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The Checkup

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

THE NUMBERS: The death toll for Berkshire County held at 37 for the 11th day as of Saturday and the county added four cases of COVID-19, bringing a new total of 495.

Across the state, 113 new deaths were disclosed by the Department of Public Health, for a total now of 5,705. The case count rose by 1,512 to 84,933. [The total reported Saturday in this space was incorrect. The number of confirmed cases as of Friday was 83,421.]

GETTING A READ ON JOBLESSNESS: On Saturday, I checked federal Bureau of Labor Statistics figures on Massachusetts unemployment. Up came the chart. I felt I was looking through a glass, darkly.

According to the BLS, the state's unemployment rate for March was 2.9 percent. We all know that's not the case today. Dated numbers are not helpful to policy-markers, or to anyone reckoning with the pandemic's economic fallout.

To provide a more contemporary sense of the damage, the nonprofit Pioneer Institute is using a California company's economic model. Not surprisingly, that model shows Berkshire County to be one of the hardest-hit areas in the state, due to our region's many hospitality businesses.

A recent report by the institute found that "municipalities in Western Massachusetts as well as on Cape Cod and surrounding Islands may experience some of the highest unemployment rates in the Commonwealth."

Barnstable County leads the list with a jobless rate of 28 percent, followed by Berkshire County with 27.9 percent. Again, those are not official numbers; the model is created by an outfit called Applied Geographic Solutions Inc.

The model's calculations by ZIP code show these rates for local communities (and numbers of unemployed): North Adams, 30.7 percent (2,281); Williamstown, 29.3 percent (1,327); Pittsfield, 28.9 percent (6,797); Great Barrington, 28.2 percent (1,321); and Dalton, 27 percent (937)

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The rate for all state counties tops 21 percent, according to the model.

BERKSHIRE MEDICAL CENTER STATS: It was two months ago, on March 17, that Berkshire Medical Center revamped its rules on visiting patients at both the Pittsfield hospital and Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington, based on guidance from the DPH.

We'll use this milestone to offer a reminder on what those policies are, then recap stats on the disease as logged by BMC.

To avoid transmitting the disease, the hospitals asked, first, that people consider delaying visits. But those who do come are asked to limit their visits to 15 minutes, stay at least six feet from patients, wash their hands and agree to be subject to screening upon arrival for any signs of a respiratory infection.

Now the numbers:

As of Saturday, BMC reported that it had tested 6,027 patients. Of those, 451, or 7.5 percent, were found to be positive for COVID-19, while 5,316 were negative. Still pending were 260 test results. At BMC, of the patients who tested positive, 92 have been hospitalized and 17 have died. Another 381 remained in the community.

AT THE HOSPITALS: As of Saturday, Berkshire Medical Center reported caring for three patients, none of them in intensive care. Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington had one case, not in the ICU.

The COVID-19 patient count for other western Massachusetts hospitals: Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, 26 cases, eight in ICU; Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield, four cases, none in ICU; Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, 94 cases, 14 in ICU; Mercy Medical Center in Springfield, 24 cases, six in ICU; Holyoke Hospital, 20 cases, three in ICU; Baystate Noble Hospital in Westfield, three cases, none in ICU.

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


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