Pittsfield Officials Caution Residents on Surge in COVID Cases

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Just two days before Thanksgiving, city officials are bringing attention to a surge in COVID-19 cases.

The situation was addressed twice on Tuesday: in a press release from Mayor Linda Tyer and during a COVID-19 update at the City Council meeting.

Tyer rallied the COVID-19 Task Force the same day to discuss the public health data.

"I would like to take this opportunity to address everyone in our community with the recent surge that we're seeing, I think it's time to continue to do what we have been doing for the past couple of years and wearing our masks and social distancing and washing our hands and remaining vigilant," interim Director of Public Health Andy Cambi said to the council and the public.  

"I think it's very important for us to remain as a community so that we can keep our kids in school and protect our vulnerable population."

Pittsfield is currently at a 5.1 percent positivity rate, compared to the state's 3.28 percent, and a case rate of 52 per 100,000 people. This pushes the city into the red incidence rate and at higher risk for transmitting the virus.

There are currently 172 estimated actively contagious cases in the city.

Earlier this month, the Board of Health voted to implement a mask directive effective that states that masks should be worn in all publicly accessible indoor spaces in the city unless seated at a table eating food or drink.

On Nov. 2, the percent positivity rate was 4.3 percent with an average case rate of 38.7 per 100,000 people in Pittsfield and there were 109 estimated actively contagious cases.

Cambi pointed out that the city saw a surge at this same time last year. He also noted that the city's Biobot sewage testing predicted this rise.

Though the case rates are looking grim, Berkshire Medical Center's hospitalization data remains consistent for people who are fully vaccinated. From early September to Nov. 19, the hospitalizations have only increased around three percent, rising from around 66 to 69 percent.

Cambi related this to the city and county's high vaccination rates. Sixty-nine percent of individuals are fully vaccinated in the city and 81 percent have received the first dose.

He reported that there have been two of the six scheduled vaccination clinics for children ages 5 to 11 with a total of about 214 attendees.

The clinics are a partnership between the Pittsfield Public School District and the BOH and are being held at Conte Community School on Nov. 17 and Dec. 8 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., Morningside Community School on Nov. 22 and Dec. 13 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., and at Egremont Elementary School on Nov. 29 and Dec. 20 from 3:45 to 6:30 p.m.

Cambi said that now is a great time to get the vaccine for any residents who have not and are considering it.

Ward 5 Councilor Patrick Kavey added that everyone over the age of 18 who has been vaccinated can now receive a booster.

Ward 7 Councilor Anthony Maffuccio and Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi queried Cambi on the status of cases at Morningside School, referring to an outbreak that warranted the school's second grade to quarantine until after Thanksgiving.

The uptick in student cases was not a surprise, as Superintendent Joseph Curtis announced that there were 37 student cases in the district on Nov. 10.

Cambi said the increases have leveled out after an increase for the past couple of weeks. He added that the city aims to keep everyone safe and keep the children in school.

The grade will return after the holiday.

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Pittsfield Picks Veteran Employees as ARPA Fund Managers

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Two familiar faces will be serving as the city's special projects managers for the $41 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.

Director of Community Development Deanna Ruffer and former Director of Public Health Gina Armstrong will share the one full-time position as co-managers.

Mayor Linda Tyer on Monday informed the City Council by email that Ruffer would be resigning from her current post in early to mid-February to take on this new role.

Rather than a resignation, Ruffer sees this as a transition. Armstrong resigned from her position in September, citing a need for more balance in her life and to spend more time with her family.

In the fall, the special projects manager position was created to oversee the city's allocation of ARPA funding. It will likely only be in place over the next five years, until the spending deadline in 2026, and will be paid in full through the ARPA funds.

"I am very excited to transition from the city's Community Development Director Position to co-special project manager for the City's American Rescue Plan program. This opportunity coincides with a personal desire to adjust my work-life balance to allow me to spend more time with family and pursuing personal interests," Ruffer wrote to iBerkshires in an email.

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