Pittsfield COVID-19 Cases, Hospitalizations Rise

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — COVID-19 cases continue to rise after a surge that pushed the city into the "red zone."  Hospitalizations have also increased.

On Sunday, the percent positivity rate was 10.8 and there were 106 cases per 100,000 people. 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.

Berkshire County reported 342 new cases on Monday, which includes cases from over the weekend.

There are currently 17 people hospitalized at Berkshire Medical Center who have tested positive for the virus, which is a rise from early last week when there were 14 and then seven hospitalizations. Some 24 patients also have pending tests, according to Berkshire Health System's COVID dashboard.

In Pittsfield, there are about 341 estimated actively contagious cases.

Superintendent Joseph Curtis disclosed a possible return of masking last week in the schools if the cases continued to rise. In his update to Pittsfield Public School students and families dated May 6, he reported 102 cases in the district, about 30 cases higher than his previous communication to families.  

There was no report of a return to masking and he noted that about 50 cases will be removed from that number because the infected students and staff are eligible to return to school on Monday. However, the newest count on Monday showed 91 cases in the schools. 

"Each day this week, we have been doing a close analysis of each case in each classroom at each school along with the overall picture in the Pittsfield Public Schools. The school case count report currently shows 102 cases for today, an increase of one case from yesterday. Over the weekend, 52 of our current active cases will be removed from the report summary as those students and staff members will be eligible to return to school on Monday," Curtis wrote on Friday.

"At this time, we do not have evidence of widespread student transmission throughout any school or the district as a whole. Two classrooms at one elementary school were closed this week for three days due to staffing. The reported school cases will continue to be watched through the weekend and next week each day to determine if additional health and safety protocols are warranted."

The city has seen a range of new cases per day with 70 on Thursday, 60 on Friday, 40 on Saturday, and 33 on Sunday. These do not count at-home testing.

Last week, Director of Public Health Andy Cambi said the positivity rate has "dramatically increased” in the last 14 days and urged residents to take precautions.

He will give a monthly COVID-19 update at the City Council meeting Tuesday.

Pittsfield entered the red incidence rate last month when its positivity rate rose to 5 percent. This category is defined by having more than 10 average cases per 100,000 and having a higher than 5 percent positivity rate in a 14-day period.

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, Curtis announced that mask-wearing was optional in Pittsfield Public Schools.

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.

To view the city's virus trends, visit the Community Impact Dashboard.

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BEAT: Conserving Flowers and their Pollinators

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Joan Edwards will speak at the May Pittsfield Green Drinks event on Tuesday, May 17th at 6:00 PM and give a slideshow presentation about the rapidly decreasing biodiversity that is taking place globally, known as the sixth extinction. 
She will specifically focus on flowers and their insect visitors. 
This sixth extinction is primarily driven by human actions, from habitat loss to climate change. The impacts of biodiversity loss are far-reaching, resulting in biological communities that are less resilient and with diminished ecosystems services. As part of the discussion, Joan will explore the impact of biodiversity loss in the pollinator-flower world and examine how the surprising dynamics of flower-pollinator networks can help to conserve both flowers and their pollinators.
Joan Edwards is a botanist interested in understanding the biomechanics and adaptive significance of ultra-fast plant movements—plant actions that are so quick they occur in milliseconds. Using high-speed video (up to 100,000 fps), she studies the evolutionary significance and biomechanics of fast movements, including the trebuchet catapults of bunchberry dogwood, the vortex rings of Sphagnum moss, the splash cups of liverworts, and the "poppers" of wood sorrel. Her early fieldwork was on the impact of moose on plants in the boreal forests of Isle Royale National Park. 
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