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UMass Memorial Health Care President and CEO Dr. Eric Dickson announces at a State House press conference on Friday that a field hospital will be stood up at the DCU Center in Worcester to ensure additional capacity for COVID-19 patients.

State Reopening Field Hospital at Worcester's DCU Center

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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BOSTON — For the second time since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the commonwealth is setting up a field hospital in Worcester's DCU Center.
 
And the doctor in charge of the operation wants all Bay Staters to know that they have the power to make sure more such facilities are not needed during Massachusetts' second wave of the novel coronavirus.
 
"Once again, I will have to ask our caregivers to rise to the occasion and take care of our communities when they need us most," said Dr. Eric Dickson, the CEO of University of Massachusetts Memorial Health Care. "I know they can do it. They're up to the challenge. But, frankly, they shouldn't have to do it.
 
"We should be able to control the spread of this infection, and we shouldn't need additional capacity. But we do."
 
Dickson on Friday afternoon joined Gov. Charlie Baker and Samantha Phillips, the director of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, in announcing that 240 beds will be set up at the Worcester sports venue by the first week in December.
 
In the spring, the commonwealth stood up five field hospitals with a combined 1,000 beds, Baker said. Three of the facilities ended up not being needed, but 700 patients were served between sites in Boston and Worcester, which were designed to serve patients requiring a lower level of care than is provided in a hospital setting.
 
Dickson said UMass Memorial already is canceling elective procedures and declining referrals from smaller hospitals that depend on the regional hospitals.
 
Baker reported that, statewide, hospitals currently are running at 73 percent capacity, and intensive care units are at about 50 percent capacity. He said the state is hoping not to create a repeat of the spring, when patients delayed routine and sometimes serious procedures, creating a "secondary problem" in the health-care system.
 
But the state continues to evaluate other potential sites for field hospitals that may be needed, Phillips said.
 
Dickson added his voice to Baker's in imploring Massachusetts residents to continue following the social-distancing, face-covering and sanitizing guidelines that the commonwealth has been promoting since the spring.
 
"I think in Massachusetts, we have most people doing the right thing most of the time, but that's not enough. We need everyone doing the right thing every day," Dickson said.
 
"My plea to you is on behalf of the healthcare workers around the state, who, ultimately, are the ones bearing the burden of dealing with this disease and have to go into rooms and risk getting infected themselves: Please, please, everyone follow the rules every day."
 
Baker again raised a familiar theme from his comments in recent weeks, saying the recent spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations is being driven by "people engaged in familiar activity on a casual basis with people they're familiar with."
 
The governor said the state has done "thousands and thousands" of inspections at workplaces throughout the commonwealth and found them to be largely compliant. Likewise, schools at every level from kindergarten to college have been following the rules and are not the sources of contagion, Baker said.
 
"Kids [at Massachusetts' colleges] for the most part, did the right things," Baker said. "In the places and spaces where we're supposed to do the right things, people are doing the right things. And it has made a big difference with respect to, especially, hospitalizations, but everybody has to play.
 
"And in those small moments and those small groups, in those most familiar settings, people have to recognize and understand that the role they play here is an important one."
 
Baker used the example of youth hockey and its ties to clusters of COVID-19 throughout the region, saying it was not the play on the ice that was the problem. It was the kids horsing around — as kids will do — between games and the parents socializing in the parking lots and the warming rooms.
 
"The silent spread of the virus roared through that community," Baker said. "I can't emphasize enough how important it is for people to truly wrap their head around this concept that the innocent act of small gatherings is where COVID is finding its greatest opportunity to spread."
 
Baker said he had no plans to roll back the reopening guidelines for businesses at the state level.
 
But he likewise had no problems with municipalities issuing more restrictions than currently in effect statewide.
 
Specifically asked about Pittsfield's recent decision to restrict restaurant operations to takeout and delivery only, Baker said that was the city's decision alone to make.
 
"We've said many times when it comes to local conditions that if local communities feel they need to go beyond what we've put in place … to go ahead and do that," Baker said. "What we've basically said is you can't be any looser than we are, but if you want to drill down on a particular issue you think is a problem in your community, have at it.
 
"I know that's been an issue in other states where governors have said local communities, mayors, city managers, city councils shouldn't have the ability to beyond whatever the state rules are on some of this stuff. I think we take the opposite approach: If locals believe that they have a problem they need to solve in their community by being more aggressive than we are, they should go ahead and do that."

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Hotels, Meals Tax in Williamstown Shows Impact of Pandemic

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Numbers from the Massachusetts Department of Revenue indicate the town's lodging industry lost 57 percent of its business from April through September compared with 2019.
 
Town Manager Jason Hoch reported those statistics to the Select Board on Monday night to demonstrate how much the local economy has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
The numbers come from the DOR's report of local lodging establishments' liability under the rooms and meals tax. Although the commonwealth has given businesses the "small relief" of being able to defer those tax payments, the amount they owe still shows up on the books, Hoch said.
 
In the half year that began after the pandemic started to impact Massachusetts' economy, Williamstown's hotels, motels and short-term renters collected receipts that translated to a combined tax bill of $124,287.06.
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