Virus Outbreak Canada (copy)

OUTBREAK HITS REGION OF CANADA: Traffic slows as police stop vehicles entering Ontario on Monday in Ottawa. Canada’s most populous province is limiting outdoor gatherings to those in the same household and will close playgrounds and golf courses amid a record wave of coronavirus infections fueled by variants, Ontario's premier announced Friday. The decision sparked widespread condemnation in a province already on lockdown.

UPDATED VAX FAQS AT EAGLE SITE: With the advent Monday of vaccine eligibility for all those 16 and over in Massachusetts, Eagle staffer Francesca Paris has updated the newspaper's online "frequently asked questions." Visit her report on the newspaper's home page at berkshireeagle.com.

BY THE NUMBERS: Berkshire County saw no new COVID-19 deaths as of Monday, leaving the total at 282 deaths, with the confirmed case count up 14 to 6,079, the state Department of Public Health said. A week ago, the death total was 281 and the case total was 5,903.

The DPH said 18 new deaths were reported in Massachusetts, pushing the statewide total to 17,135. Confirmed cases rose 1,236 to 632,707.

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NUMBER OF ACTIVE CASES: 34,675 statewide, down from 36,775 a week ago. Pittsfield has not updated its dashboard since Thursday, when there were 691 active cases, compared to 641 April 12; 368 Pittsfield households were in quarantine as of Thursday. It was 337 a week ago.

WESTERN MASS. PICTURE: The case totals (and death counts) in neighboring counties: Franklin, up 6 to 2,385 (111); Hampshire, up 7 to 8,778 (289); Hampden, up 144 to 49,135 (up 1 to 1,481).

HOSPITAL CHECK: Berkshire Medical Center did not update its COVID-19 patient census on Monday, Patriot’s Day. It reported that it had 10 patients as of Friday, up from 8 a week ago and 4 on March 17.

Statewide, 705 people are hospitalized, up from 699 a week ago. Of those hospitalized, 163 are in ICU and 95 are on ventilators.

PATROLLING FOR VARIANTS: The federal government will help Massachusetts keep watch on COVID-19 variants sickening state residents. The state will get more than $4.68 million in federal aid in May to step up efforts to detect and track COVID-19 variants. The State House News Service reports:

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has identified five unique mutations of the COVID-19 virus as "variants of concern," meaning there's evidence that these circulating strains could be more contagious, cause more severe disease, or blunt the efficacy of treatments and vaccines. At least three of those variants of concern have been identified in Massachusetts, but only about 1.4 percent of all positive coronavirus cases from Massachusetts undergo the genomic sequencing that can determine whether they were caused by a viral variation, Dr. Bronwyn MacInnis, the director of pathogen genomic surveillance in the Infectious Disease and Microbiome Program at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, told lawmakers last week.

"Statistically, we think we need about 5 percent of cases to be sequenced to be able to identify variants of concern with confidence that are circulating in our community and, moreover, to identify emerging threats -- the kind of unknown unknowns that we should be paying attention to," she said.

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WIDER WORLD OF COVID: Global cases top 141,716,848, with 3,024,529 deaths, according to data provided by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. has seen at least 31,727,833 cases and 567,649 deaths.

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LEADING INDICATORS: The DPH provides the following statistics as indicators in the fight against coronavirus infection. Monday’s figures:

– Seven-day average of new confirmed cases: 1,358. That is down from 1,579 on Feb. 15.

– Seven-day weighted average of positive test rate: 2.04. That is down from 2.19 on Feb. 15.

– Seven-day average of number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals: 704. That is down from 1,258 on Feb. 15.

– Seven-day average of COVID-19 deaths: 7.6. That is down from 38.9 on Feb. 15.

JUST THE FAQS: The Berkshire Eagle is regularly updating answers to frequently asked questions about access to the COVID-19 vaccine. Visit the Vax FAQs in the Coronavirus section on the home page at berkshireeagle.com.

COVID-19 WEBSITE AND INFOLINE: For information on vaccines and to schedule an appointment, when you are eligible, visit getvaccinatedberkshires.org.

INFORMATION ON 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 can also be obtained through CVS by filling out a form online.

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How can we make The Checkup better or more informative? Email us at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com.

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

Investigations editor

Larry Parnass, investigations editor, 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 and CommonWealth Magazine.