The Checkup: A grim prediction on pandemic evictions

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

A GRIM PREDICTION: On Aug. 18, the day a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures is expected to lapse in Massachusetts, 20,000 eviction notices could be filed in Boston, most of them targeting renters or homeowners of color. A report in Boston Magazine looks ahead to the expiration of the measure put in place near the start of the coronavirus pandemic and what that development means. It will have consequences across the state.

The moratorium will expire soon after enhanced federal jobless benefits expire at the end of this month. Already, surveys have charted the degree to which renters and homeowners hard hit by the pandemic recession have suffered financially.

As the magazine's Sofia Rivera notes, polling by MassINC has found that nearly one-third of state renters missed some or all of a monthly rent payment. Only 1 in 5 of them say they will be able to catch up with missed payments by Aug. 18, leaving the rest potential targets of eviction actions.

LEADING INDICATORS: The state Department of Public Health provides the following statistics daily as indicators in the fight against coronavirus infection. Each provides a number and then a percentage change since April 15. Friday's figures:

- Seven-day weighted average of positive test rate: 1.6, down 94 percent;

- Three-day average of number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals: 643, down 82 percent;

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- Number of hospitals using surge capacity to care: 4, down 81 percent;

- Three-day average of COVID-19 deaths: 19, down 88 percent.

WHEN CONTACT TRACING MISFIRES: As The Eagle reported last month, efforts in the Berkshires to track possible transmission of the coronavirus relied on local public health officials. That's a good thing, because the state's contact tracing work has hit bumps.

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At a state Senate hearing this week, a representative of the Franklin Council of Governments said contact tracers in her region have been able to reach nearly all of the people believed to have come into close contact with a person with the virus. Compare that, Phoebe Walker said, to the 60 to 65 percent of contacts reached by the state effort.

"This was, of course, far, far better than doing nothing," Walker, the group's director of community services, said of the state effort. "But, nowhere near as good as what the same money and effort could have produced if invested in a local health capacity even six months earlier."

The state spent millions to run a contact tracing program in association with the group Partners in Health. The state acknowledges that the effort has struggled, in part because people might have been less willing to speak by phone with health officials outside their own areas.

THE NUMBERS: Berkshire County's death toll held steady at 45 on Friday, but the confirmed COVID-19 case count rose by one, to 610, the state Department of Public Health said.

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The DPH said 28 new deaths were reported, pushing the statewide total to 8,081. The number of confirmed cases rose 152, to 105,290. Meantime, probable cases (a separate tally) rose by 61, to 5,820.

The case totals (and death counts) in neighboring counties: Franklin, 383 (56); Hampshire, 995 (117); Hampden, 6,943 (672).

AT THE HOSPITALS: As of Friday, Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield and Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington had no COVID-19 cases, the DPH said.

The count for other Western Massachusetts hospitals: Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, six cases, two in ICU; Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield, two cases, three in ICU; Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, 18 cases, four in ICU; Mercy Medical Center in Springfield, no cases; Holyoke Hospital, four cases, none in ICU; Baystate Noble Hospital in Westfield, no cases.

The numbers include confirmed and suspected cases.

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


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