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The Checkup: Business confidence still lagging, but ahead of Great Recession outlook

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

A MORSEL OF GOOD NEWS: If you're looking for good news, consider this: A popular measure of business confidence in Massachusetts stands higher today than its historic low in the midst of the Great Recession. But alas, not by much.

The index rose half a point from July to August, hitting 46.3. That's 12.4 points lower than it was in August 2019.

According to the Associated Industries of Massachusetts, which farms this data, "persistent weakness" in the education and health care fields are partly to blame, along with the fact that the state's jobless rate of 16.1 percent leads the nation.

Raymond Torto, who chairs AIM's economic advisory board, put things this way: "The sobering news is that recent announcements of major layoffs by health care, higher education and hospitality organizations in Massachusetts leave little doubt about the challenges of getting the state economy back on track."

The index hit its lowest point, 33.3, in February 2009. Its worst this year: 38.4.

THE NUMBERS: Berkshire County's death toll remained at 46 as of Tuesday, the same since July 30, with the confirmed COVID-19 case count also unchanged at 672, the state Department of Public Health said.

The DPH said eight new deaths were reported as of Tuesday in Massachusetts, pushing the statewide total to 8,933. Deaths including those listed as probably caused by COVID-19 is 9,141. Confirmed cases rose 168 to 121,214.

The case totals (and death counts) in neighboring counties: Franklin, 396 (66); Hampshire, up two to 1,191 (141); Hampden, up 15 to 7,789 (759).

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According to data provided by Johns Hopkins University, 105,769 people in Massachusetts with COVID-19 have recovered.

LONG-TERM CARE PICTURE: As of Tuesday, 24,658 cases have been confirmed among residents and staff of long-term care facilities, up one in a day. In all, 381 facilities have had at least one confirmed case and have seen 5,862 deaths linked to COVID-19, up four since Monday.

BMC TEST RESULTS: As of Tuesday, Berkshire Medical Center reported having tested 23,541 people, with 622 positive results and 22,733 negative. There were 186 pending test results.

WORLD OF COVID: Global cases as of Tuesday totaled 27,431,255, with 894,306 deaths and 18,387,857 instances of recovery, according to data provided by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. has seen 6,321,654 cases, 189,487 deaths and 2,333,583 recoveries, the school said as of Tuesday.

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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 change in either the count or "lowest observed value." Tuesday's figures:

- Seven-day weighted average of positive test rate: 0.9, unchanged.

- Three-day average of number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals: 321, up 6 percent.

- Number of hospitals using surge capacity to care: 2

- Three-day average of COVID-19 deaths: 8, unchanged.

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WILLIAMS COLLEGE REPORTS: The college's daily dashboard said, as of Tuesday, that the campus had administered 5,947 tests for COVID-19 since Aug. 17 and those have produced two positive results, one in the last seven days.

OTHER COLLEGES IN REGION: The New York Times database on COVID-19 at colleges and universities lists 12 cases at UMass Amherst; three cases at Amherst College; three at Mount Holyoke College; three at Western New England University; and two at Smith College. The Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams is shown as having no cases. Bard College at Simon's Rock is not listed. The Checkup has a request in to the school for information on its stats.

AT THE HOSPITALS: As of Tuesday, Berkshire Medical Center reported caring for one COVID-19 patient, while Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington had no cases.

The patient count for other western Massachusetts hospitals: Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, no cases; Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield, no cases; Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, 23 cases, one in ICU; Mercy Medical Center in Springfield, four cases, one in ICU; Holyoke Hospital, no cases; Baystate Noble Hospital in Westfield, one case.

The numbers include both confirmed and suspected cases.

Statewide, as of Tuesday there were 328 people hospitalized, with the latest daily admission of 159 people. Of those hospitalized, 47 are in ICU and 24 are on ventilators.

To date, 1,869,279 people have been tested in Massachusetts for the virus, according to Johns Hopkins.

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


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