Coronavirus cases keep accumulating, and with the holiday season fast approaching, large social gatherings — the type of events which officials say drove the city’s recent surge in new cases — are officially off the table.
Mayor Linda Tyer last week sounded the alarm over a "frightening" rise in the city's case count, and the Board of Health moved to issue an emergency order sliding Pittsfield back to an earlier phase in the state’s reopening plan.
The move reestablished lower capacity limits for some types of businesses. The city also suspended indoor table service at restaurants, the very activity that Tyer said was driving an "explosion" in positive cases, along with private residential parties that drew members of multiple different households.
“These events,” Tyer told the city during an address on PCTV on Friday, “caused an explosion of transmission in our city in one instance a single positive COVID case generated at least 20 other positives.”
The city also took the significant step of suspending in-person learning across the Pittsfield Public Schools system through at least Friday, Dec. 4.
“While the recent spikes do not indicate student-to-student or student-to-staff transmission within our schools, the temporary move to remote learning provides the necessary buffer to ward off further community spread,” Tyer said on Friday.
The decision to revert to all-remote learning came just weeks after the last cohort of PPS students returned to classrooms for hybrid learning. Leading the district through the pandemic is Joseph Curtis, who began serving as interim superintendent about two weeks ago.
Curtis, who was serving as deputy superintendent until the departure of Jason “Jake” McCandless to another Berkshires school district early this month, may soon have a second-in-command to help manage the district during the pandemic.
As early as Wednesday, the School Committee at its 5 p.m. virtual public meeting could finalize the appointment of Pittsfield High School Principal Henry Duval to the post of interim deputy superintendent.
If the committee approves Duval’s new contract, PHS Vice Principal Maggie Harrington-Esko would take over as interim principal, and would have the authority to select someone to serve as interim vice principal of the high school, Curtis said.
Local health officials blame large social gatherings for driving community spread of the virus in this most recent surge. Board of Health Chair Dr. Alan Kulberg wants residents to take his directions to heart, and keep Thanksgiving and holiday gatherings at, or under, the state-set limit of 10 people, comprised only of household members and those within their immediate social bubbles.
And of course, don’t get lax with following the battle-proven safety measures we all know so well — wear your mask at all times (unless, as Tyer noted Friday, you’re at home, in your car or outside by yourself), keep at least six feet of distance with others and wash your hands.
Finally, as residents batten down for the winter, Berkshire Roots is continuing its quest for approval to significantly expand its cannabis grow operation on Dalton Avenue.
The company’s special permit request to build a new 100,000-square-foot structure that will largely serve as cultivation space at the site of the former Ken’s Bowl will go back before the Zoning Board of Appeals this week, and members are expected to vote on the proposal at a virtual public meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday.