Pittsfield Continues in the Red Zone for COVID-19

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Just over a week after the city reached the "red" zone for COVID-19, numbers continue to rise.

Interim Director of Public Health Andy Cambi told the Board of Health on Wednesday that the city is no exception to the surge that has been happening nationwide, statewide, and countywide.

Pittsfield's positivity rate is currently around 7, two percent higher than the metric on November 19 that put the city in the red classification for high risk of transmission.

The average case rate has gone up to 62.3 cases per 100,000, which has gone up to ten cases from November 22.

Last Tuesday, Mayor Linda Tyer addressed the public about the surge in a press release and Cambi did the same during a COVID-19 update to the City Council. Tyer also rallied the COVID-19 Task Force the same day to discuss the public health data.

The officials urged residents to use mitigation practices and get vaccinated and are still doing so.

Though cases are increasing, Cambi said that based on Berkshire Medical Center's data, hospitalizations remain low.

He told the board that Saturday was the state contract tracing collaborative's final day helping the city  and that positive residents will only receive one call from now on.

Before, the contact tracers would make as many calls as possible.

"We don't have much followup as far as how they would like us to proceed, but they did indicate that right now we would be making a one-call basis to all of our positive cases," Cambi said.

The one suggestion that the state has was to work on clusters and in the first call, the person will be advised to reach out to people they have been in close contact with. If it seems like a positive person will not follow recommended actions, Cambi said they have the discretion to take an extra step and go into further investigation.

Chair Bobbie Orsi asked where the cases are coming from and he said they are "scattered everywhere" in different age groups and not a specific sector.

School nurses have reportedly been a big help to the city with contact tracing, working in partnership for cases with students.

The city is currently at 83 percent for individuals vaccinated with at least one dose and 69 percent fully vaccinated. Cambi related this to the three vaccinations clinics recently held at Pittsfield elementary schools that attracted more than 350 participants.

He said vaccination numbers should be even higher for his next presentation.

"They were very well attended," he said.

Cambi also gave an update on the mask directive that was approved in early November.  

It states that masks should be worn in all publicly accessible indoor spaces in the city unless seated at a table eating food or drink. Foodservice employees are to mask when serving customers indoors and outdoors.

The directive suggests that if not abided by, a stricter directive with fines and license and permit suspensions could follow. The board avoided using the term "mandate" but the language makes clear the directive is not advisory although venue operators are "respectfully" asked to comply.

The city publicized the change by reaching out to local media sources and providing signage to local businesses that ask patrons to wear a mask.

The Health Department did receive around 10 complaints about businesses not following the directive.  They were reached out to and provided with the directive and signage.

Orsi said one of the biggest reasons to wear a mask is to keep other people safe.  

"I almost wish I had a sticker that said 'I'm wearing my mask today to keep you healthy because we know that you can still carry a virus and you can spread the virus and so we wear masks to keep other people safe,'" she added.

"So I think that narrative, it's not that we're just doing it for ourselves. We're doing it for everybody else."

A resident did come to the meeting to speak against the mask requirements during open microphone.  William Brookman, a self-described "born again Christian" feels that wearing a mask is not trusting God and living in fear.

Brookman is fine with others masking but does not want to be required to do so with his religious beliefs.

"Because I'm a Christian, my trust is fully in God and I know people understand that he's in control, and I know you guys are doing your best to try to get this whole thing under control but it seems like a lot of stuff is not really working that well, I mean people that have had the shots are still getting the COVID, now we have the new variant, a lot of variants going on," he said.

"But what we need to do as a nation, we need to get back to Christ, trusting God, we need to know that he's in control, we need to know that our lives are in his hands, and so I cannot have a good conscience wear the mask, as you can tell.  Why? Because I feel like I'm not trusting God and I feel like I'm living in fear."


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'RUNWAY' Painting Exhibition to Open at BCC

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Berkshire Community College (BCC) presents "RUNWAY," an exhibition of original paintings by local artist Grier Horner, on view in Koussevitzky Gallery Monday, Jan. 24 through Monday, Feb. 28, 2022. 
 
The gallery is open Monday–Friday from 9 am to 5 pm. Admission is free.
 
Horner was born in New York City in 1935 and lived in and around New York until enrolling at Brown University in 1953. After graduating, he worked a short stint in the mailroom of a Manhattan ad agency, followed by reporting jobs at The St. Albans Messenger in Vermont and at The North Adams Transcript, until landing at the Berkshire Eagle. There, he spent 32 years, first as the City Hall reporter and then as the associate editor, earning a Pulitzer Prize nomination for a series of stories on child abuse. He retired in 1997 and took up painting and photography, honing his skills by taking classes at BCC.
 
"To me painting is magic, performed not with a wand but with a brush. It has elements of sorcery," Horner says.
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