Virus Outbreak Boosters (copy)

U.S. regulators on Wednesday signed off on extending COVID-19 boosters to Americans who got the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine and said anyone eligible for an extra dose can get a brand different from the one they received initially.

In many parts of the country, COVID-19 appears to be receding again.

But in the Berkshires, case counts keep going up, amid colder weather and continued vaccine reluctance.

On one level, that’s frustrating. Even as case counts plateau or fall to the east of us in Hampshire, Hampden and Franklin counties, Berkshire County cases keep rising.

Other nearby counties, however, are experiencing the same rise in cases. Albany County, New York, and Bennington County, Vermont, are both seeing trend lines in case counts that mirror the Berkshires, suggesting spread across more of the Northeast than just here.

But there are positive signs, too.

Cases are increasing but not at the breakneck pace of last fall – and deaths and hospitalizations have stayed relatively low so far.

The county could also see its vaccination rates bumped up soon. Thousands of children are expected to become eligible for vaccines in the coming weeks if the federal government authorizes Pfizer’s vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds.

If every single newly eligible child got vaccinated, the Berkshires could see a 5 percent bump in our rate of fully vaccinated individuals.

That’s not a likely scenario, given only 75 percent of 12- to 15-year-olds in the county are fully vaccinated, according to state data.

But the new eligibility could still push the county’s vaccination rate closer to 70 percent, and give parents some ease with kids back in classrooms, as Pfizer data show high efficacy for the vaccine in kids.

Federal regulators also signed off on booster doses for people who received the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, broadening booster eligibility significantly – and even allowing people to mix and match vaccines.

KEY STATS: Berkshire County saw three new COVID-19 deaths during the past week. To date, the county has 321 reported deaths. The confirmed case count rose by 220 over the past week, to 8,699. The most recent 14-day test positivity rate reported for the county was 1.9 percent, as of Oct. 20.

STATE PICTURE: The state Department of Public Health said 81 new confirmed deaths were reported during the past week, pushing the statewide total to 18,520. Over the past week, confirmed cases rose by 8,668, to 786,143.

VACCINATIONS: According to the state’s latest report, 75 percent of Berkshire County residents have received at least one shot and 66 percent are vaccinated fully.

Note that this data, while the best available estimate, still might not accurately reflect the county’s vaccination rates for several reasons.

Part-time residents who moved to the county during the pandemic, or who left and received their shots elsewhere, might be artificially raising or lowering the rate. People who got vaccinated in other states are not counted in the data. The rates provided by the state also rely on census estimates, rather than new census data.

Town-by-town rates provided by the state also are inaccurate in many cases, since the state collects that data by ZIP code, and many Berkshire County municipalities share ZIP codes.

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 during the past 14 days. These data are accurate as of Oct. 16.

Adams: 523; 38

Alford: Fewer than 5; 0

Becket: 100; 5

Cheshire: 182; 11

Clarksburg: 79; 11

Dalton: 405; 13

Egremont: 24; 0

Florida: 24; fewer than 5

Great Barrington: 555; 9

Hancock: 21; fewer than 5

Hinsdale: 92; fewer than 5

Lanesborough: 164; 6

Lee: 411; 18

Lenox: 304; 6

Monterey: 31; fewer than 5

Mount Washington: 7; 0

New Ashford: 6; 0

New Marlborough: 38; fewer than 5

North Adams: 871; 53

Otis: 90; 0

Peru: 15; 0

Pittsfield: 3,804; 160

Richmond: 53; fewer than 5

Sandisfield: 72; 0

Savoy: 33; 6

Sheffield: 140; fewer than 5

Stockbridge: 83; fewer than 5

Tyringham: 14; fewer than 5

Washington: 16; 0

West Stockbridge: 57; fewer than 5

Williamstown: 366; 13

Windsor: 32; fewer than 5

WIDER WORLD OF COVID: Global cases top 242,867,421, with 4,935,634 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. has seen at least 45,361,618 cases and 734,838 deaths.

Across the world, more than 6.7 billion vaccine doses have been administered, Johns Hopkins reports. More than 410 million of those have been administered in the U.S.

HOSPITAL CHECK: Berkshire Health Systems reported caring for eight COVID-19 patients as of Friday. Statewide, 519 people are hospitalized, 144 are in intensive care units and 82 are intubated.

COVID-19 VACCINES: You can get vaccinated at many local pharmacies, in addition to the following locations:

• Pittsfield COVID-19 Testing Center at 505 East St. is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

• The North Adams COVID-19 Testing Center at 98 Church St. is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

• Fairview Hospital at 29 Lewis Ave. in Great Barrington is open Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Appointments are required at all locations. Call 855-262-5465 or visit berkshirepatientportal.com.

Also, 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 413-429-2946.

TESTING: “Stop the Spread” testing sites are open at three Berkshire Health Systems locations. Tests will be conducted for any reason, with the state picking up the cost. To schedule a test, call the toll-free hotline, 855-262-5465, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily.

Locations are: Pittsfield, 505 East St., St Luke’s Square, adjacent to BHS Urgent Care Center; North Adams, 98 Church St., next to the city library; Great Barrington: 475 Main St. Tests also can be obtained through CVS by filling out a form online.

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Francesca Paris can be reached at fparis@berkshireeagle.com and 413-447-7311, ext. 239.