Bridget Keegan surrounded by devices logged into the state's online 'waiting room' and ready for when appointment slots open.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Many are feeling a COVID-19-sized weight lifted off of their shoulders because of a good Samaritan's service to the community.
Bridget Keegan has secured vaccination appointments for 127 Berkshire County residents and counting.
"I'm totally happy to help, it genuinely makes me feel good and it's definitely rewarding," she said. "I'm going to keep doing this because I feel like people need me to."
People have told Keegan that securing one of the limited vaccination appointment is like "winning the lottery" and she agrees, likening it to a high-pressure situation with great reward.
Keegan takes down the needed information of up to eight people at a time for the GetVaccinatedBerkshires.com website's weekly appointment drop and sets herself up an hour in advance on five different devices to secure the slots. The appointments are now completely booked within minutes of hitting the website, she said.
She is not affiliated with any organization and simply provides this service out of the kindness of her heart. Her family sometimes lends a helping hand with clerical assistance.
"I take my son's iPad, my mom's iPad, my phone, my brother's phone, my mom's phone, and my brother's laptop and get them all through the waiting room part," Keegan explained. "And then once I'm on the clinic part, I refresh all the screens every four minutes and then at 'go time' at six o'clock, I get every device locked into a time and then type in all of their stuff that I have written on pieces of paper."
She first began helping people on Jan. 27, posting on Facebook asking that anyone 75 and older who needed assistance to contact her. At that point, she had registered about 10 seniors and there were hundreds of appointments available.
Because there were so many doses available at first, she wanted to help quicken the county's vaccination by registering as many eligible people as she could to make way for the next vaccination phase. She was also well aware that seniors would have trouble accessing the website that is said to be tricky for even young people and wanted to make sure they were protected.
"After I did a few, the response back was just so like emotional, literally people crying because they're so happy," she said. "And it just made me feel like 'Oh, wow, I enjoy this, I enjoy the feeling of helping somebody.'"
Keegan has also helped people with limited access to technology who don't have a phone, email, or wifi connection, and has facilitated transportation to vaccination sites.
She shared the story of a woman she assisted who because of the pandemic hadn't seen her father or eaten at a restaurant in a year. The woman was able to escort her father to their vaccination appointments and expressed to Keegan that she was crying and "could kiss her right now."
Those responses are the ones that keep her going, she said.
Keegan has a goal of securing appointments for every eligible person who seeks her help and does not currently have plans to stop. She "loves and hates" the intensity of it and has a natural drive to help people.
"Once I tell people 'OK, I got you in, check your email,' I feel so calm," she said. "Then the next time with the next drop of appointments, I'm like, 'OK, I've got six people, I've gotta do it,' and I get worked up about it and then I try to not be like so hard on myself because at the end of the day, I'm just trying to help people, so I think they'd be understanding if I couldn't get it."
The Berkshires last month was ranked highest in the commonwealth for population percentage vaccinated with 15 percent of the population having received their first dose. Since then, that number has increased -- but so has the number of people eligible for the scarce slots.
Keegan is happy to see that many of her peers and neighbors are in favor of the vaccine and said the system for vaccination is understandably "not the best," but is all the county has and should be utilized as best as possible.
"I'm so happy at how many people want it," she explained. "Thirty appointments are going for a reason and I'm just happy I live in a community where everyone wants to get it. I want here to go back to normal as soon as possible."
She expressed gratitude for the 211 State COVID-19 Hotline and the senior organizations that are providing assistance to those who cannot log onto a computer at their leisure.
A closing piece of advice she gave for those urgently seeking vaccination is to avoid preferences between the Pfizer, Moderna, and the Johnson & Johnson vaccines and to be open to any county vaccination site.
"I truly have enjoyed doing it," she said. "Even more so when people have given me a story saying, 'I've tried for three months, I can't do it.'"
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Methuselah Closed Until Further Notice for COVID-19 Complaints
By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A lounge owned by a city councilor is again being investigated for COVID-19 violations and ordered closed by the Health Department.
Methuselah Bar and Lounge, owned by Councilor at Large Yuki Cohen, was issued an order not to open on Saturday in relation to alleged violations from Thursday evening captured on video. The establishment will not be open until the Health Department completes its investigation.
"At this point, it's still under review with the Health Department," Director of Public Health Gina Armstrong said Tuesday. "We're working with the owner, you know, addressing, I don't want to release too much information at this point, but the Health Department is reviewing the matter and working with the owner."
The videos, which were originally posted on the social media platform Snapchat, depicted Cohen dancing atop the bar unmasked with other patrons, patrons standing up unmasked, and a general "club-like" atmosphere.
"We are addressing several violations to the COVID-19 safety standards for restaurants," Armstrong said. "The review also includes working on a plan for operations that ensure compliance with the COVID-19 standards."
Berkshire Roots will music, food, vendors, and new products on Tuesday at its Dalton Avenue location. On Saturday is the dispensary's launch of Garcia Hand Picked cannabis products made by music legend Jerry Garcia's family.
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Social media strategist Alexander Farnsworth and his brother Brayden, and fashion designer Adam Lippes launched their joint venture, Farnsworth Fine Cannabis on March 1 with a retail location in Great Barrington. click for more
In the spring 2021 session of the Berkshire Outdoor Recreation Summit, representatives from the entities explained how the partnership is tying in historical education, outdoor recreation, and art in this project.
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Several city councilors are crying foul over a superintendent of schools search process that ended with the internal candidate being selected.
The School Committee had failed the city's students, they said, and "would move Pittsfield backward." click for more