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The Checkup: COVID-19 hospitalizations rise to 39 at Berkshire Medical Center, as omicron wave peaks in state. Three new deaths reported

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As of Friday, 39 people were hospitalized at Berkshire Medical Center, and one more at Fairview Hospital, even as the number of initially confirmed cases of COVID-19 fell Friday both in Massachusetts and Berkshire County.

The decline in new cases suggested that transmission due to the omicron variant is losing steam in the state.

The state Department of Public Health reported that the latest seven-day average of new cases is 30 percent lower than the Jan. 11 peak. Still, 13,935 new cases were reported Friday, including 270 in Berkshire County.

Hospitalizations, which lag new cases, remain high: 3,105 statewide as of Friday, roughly the same as the start of the week.

The leader of the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association said hospitals are not yet seeing numbers fall significantly and said the institutions are “very much in the midst of a COVID-19 peak,” the Boston Globe reported.

This week, the DPH began to distinguish between those hospitalized with COVID-19 and people who happen to test positive for the disease while being treated for a different main reason. In numbers released Thursday, the state said that about half of the people hospitalized with COVID-19 were admitted for a different reason. Nonetheless, the need to isolate COVID-19 patients, regardless of the severity of the illness, is placing a burden on hospitals.

Meantime, an omicron variant “sibling,” which is being called BA.2, is spreading in parts of Europe and Israel.

Also this week, the Massachusetts Nurses Association called on Gov. Charlie Baker to declare another state of emergency to assist health care workers. The union, in a letter, asked Baker to renew the state of emergency he declared in March 2020, at least through March.

DATA WATCH: As of Friday, there were 270 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases in Berkshire County, for a seven-day rolling average of 301.1 new daily cases. That is a 27 percent increase from two weeks ago.

Berkshire Health Systems had 39 hospitalized patients with positive COVID-19 tests as of Friday, up from 29 the previous Friday. Berkshire Health Systems reports caring for 84 patients in the last 14 days, 76 at Berkshire Medical Center and others at Fairview Hospital. The rate of positive tests for COVID-19 at BMC in the past 14 days was 26.6 percent; since March 1, 2020, the rate has been 14.4 percent.

Three new deaths were reported Friday in Berkshire County, for a pandemic total of 361.

Berkshire County has high transmission, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends wearing masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status, at substantial or high transmission levels.

Across the state, there were 13,935 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases. The state had 3,105 hospitalized patients, with 102 new deaths reported. To date, 20,884 people in Massachusetts have died of COVID-19.

Across Massachusetts, 75 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, according to state data. County-level vaccination rates are reported weekly, and 72 percent of Berkshire County residents were vaccinated fully as of this week. In Berkshire County, 88 percent of those over age 5 have received one vaccine dose; the rate is 90 percent for those 12 and up.

CASES AND DEATHS AMONG FULLY VACCINATED STATE RESIDENTS: As of Jan. 15, the latest data available, 348,510 cases were reported in Massachusetts, or 6.8 percent of all those fully vaccinated. Of those fully vaccinated, 5,437 have been hospitalized (0.11 percent) and 1,224 people have died (0.02 percent).

LAST TWO WEEKS AT A GLANCE: In its weekly report Wednesday, the state Department of Public Health provided this COVID-19 data for Berkshire County:

Total number of cases: 18,282

Case count in last 14 days: 3,969

Average daily incidence rate per 100,000 (last 14 days): 224.3

Relative change: Higher

Total tests: 679,137

Tests last 14 days: 32,826

Number positive results last 14 days: 4,202

Percent positivity last 14 days: 12.8

COMMUNITY DATA: Here are this week’s figures from the DPH on confirmed coronavirus cases by city and town. In alphabetical order, this lists all Berkshire County communities. The first number is the total number of cases during the pandemic. The second is the number of new cases in the last 14 days.

Adams: 1,207, 243

Alford: 22, 6

Becket: 185, 29

Cheshire: 440, 80

Clarksburg: 235, 36

Dalton: 921, 217

Egremont: 58, 10

Florida: 84, 18

Great Barrington: 1,014, 221

Hancock: 39, fewer than 5

Hinsdale: 264, 54

Lanesborough: 367, 64

Lee: 849, 224

Lenox: 576, 134

Monterey: 47, 6

Mount Washington: 11, fewer than 5

New Ashford: 16, fewer than 5

New Marlborough: 87, 23

North Adams: 1,977, 391

Otis: 170, 43

Peru: 66, 11

Pittsfield: 7,783, 1,623

Richmond: 114, 28

Sandisfield: 127, 17

Savoy: 79, 18

Sheffield: 345, 109

Stockbridge: 145, 28

Tyringham: 24, fewer than 5

Washington: 38, 9

West Stockbridge: 111, 30

Williamstown: 809, 267

Windsor: 72, 17

TESTING SITES: You can get tests for COVID-19 at the following three locations:

• Pittsfield – 505 East St., St Luke’s Square, adjacent to BHS Urgent Care – Open seven days a week from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

• North Adams – 98 Church St., next to the North Adams Library – Open seven days a week from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

• Great Barrington – 475 Main St., next to the Great Barrington Police Department – Open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to noon.

Appointments for testing are required at all locations. Call 855-262-5465 or visit berkshirepatientportal.com. The hotline is typically open daily from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

VACCINE ACCESS: Community Health Programs posts the schedule for its mobile vaccination van at chpberkshires.org/mobile. Vaccines are available with no appointment necessary. For information call 413-528-0457.

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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