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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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Over 400 Get Vaccine at Berkshire County Arc

PITTSFIELD, Mass. Over the course of three weeks, CVS staff visited almost all of the 43 BCArc residential programs, vaccinating BCArc staff and the individuals with disabilities who live in the homes.

With the first round complete, the second and final shot is scheduled for February.

"This is a great opportunity for our staff and I’m glad most of them took advantage of it," Ken Singer, President & CEO said. "They worked through the entire pandemic, 24-7. So while it is a privilege to be part of Phase I, they earned it and I’m so proud of the way they took care of the individuals we serve. A recent meeting with the families of the BCArc community gave our staff the highest of marks."

Employees who missed the first round can still receive the vaccination, and as new staff join BCArc, they will have access to the vaccine as well, given their status as essential workers.

A number of homes were quarantined and missed the first round of shots. They will be scheduled for the vaccine once they are cleared by the Board of Health.

"So many people deserve credit for this," Singer said. "While I’d like to one day say that BCArc is 100 percent vaccinated, for now every person in the BCArc community who has been vaccinated protects all of us that much more."






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