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Pittsfield Remains High Risk for COVID-19 Transmission

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Pittsfield remains a red-level community as the city struggles to recover from the spike of COVID-19 cases that occurred in early November. Over the last three days, case counts have plateaued and Mayor Linda Tyer hopes that this is the beginning of the decline.

There was a drop of cases in mid-December, but toward the end of the month, Pittsfield was back on an upward trend. Tyer said the city is in much worse circumstances than at the beginning of the pandemic in March, April, and May.

"Right now, we remain a red community that's designated by the state, in a meaning that we are a high risk of transmission community," Tyer said. "And until we can see significant improvement in our case counts and positivity rate we won't be able to reopen our schools and I continue to be extremely concerned about the situation that continues to emerge at our long term care facilities."

At the first City Council meeting of 2021, Tyer gave a COVID-19 update from Pittsfield's administration.

Over the last 14 days, the case count per 100,000 people is 63 with the positivity rate hovering around 6.05 percent. As of Tuesday, there are 17 new cases and 59 people hospitalized with the virus, seven of them being in intensive care.

The city has seen a very steep increase in cases over the last five days; last week there were 200 new cases in a five-day period. Tyer said much depends on the decline of case counts and positivity rate.

The administration is monitoring how many tests are administered per day. As Pittsfield moves through late fall and early winter, changes in tests administered per day have increased significantly.


Some of this increase is accredited to testing ability, which was achieved when Berkshire Health Systems was added to the state's Stop the Spread campaign in December. There are three cost-free, asymptomatic testing sites in the county.

"I am glad to see that we are testing more frequently and that we have a Stop the Spread testing sites in North Adams, Pittsfield, and Great Barrington," Tyer said. "That's an opportunity for residents to receive a free COVID-19 test at any one of those locations."

Commissioner of Public Services and Utilities Ricardo Morales gave an update on a program he coordinated to measure the resurgence of the virus through a wastewater treatment program with Biobot Analytics, a company that maps population health by analyzing sewage.

With this program, samples are taken from Pittsfield's wastewater and sent to Biobot, which can detect the genetic material of the novel coronavirus and if it's in the community. This has been going on since July and since the last spike of COVID-19 cases, samples have been taken weekly.

Morales said traces of the virus have shown a significant increase from the test done two weeks ago to Tuesday, Jan. 5's test. The next test result will be available in the next day or so, as it was taken on Monday.

The city will have a better outlook on the community as a whole in terms of the virus after these results are received, Morales said.


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Reid Civics Class Holds Virtual Town Hall With Senator Hinds

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Reid Middle School students got a chance to quiz their state senator on Tuesday to kick off a student-led civics project.
 
The eighth-grade class prepared the questions for state Sen. Adam Hinds that were then vetted and chosen by the student civics leaders who represent each civics class.
 
Questions ranged from hates crime legislation, the First Amendment, the vaccination rollout, and getting back to a "new normal."
 
Principal Michael Henault said it was the changes made in 2018 to the state's history and social science curriculum framework that led to the virtual town hall with the senator. The core priority of the curriculum change was emphasizing and expanding civics education and supporting eighth-graders in a student-led civics project.
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