PITTSFIELD — Outgoing Health Department Director Gina Armstrong warned the Board of Health on Wednesday that the department anticipates that coronavirus cases will continue rising over the next week as the genetic presence of the virus increases in the city’s wastewater.
“We were doing really well until the end of July,” Armstrong said. “Then the sewage tests last week showed a 25 percent increase in the concentration.
“We don’t think we’ve peaked yet,” she added.
The city ended August with a 14-day average for daily cases at 28.7 per 100,000 people. The local coronavirus case rate hasn’t reached that level since late April, and the city started August with a case rate of 6.8 cases per 100,000 people.
Armstrong told the board that there are 71 actively contagious coronavirus cases in the city.
Since July 2020, the Pittsfield Department of Public Utilities has used weekly sewage tests that look for the virus’ genetic signature in the wastewater. Armstrong said those tests have given her department about a week heads-up for how coronavirus cases will trend.
Hospitalizations have increased over the past 14 days, with Berkshire Medical Center treating 12 active cases as of Wednesday. Armstrong said that of those cases, only two people were vaccinated and both were “in the older age categories.”
“We’re seeing younger people now being hospitalized, in their 20s, 30s, 40s,” Armstrong said.
That tracks with county data of vaccinations that shows that 20- to 29-year-olds continue to represent the lowest rates of vaccination. About 60 percent of the individuals in that age group have received at least one vaccine dose. In Pittsfield, about 63 percent of residents are vaccinated fully.