COVID-19 THIS WEEK IN BERKSHIRE COUNTY: On Saturday, almost all of Massachusetts’ COVID-19 restrictions become history. Cases, deaths and hospitalizations in Berkshire County and across the state are trending downward amid rising vaccination rates, although some new infections continue to occur. Massachusetts has seen seven-day averages of 339.3 daily cases and 6.9 daily deaths as of Thursday, down from peaks of more than 6,000 daily cases and 170 daily deaths, the nonprofit Covid Act Now said. Gov. Charlie Baker on Friday called the public health crisis that has endured since last March “pretty much over” before adding that he “would put an asterisk on anything that says it’s over.”
Starting Saturday, people who are fully vaccinated can do away with masks except in situations such as health care settings, nursing homes and public transportation. People who have not been vaccinated will be advised but not ordered to wear masks and to continue distancing. All industries will be allowed to reopen at full capacity, and gatherings limits will also expire.
LAST TWO WEEKS AT A GLANCE: In its weekly update Thursday, the state Department of Public Health provided this COVID-19 data for Berkshire County, accurate as of May 22. (For comparison sake, the figures are followed by the corresponding state data):
Total number of cases: 6,521 in Berkshires; 660,298 in Massachusetts
Cases in last 14 days: 75 in Berkshires; 5,899 in Massachusetts
Total tests: 396,899 in Berkshires; 22,780,412 in Massachusetts
Test positivity rate last 14 days: 1.42 percent in Berkshires; 1.48 percent in Massachusetts
KEY STATS: Berkshire County saw no new COVID-19 deaths as of Friday, leaving the total at 286 deaths. The confirmed case count held steady at 6,526. A week ago Friday, the death total was 286 and the case total was 6,506. A month ago, the death total was 282 and the case total was 6,253.
STATE PICTURE: The DPH said four new deaths were reported Friday in Massachusetts, pushing the statewide total to 17,495. Confirmed cases rose 253 to 660,766.
TOP STORIES THIS WEEK: The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will require all schools and districts to hold school in-person next year, in addition to lifting COVID-19 health and safety requirements. The Massachusetts Teachers Association, the statewide union for teachers, said it agreed that students learn better in person but suggested that masking and distancing requirements should remain for young children, who are not yet eligible for vaccinations. Updated graduation guidance from DESE also would, as of Saturday, remove mask-wearing requirements for people attending outdoor graduations.
Vaccinations in Massachusetts continue to progress, and more than half of the state’s residents have now been fully vaccinated. Vaccination rates and access, however, continue to vary by community. Pittsfield has fallen short of city officials’ expectation that half of residents would be fully vaccinated by mid-May, with Mayor Linda Tyer suggesting that the reason was “a significant number of people” who did not return for the second dose of the vaccine. In national vaccine news, Moderna has said its vaccine is effective in adolescents, announcing that it would seek federal authorization for ages 12 to 17.
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: 351, 8
- Alford: fewer than 5, 0
- Becket: 69, 0
- Cheshire: 129, fewer than 5
- Clarksburg: 44, fewer than 5
- Dalton: 301, 0
- Egremont: 16, 0
- Florida: 18, 0
- Great Barrington: 460, 9
- Hancock: 17, 0
- Hinsdale: 72, 0
- Lanesborough: 114, 0
- Lee: 331, 0
- Lenox: 239, fewer than 5
- Monterey: 20, 0
- Mount Washington: 7, 0
- New Ashford: fewer than 5, 0
- New Marlborough: 23, 0
- North Adams: 579, fewer than 5
- Otis: 65, fewer than 5
- Peru: 11, 0
- Pittsfield: 2,993, 41
- Richmond: 42, 0
- Sandisfield: 39, 0
- Savoy: 16, 0
- Sheffield: 111, fewer than 5
- Stockbridge: 69, 0
- Tyringham: 8, 0
- Washington: 9, 0
- West Stockbridge: 40, 0
- Williamstown: 297, fewer than 5
- Windsor: 25, 0
WESTERN MASS. PICTURE: The case totals (and death counts) in neighboring counties: Franklin, up 2 to 2,567 (113); Hampshire, 9,137 (297); Hampden, up 24 to 52,157 (up 1 to 1,521).
WIDER WORLD OF COVID: Global cases top 169,263,148, with 3,518,391 deaths, according to data provided by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. has seen at least 33,237,543 cases and 593,881 deaths.
HOSPITAL CHECK: Berkshire Medical Center reported caring for one COVID-19 patient; no cases were reported at Fairview Hospital.
Statewide, 241 people are hospitalized. Of those hospitalized, 74 are in ICU and 40 are on ventilators.
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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Material from the State House News Service may have been included in this report. How can we make The Checkup better or more informative? Email us at email@example.com.