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Dalton COVID Numbers Droppings, Schools Reopened

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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DALTON, Mass. — Over the past two weeks, the town of Dalton has only seen five new cases of COVID-19 and the Board of Health on Monday said case counts are going in a positive direction.

"I think because we are organized with the three large scale vaccination sites for the county, and the public health infrastructure and the health care community collaborated on it, we have been able to get a leg up on other parts of the commonwealth," Berkshire Health Systems Dr. Daniel Doyle reported.

Twenty percent of Berkshire County's population has received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination as of Thursday and around 8 percent have received the second dose. There were more than 3,000 Berkshire County residents vaccinated on Saturday.

The board estimated that the majority of residents over 75 years of age who wish to be vaccinated have been. On Jan. 27, the Dalton Council on Aging began assisting elders without computer or internet access and Director Kelly Pizzi said about 300 people per business day had been helped to secure an appointment. 

Dalton currently utilizes the central Berkshire vaccination site at Berkshire Community College because it would reportedly not be efficient to hold smaller-scale vaccination clinics given the extremely cold storage temperature requirements of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.  

The Pfizer vaccine has to be kept at minus-70 degrees Celsius and the Moderna can be kept slightly warmer.

"We have to vaccinate so many people that it's not really efficient to have multiple sites," Doyle said. "It sounds like an inconvenience to drive from Dalton to BCC, but it is better than driving to the Eastfield Mall in Springfield or Gillette Stadium."

Doyle reported that there were some cases of "line jumping" that caused problems for workers of the registration tables at vaccine clinics. The link to register for a second vaccine is intended to be private and somehow made its way to those wishing to schedule a first vaccination, he explained, causing them to be turned away.

Board members hope that when the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine becomes available, they will be able to utilize it in smaller groups for doctor's offices, and for door-to-door vaccinations of shut-in residents because it only requires regular refrigeration.

Doyle said that statewide, countywide, and town numbers have gone down "a good deal" over the past month since the board last met. The town is currently in the "gray" classification for transmission rate with an occurrence of only five cases over the last two weeks.

Similarly, there have been a small number of cases in neighboring towns Hinsdale and Becket.

On Feb. 1, the Central Regional School District welcomed students back for in-person hybrid learning.

"Despite the fact that the past couple of weeks have been interrupted by snowy weather, it has been great to see our students!" Superintendent Leslie Blake-Davis wrote in a family communication on Feb. 12. "We are hearing a new level of appreciation for the time they spend in school with friends and with CBRSD educators."

The district is currently utilizing the Binax rapid testing program for symptomatic staff members and students. Doyle reported that the tests have been used on a couple of occasions from talking to the school nurse.

Central Berkshire Regional is also exploring the feasibility of a pool surveillance testing program that the state is supporting. North Adams and Williamstown began using the pool testing last week.

Pooled testing involves mixing several test samples together in a "batch" or "pool" and then testing the pooled sample with a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for detection of the virus. Participating districts and schools will receive the test kits, support from a testing service provider, and the testing software to track results, all at no cost until April 18.

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