Leslie Drager, a public health nurse with Berkshire Public Health Alliance, explains the regional collaborative's vaccination system to Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito on Thursday.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday praised the work of the Berkshire County Regional Collaborative in helping the commonwealth be a leader in COVID-19 vaccinations nationwide.
"Berkshire County was one of the first areas in the state to pursue a regional collaborative model to vaccinate their residents," Baker said after touring the collaborative's vaccination site at Berkshire Community College. "These collaborations, as you know, pool resources from local health care providers and health departments to create highly efficient operations that can vaccinate residents across a wide geographic area. That's especially important here in the Berkshires. And the incredible work this team has done has paid off."
Paid off to the tune of 45 percent of Berkshire County residents receiving at least the first vaccination dose — tying the Berkshires with Barnstable County on Cape Cod for the highest rate in the commonwealth.
"I expect at some point in the not-so-distant future, you'll cross 50 [percent]," Baker said. "That number will continue to climb now that everyone is eligible, and especially if we can get more doses from the feds."
Baker was joined on Thursday by Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, state Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, and Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer.
He also shared the podium with Berkshire Health Systems' Darlene Rodowicz, who joined Baker in saying that the commonwealth's vaccination efforts are constrained only by the amount of vaccine doses it receives from the federal government.
"Each of our [three] collaboration locations are able to do up to 200 people per hour," Rodowicz said. "We always say each could do 2,000 people a day. We know, there is not enough supply to hit those numbers.
"But when there is, we're going to be ready to get those doses in your arms and move on from this pandemic."
To that end, Baker said Thursday that he is pushing federal officials to increase the commonwealth's allocation of vaccines by augmenting it with doses that are being turned away by officials in other parts of the country.
"There are counties and there are states that are no longer even taking down the available allocation that's made available to them by the feds," Baker said. "Basically, they've said, ‘Don't send us anymore. We haven't been able to put the stuff you've sent us to work.' That's not what's going on here in Massachusetts.
"I've said to the feds, if you folks have states and counties that aren't taking the allocation available to them, we here in Massachusetts would love to have that because we have people who want to get vaccinated and an infrastructure that could do twice as many as we do now. … Darlene [Rodowicz] and [Tyer] both said they have talked to the delegation about this. I'm going to talk to the delegation about this next week."
Baker said Massachusetts is a national leader in desire to receive the vaccine for the novel coronavirus. Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates all counties in the commonwealth have vaccine hesitancy rates "well below 10 percent," he said.
"People in Massachusetts are eager to get vaccinated," Baker said. "This enthusiasm is a critical part of making Massachusetts a leading state among all big states in getting our residents vaccinated."
And Berkshire County is doing its part, officials said.
"We've done over 65,000 vaccines throughout the county," Rodowicz said. "This collaborative represents three locations throughout the county, in Great Barrington, Pittsfield and North Adams. This collaborative is comprised of 32 Boards of Health, the City of Pittsfield, Northern Berkshire EMS, CHP, our local community health center, and Berkshire Health Systems. I'd also be remiss if I didn't say thank you to those who have allowed us to use their facilities — BCC, DuBois Middle School in Great Barrington and St. Elizabeth's in North Adams.
"And I also want to say thank you to the countless volunteers who are part of this collaborative and make this possible."
Tyer said that while much of the conversation over the last year has been focused on the COVID-19 numbers — tests conducted, case counts, hospitalizations, vaccinations — officials cannot lose sight of what's important.
"Behind all that data are people and families and kids and opening our schools and reopening our economy," Tyer said. "As we vaccinate more people, what that means is families can come together more often, our economy can reopen more slowly, people can get back to the things that they cherish."
While Berkshire County residents can sometimes feel forgotten by the power structure at the other end of the commonwealth, Tyer said Baker and his team have been attentive to the needs of residents in this neck of the woods.
"When you first came to Pittsfield, in that moment of panic when we had our first community spread, you came, you came to our city," Tyer told Baker. "And you've been with us every step of the way. I remember when we were planning for your visit, I said to Gina Armstrong, the city's director of public health, what are the top five things you need the governor and lieutenant governor to know. One of those things, in particular, was we needed an MDPH epidemiologist as soon as possible. And I think, before you got back to Boston, we had our epi. That's the kind of responsive, caring way that you have treated the Berkshires and all the residents of Massachusetts."
During Baker's tour, Hinds received his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. He felt grateful to be able to secure an appointment and told iBerkshires that it was purely coincidental that he was scheduled for the same time that the governor would be in attendance.
"It's a big relief," Hinds said. "I just became eligible Monday, and so I was happy to have a quick turnaround even though I heard the doses for Berkshire County, ran out within three or four minutes, so I was lucky to get on early and I feel somewhat lucky as well to have an appointment so quickly."
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Berkshire Museum's 'MoMUs' to Be Rolled Out Countywide
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Lee Bank Foundation has awarded the Berkshire Museum with a grant of $13,500 in support of the museum's Mobile Museum Unit (MoMU) program.
The investment will fund community testing, roll-out to community sites, and quarterly refreshes and location changes. The bank's support of the MoMU program comes in addition to funding from the Feigenbaum Foundation, which underwrote the construction of the thirty inaugural MoMUs that will roll out to the Berkshire Museum's galleries and locations throughout the Berkshires by 2022.
"MoMUs demonstrate our commitment to serve the region by bringing objects and stories outside our walls to make our collections more relevant and accessible – something we have been doing through school and community enrichment for more than ninety years," said Craig Langlois, interim co-executive director, chief experience officer, and architect of the MoMU program. "The innovative design of these units allows our museum team and programming partners to truly let their creativity and imagination shine while honoring the museum's legacy as a leader in community engagement."
Mobile Museum Units, or MoMUs, are portable, self-contained units can be displayed inside the museum or delivered to unexpected locations throughout the region to invite community members of all ages to explore new ideas and engage with objects from the museum's collection as part of their daily lives.
That legislation empowered a collaboration of 19 towns and cities in Berkshire and Franklin Counties to increase natural resource-based economic development and promote sustainable forestry practices in the region.
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Team President Michael Comeau said the Polaris UTV will be a huge game-changer for BMSAR, as it will drastically increase the efficiency and the response time to remove a person from wooded or mountainous terrain and get them to safety.
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In total, Pittsfield is receiving almost $41 million in ARPA funds that have to be obligated by the end of 2024 and the funds spent by 2026. The first deposit of about $20 million is already in the city’s account.
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