The Checkup: Expanded free testing inches closer to Berkshires

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The Berkshire Eagle

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

TESTING CASES: Gov. Charlie Baker's expanded no-referral, free testing for COVID-19 hasn't made it yet to Berkshire County, but is headed in this direction.

Baker said Monday that Agawam and Springfield, both in Hampden County, will be among eight communities where people can be tested even if they are not showing symptoms of the disease.

The expansion follows rollout of a similar testing program in the eastern part of the state. The new locations also include Brockton, Methuen, Randolph, Revere, Taunton and Worcester.

It's a bad news, good news development. The chosen locations are places that have seen positive test results rising, while testing has dropped off. While the rate of positive test results statewide is 1.9 percent (averaged over seven days), it is 2.3 percent in the new communities, Baker said Monday.

By expanding the testing program, the state hopes to get a better handle on coronavirus hotspots. Testing information is available at www.mass.gov/stopthespread.

"As we prepare for the fall and ramp up stricter travel restrictions, more testing will be a pillar of the state's COVID-19 prevention strategy," Baker said.

THE NUMBERS: Berkshire County's death toll stood at 45 as of Monday, the same since July 3. The confirmed COVID-19 case count was up by two to 645, the state Department of Public Health said.

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The DPH said seven new deaths were reported in Massachusetts, pushing the statewide total to 8,317. The number of confirmed cases rose 182 to 108,562. Meantime, probable cases (a separate tally) rose by 107 to 7,364.

The case totals (and death counts) in neighboring counties: Franklin, 396 (59); Hampshire, up five to 1,095 (127); Hampden, up 26 to 7,309 (688).

As of Monday, 24,059 cases have been confirmed among residents and staff of long-term care facilities. In all, 371 facilities have had at least one confirmed case and have seen 5,437 deaths linked to COVID-19.

DOCTOR ON EDGE: Dr. David Rosman, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, is among those concerned about a recent rise in new COVID-19 cases in the state. He took to Twitter on Sunday to flag the trend.

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"Last four days in #Massachusetts had #COVID19 new positive tests over 200. Last time that happened? Mid-June — on the way down," Rosman wrote. He then suggested that the Phase 3 reopening measures should get a second look. "The data is early, but it looks like we are on the way back up. We should consider backing down a phase." That could involve putting places like museums, theaters and gyms back on ice.

Rosman closed a one-word exhortation: #wearamask.

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.

- Seven-day weighted average of positive test rate: 1.9, down 93 percent.

- Three-day average of number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals: 363, down 90 percent.

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- Number of hospitals using surge capacity to care: 0, down 100 percent.

- Three-day average of COVID-19 deaths: 14, down 91 percent.

TWO-WEEK LOOKBACK: The Eagle is also providing results for a 14-day lookback on some leading indicators. As of Monday, 1.9 percent of tests over a seven-day period were positive, an increase of 13 percent from two weeks ago. The three-day average of the number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals was 363 the state said, a 37 percent decline. The three-day average of confirmed COVID-19 deaths was 14 statewide, a decline of 25 percent from this time two weeks ago.

AT THE HOSPITALS: As of Monday, Berkshire Medical Center reported caring for two patients, neither of them in intensive care. Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington had no cases.

The COVID-19 patient count for other Western Massachusetts hospitals: Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, two cases, neither in ICU; Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield, no cases; Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, 26 cases, five in ICU; Mercy Medical Center in Springfield, three cases, none in ICU; Holyoke Hospital, three cases, none in ICU; Baystate Noble Hospital in Westfield, no cases.

The numbers include both confirmed and suspected cases.

Statewide, as of Monday there were 350 people hospitalized, with the latest daily admission of 146 people. Of those hospitalized, 57 are in ICU and 28 are on ventilators.

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


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