The Berkshire Eagle

With this daily feature, The Eagle runs down breaking local developments in the coronavirus crisis.

PLASTIC MONEY IS REAL, AG SAYS: As people received federal stimulus and relief payments by mail through the CARES Act, some were perplexed to get a prepaid debit card rather than a paper check.

Not to worry, says Attorney General Maura Healey. In a statement this week, she said the cards, called Economic Impact Payments, are in fact real — and then went on to offer tips to avoid improper use.

That starts with knowing what to look for. The EIPs arrive in envelopes with the return address "Money Network Cardholder Services, PO Box 247022, Omaha, NE 68124." The money can be used anywhere Visa cards are accepted, including at ATMs. But Healey noted that usual fees apply.

The bucks can also be transferred to a checking account using the Money Network Mobile App. The AG recommends that people retain the cards even after spending the money, in case Congress adds payments through new legislation.

THE NUMBERS: An adjustment in numbers by the state Department of Public Health reduced the total of confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 in Berkshire County by one on Wednesday, to 574. The death toll held at 41.

The DPH said the number of confirmed and probable deaths statewide rose by 46 to 7,454. New cases for Massachusetts climbed by 267 to 104,156.

The case counts in neighboring counties: Franklin, 344; Hampshire, 905; Hampden, 6,395.

SCAM `TRACERS' OUT THERE: Just in time to try to mess up the work of public health nurses: The Better Business Bureau is warning that people have been getting texts, emails or social media messages from parties claiming to be contact tracers. People who aren't, that is.

Not surprisingly, the scam preys on fear. The messages tell recipients they were in contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus. They then direct people to clink on a link. That's where the trap snaps: The links often contain malware, the BBB says.

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Also beware, the group says, of callers — either live or in "robo" mode — who deliver the same frightening news and then probe for personal information.

As The Eagle reported Tuesday, local contact tracers work with public health agencies within the Berkshires. In the event that outside help is tapped, if a second wave of infections arrives, legitimate calls will come from either an 833 or 857 area code, with the caller ID reading "MA COVID Team."

AT THE HOSPITALS: As of Wednesday, Berkshire Medical Center reported caring for one patient, and that person was not in intensive care. Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington had no cases.

The COVID-19 patient count for other western Massachusetts hospitals: Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, 14 cases, five in ICU; Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield, one cases, not in ICU; Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, 34 cases, four in ICU; Mercy Medical Center in Springfield, eight cases, two in ICU; Holyoke Hospital, seven cases, none in ICU; Baystate Noble Hospital in Westfield, no cases.

LEADING INDICATORS: The state Department of Public Health provides the following statistics daily as indicators in the fight against coronavirus infection. Each provides a number and then a percentage change since April 15.

- Seven-day weighted average of positive test rate: 4.2, down 86 percent.

- Three-day average of number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals: 1,386, down 61 percent.

- Number of hospitals using surge capacity to care: 4, down 81 percent.

- Three-day average of COVID-19 deaths: 33, down 78 percent.

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