Pittsfield Back in Red Zone for COVID-19

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A spike in COVID-19 cases has pushed the city back into the "red zone."

The city's positivity rate was at 5.9 on Sunday with an average case rate of 47.1 per 100,000. This is a stark contrast to the positivity rate of 2.1 in late March when there were only about 13 cases per 100,000 people.

Pittsfield entered the red incidence rate for transmission on Friday when the positivity rate rose to 5.3 percent. This risk category is defined by having equal to or more than 10 average cases per 100,000 and having a five percent or higher positivity rate in a 14-day period.

Director of Public Health Andy Cambi said on Monday that no immediate actions are being taken for the spike right now but he is sure that will be brought up in discussion at next week's Board of Health meeting.

The city will continue to monitor the data, he added. Cambi also confirmed that the spike is associated with a new variant. He did not confirm which variant, but the omicron BA.2 subvariant is now predominant in the United States. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, it is more contagious but does not seem to be as severe as omicron, which surged over the fall and holidays. 

There are about 148 estimated actively contagious cases in the city and there were 25 new cases on Sunday.

Last week, there were eight positive cases at Berkshire Medical Center and five on Monday. Statewide, only about 30 percent of patients who test positive are in the hospital primarily because of the virus.

Biobot sewage testing showed a virus concentration spike that peaked on April 19 with a seven-day average of 902,000 copies of the virus per liter and has since subsided to 306.3K. This testing is intended to predict virus trends in the city.

In early March, the positivity rate dipped into the yellow zone after the city spent months in the red.  To be in the yellow zone, a community must have 10 or fewer average cases per 100,000 people or have a 5 percent or less positivity rate.

Around that time, Superintendent Joseph Curtis announced that mask-wearing is now optional in Pittsfield Public Schools. Earlier in the month, he stated the mask mandate would be lifted in the first or second week of March.

In February, the Board of Health voted to move the city's masking directive implemented in November to a masking advisory.

Cases began surging in November and the city entered the red zone late that month. Early that month, the Board of Health voted to implement a mask directive stating that masks should be worn in all publicly accessible indoor spaces in the city unless seated at a table eating food or drink.

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DA Clears Trooper in Fatal Hancock Shooting

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

District Attorney Timothy Shugrue says the results of an autopsy by the medical examiner will not change his findings, which are based on the video and witnesses. With him are State Police Lts. Chris Bruno and Ryan Dickinson and First Assistant District Attorney Marianne Shelvey.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — District Attorney Timothy Shugrue has determined that State Police Trooper William Munch acted in compliance during what is being described as a "suicide by cop" earlier this month.
On Sept. 9, 64-year-old Phillip Henault reportedly placed a fictitious 911 call about an ongoing violent assault. Body-camera footage from the trooper shows the man advancing on him with two knives before being shot twice and collapsing in the street in front of his Richmond Road residence.
"Mr. Henault was actively using deadly force against law enforcement. There were no other objectively reasonable means that the trooper could have employed at the time in order to effectively protect himself and anyone that was in the home or the public. By virtue of his duties as a police officer, the trooper did not have the obligation to run away from Mr. Henault," Shugrue said during a press conference on Friday.
"Mr. Henault posed an active threat to the trooper and to the public. The trooper had a duty to arrest Mr. Henault who was engaged in various felonies. His arm was an active threat."
The DA determined that Munch's decision to fire his weapon at Henault under the circumstances was a "lawful and reasonable exercise of self-defense and defense of others" compliance with the policies of the State Police and commonwealth law, clearing the trooper of criminal charges and closing the investigation.
The lethal force was labeled as an "unavoidable last resort."
A preliminary autopsy determined the unofficial cause of death was two gunshot wounds to the torso with contributing factors of wounds to the wrists that were inflicted by Heneault. The final report from the medical examiner has not been issued.
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