning of the positive case, the shelter has been open 24/7, while it is normally only open around the clock on weekends and holidays.
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