Pittsfield COVID Cases Plateau, Cold Weather Spike Expected

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The city's health director had good news on Wednesday, telling the Board of Health that COVID-19 cases have been plateauing for the last month after a small increase in July.

The average case rate has remained rather consistent for the past couple of months, said Andy Cambi, sitting at 28.3 cases per 100,000 on Monday, but the positivity rate has been less steady.

On Monday, the positivity rate was 11.3 percent, up from 8.3 percent at the end of August.

The city remains in the red incidence rate for COVID-19 transmission, meaning that there is an average of 10 or more cases per 100,000 and a positivity rate above 5 percent.

There are roughly 76 estimated actively contagious cases in the city and there were 16 new cases on Monday. On that day, Berkshire Medical Center had nine patients who tested positive for the the virus.

Cambi reported that BMC had a "little influx" of hospitalizations that is slowly starting to go back down.

"Nothing was as far as ICU patients, the ICU patients have remained low," he added. "So not sure what that increase was for but they seem to be they were able to manage it and it seems to be tapering off."

The city's Biobot sewage testing is also showing a decrease in virus concentration, showing 654.7 thousand copies per liter on Monday compared to more than a million copies per liter in late August.

The health director continues to encourage the public to get vaccine boosters and flu shots as colder weather is approaching and people are spending more time inside.

"What we expect in the fall. I think when we look back in previous years is that we would see a spike in our numbers, especially with school and everything happening," Cambi said.

"So what we encourage the public to continue to do is get their boosters along with their flu shots."

He added that residents want to make sure to take those protective measures — especially since there are no mask restrictions.

"The likelihood, the risk of catching COVID is very high but we can do our part to protect ourselves against those symptoms by taking the shots," Cambi said.

He reiterated there are still free test kits available for city residents at the Health Department and a new batch is to be ordered. The expiration dates on the kits were extended from six months to eight months.

The city is still contact tracing for higher-risk groups and is waiting for an OK from the state to scale back on it.

"We're still holding off to see when contact tracing is going to let off from the state," Cambi reported.

"As soon as the state lets us know that we no longer are required to do contact tracing for those age groups, the elderly and the young, then that's when we'll fall back on that and focus on something else but right now we're still required to do so, so we're still doing contact tracing."

he Baker-Polito administration this week announced plans to distribute 3.5 million free at-home COVID-19 rapid antigen tests to municipalities. More than 2 million rapid tests were sent to municipalities in the spring. In addition to the rapid antigen tests, municipalities can also request essential PPE, including KN95, surgical and children's masks.

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Pittsfield ZBA Grants Casella Permit for Waste Transfer Facility

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Zoning Board of Appeals calls Casella's planned redevelopment of the former trash incinerator an improvement to the site.

Last week, the panel approved a special permit to allow a waste transfer facility at the site on 500 Hubbard Ave. Casella Waste Management purchased the waste transfer facility on Hubbard Avenue from Community Eco Power LLC, which filed for bankruptcy in 2021 and has demolished it for redevelopment into a waste transfer station.

The owners say the trash will be brought to the facility and transferred away daily. Concerns that were voiced about the project include odor and impacts to the surrounding area but Casella says the new operation will be less of an impact than the former.

"I think this is going to be a vast improvement based upon the facility that was there previously. I know that sometimes you would get a sight of the other one, they used to dump the waste and it was laying like a floating pond," board member John Fitzgerald said.

"And since the trash is not going to be there, it's going to be in and out, I think the odor will be reduced and I think the vermin will be reduced."

It was also pointed out that the site has handled trash for 40 years.

"I think a lot of the odor before was related to burning," board member Esther Anderson "And there's not going to be burning so it it's going to be greatly reducing the amount of odor and if it's not sitting there is no place for vermin to be."

The former incinerator, including a 118-foot tall stack, has already been demolished a fabric structure is being used temporarily for waste handling.

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