Berkshire health officials weigh coronavirus response (copy)

This electron microscope image shows the virus that causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells (gray) cultured in the lab. 

COVID-19 AND CLEANING: The past year has seen a lot of scrubbing of surfaces in public places. This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said all that sanitizing can take a step back. But only if the right conditions are in place.

The CDC said that in cases in which no one with COVID-19 has been present, cleaning can happen once a day. But the agency reminded people that the virus that causes the disease can indeed be transmitted from surfaces, if people who come in contact with them then touch their mouths, noses or eyes. "In most situations, the risk of infection from touching a surface is low," the CDC said. "The most reliable way to prevent infection from surfaces is to regularly wash hands or use hand sanitizer."

More frequent than daily cleaning is recommended in places where rates of transmission remain high, the CDC said.

BY THE NUMBERS: Berkshire County saw two new COVID-19 deaths as of Wednesday, for a new total of 281 deaths, with the confirmed case count up 31 to 5,735, the state Department of Public Health said. A week ago, the death total was 276 and the case total was 5,507. A month ago, the death total was 262 and the case total was 4,901.

The DPH said 21 new deaths were reported in Massachusetts, pushing the statewide total to 17,014. Confirmed cases rose 2,292 to 611,825. That number of cases is almost 9 percent of the state’s population.

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NUMBER OF ACTIVE CASES: 35,075 statewide, up from 31,911 a week ago; 535 active cases in Pittsfield as of Tuesday, compared to 448 a week ago; 291 Pittsfield households are in quarantine as of Tuesday. It was 237 a week ago.

VACCINE CHECK: As of Wednesday, more than 2.5 million people in Massachusetts, or about 36 percent of the state's population, have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Due to the vaccine rollout, older people now make up a smaller share of those newly infected. More than 10,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine were given in 24 hours, evidence of the quick use of a one-time shipment of 108,000 J&J doses. Of 4.9 million doses shipped to Massachusetts so far, 83.8 percent have been administered, the State House News Service reports.

WESTERN MASS. PICTURE: The case totals (and death counts) in neighboring counties: Franklin, up 3 to 2,280 (up 1 to 110); Hampshire, up 25 to 8,523 (284); Hampden, up 170 to 47,025 (up 2 to 1,461).

HOSPITAL CHECK: Berkshire Medical Center reported caring for 4 COVID-19 patients, down from 8 a week ago and 10 on March 5; no cases were reported at Fairview Hospital. Statewide, 755 people are hospitalized, up from 690 a week ago. Of those hospitalized, 179 are in ICU and 105 are on ventilators.

WIDER WORLD OF COVID: Global cases top 132,882,878, with 2,884,766 deaths, according to data provided by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. has seen at least 30,915,003 cases and 559,049 deaths.

U.S. TO HELP WITH FUNERAL COSTS: The federal government will begin reimbursing people for funeral costs for victims of COVID-19. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will on April 12 start accepting applications to cover funeral costs of people who died after Jan. 20, 2020. FEMA has set up a call center at 844-684-6333. Financial backing maxes out at $9,000 per funeral and $35,500 per application. The website of Secretary of State William Galvin links to a FEMA page with information on eligibility.

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

– Seven-day average of new confirmed cases: 1,477. That is down from 1,579 on Feb. 15.

– Seven-day weighted average of positive test rate: 2.46. That is up from 2.19 on Feb. 15.

– Seven-day average of number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals: 713. That is down from 1,258 on Feb. 15.

– Seven-day average of COVID-19 deaths: 21.9. 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

COVID-19 WEBSITE AND INFOLINE: For information on vaccines and to schedule an appointment, when you are eligible, visit The city of Pittsfield is providing access by phone to weekly updates about access to the novel coronavirus vaccine in the city and in Berkshire County. A recorded message is posted at 413-449-5575.

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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Larry Parnass can be reached at 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.