The Check-Up: New York Times breaks down virus rates, and Pittsfield makes the list

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With this daily feature, The Eagle runs down breaking local developments in the coronavirus crisis.

THE NUMBERS: Confirmed coronavirus cases rose Saturday to 119 in Berkshire County, an increase of 14 from Friday, state public health officials said.

No new deaths were reported in the county. Two people died of COVID-19 in the Berkshires on Friday, bringing the total to four.

Statewide, the death total rose Saturday by 9 to 44.

Hampden County saw three additional deaths as of Saturday's report.

More than 35,000 individuals had been tested in Massachusetts for the virus, up from 29,371. The number of confirmed cases stood Saturday at 4,257 — up 1,017, or 31.3 percent, from Friday.

FUZZY TALLY ON PITTSFIELD'S COVID-19 DEATHS: In a chart, The New York Times is listing Pittsfield as the metro area with the 11th-highest rate of deaths related to the coronavirus.

But there's a hitch in the newspaper's counting.

The Times calculates Pittfield's death rate at 0.02 per thousand residents. It bases that on a population of 126,000. That number, however, is the rough population of Berkshire County, not Pittsfield itself.

For the whole county, which has seen four deaths as of Saturday, the rate is even higher: 0.037.

That puts the county on a par with metropolitan New York City. That area, with 20 million residents and 500 deaths, has a fatality rate of 0.03, according to The Times' chart. The numbers were current as of Thursday.

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The rate for Berkshire County pushes the region from 11th place on the chart up a few places, closer to communities like Seattle; Burlington, Vt.; and New York City.

The Times reports that the Lombardy region in northern Italy, with 4,861 deaths out of a population of 10 million, has the highest fatality rate, at 0.48.

The next highest is Wuhan, China, with 2,535 deaths and a population of 11.1 million. Its fatality rate is 0.23.

From there, in descending order, the death rates in the Times chart are as follows: Albany, Ga., 0.07 based on 10 deaths in a population of 153,000; New Orleans, 0.05 based on 65 deaths in a population of 1.3 million; Seattle, 0.03 based on 133 deaths in a population of 3.9 million; Burlington, Vt., 0.03 based on 6 deaths in a population of 221,000; New York (data above); Tupelo, Miss., 0.02 based on 3 deaths in a population of 141,000; Sumter, S.C., 0.02 based on 2 deaths in a population of 107,000; and Bellingham, Wash., 0.02 based on 4 deaths in a population of 226,000.

IT TAKES A VILLAGE: One postscript to last week's announcement of layoffs at Hancock Shaker Village concerns the wider landscape — of dollars, nuptials and even, yes, Baby Animals.

The living history museum, home to the oldest working farm in Western Massachusetts, is scaling back its 2020 opening due to the impact of the virus. Ten of 22 year-round employees have been laid off; remaining workers face pay cuts of 10 to 35 percent.

The tourist-friendly village normally gets 55,000 visitors a year — including 10,000 schoolchildren.

Its director, Jennifer Trainer Thompson, noted in a mailing to supporters late last week that the village's normal operations boost the local economy. It does that, she said, by spending more than $1.1 million in the region yearly, hosting more than 30 full-time-equivalent jobs and ushering nearly $675,000 into local household income.

On top of that, its operations create 92.5 full-time-equivalent jobs elsewhere in the area. That adds up, Thompson said, to more than $2.1 million in household income.

The village plans, tentatively, to start its three-week Baby Animals event May 15, more than a month after its usual spring debut. Thompson said that if the village must cancel Baby Animals, that would have a "serious impact" not only on its finances, but on prospects for many partners.

"Baby Animals affects our tent vendor, our craftspeople — everyone from the food truck vendors to the face painters," she said. "And we're not even talking about weddings. Would you like to be the one to tell a hysterical bride that her wedding can't occur here in May?"

To contribute news to The Check-Up, please email lparnass@berkshireeagle.com or call 413-588-8341.


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