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CDC lists Berkshire County as ‘high’ for COVID-19 community levels

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Berkshire County this week joined the CDC's list of Massachusetts counties with a "high" level of COVID-19 in the community. 

Give the Mother’s Day gift, Boston health officials said Friday, that makes sure your presence at gatherings this Sunday won’t keep on giving.

Giving exposure to COVID-19, that is.

By being tested first.

Both the Boston area and Berkshire County are back in what the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention terms “high” community levels of COVID-19.

Under that status, affixed to seven Massachusetts counties late this week, people are advised to wear masks in public places, regardless of their vaccination status.

Franklin and Worcester counties are also at the “high” status, with Hampshire and Hampden counties remaining at the CDC’s “medium” level, where Berkshire County had been until this week.

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The summary posted Friday by the CDC on Berkshire County's COVID-19 community status. 

Rising hospitalization is believed to be the reason many counties moved to “high.” The federal agency considers the number of hospital beds used, along with hospital admissions and the number of new cases in an area, in determining community risk.

As The Eagle reported Friday, the rising numbers in Berkshire County are linked to two new omicron sub-variants. Most of the country is seeing similar increases that are driving new hospitalizations. Cases are up in all but four states and U.S. territories.

So far, however, the case numbers are not proving to be as lethal as past surges.

“Since we’re not seeing deaths yet from this, maybe it’s a less virulent strain, but it is certainly present,” Dr. James Lederer, chief medical officer and chief quality officer at Berkshire Health Systems in Pittsfield, said Thursday.

The new strains are highly transmissible and are infecting even people who have been vaccinated. “We’re not done yet; we’re going to see increases in numbers,” Lederer said.

Berkshire Medical Center had nine inpatients with COVID-19 as of Friday, up from eight Thursday and seven Wednesday.

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In the past week, Berkshire County had 718 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases, lifting the total during the pandemic from 24,526 to 25,244. As of Friday, 146 new daily cases were reported. Due to the availability of home testing, official numbers are no longer believed to provide a complete count of cases.

In the past week weeks, the county has been averaging 98 new cases daily, or 78 per 100,000 population. That is higher than the state as a whole, which has seen 45 new cases per 100,000 population, a tally that’s risen 54 percent in two weeks, according to data provided by The New York Times.

The state Department of Public Health reported Friday that 567 people are hospitalized with the virus in Massachusetts.

The state saw 17 new deaths, pushing the pandemic total to 19,198. In Berkshire County, two deaths in the past week were linked to the virus, for a total of 377.

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com and 413-588-8341.

Managing editor for innovation

Larry Parnass joined The Eagle in 2016 from the Daily Hampshire Gazette, where he was editor in chief. His freelance work has appeared in the Washington Post, Boston Globe, Hartford Courant, CommonWealth Magazine and with the Reuters news service.

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