The Checkup: Mixed signals on pandemic's impact on real estate locally

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

HOMES SALES SLUMP: May usually is a brisk time for real estate transactions. Our colleague Tony Dobrowolski recently reported that sales have been perking along in Berkshire County, driven, in part, by interest shown by affluent big-city residents.

But, new numbers this week from the Warren Group show that April showers didn't bring, ahem, Mayflower moving vans this year.

Compared with May 2019, sales of single-family homes were off 31.8 percent this year, a bit more than the state decline of 30.1 percent. Median prices in Berkshire County for the 90 transactions recorded (compared with 132 in 2019) were down a bit, from $206,144 in May 2019 to $192,000 last month.

Sales of condos in Berkshire County dropped to five from 17 in May 2019. That's a decline of 70.6 percent, more severe than the 45.4 percent decline seen for all condo sales statewide.

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 94 percent;

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- Three-day average of number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals: 851, down 76 percent;

- Number of hospitals using surge capacity to care: 2, down 90 percent;

- Three-day average of COVID-19 deaths: 26, down 83 percent.

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THE NUMBERS: Berkshire County added one confirmed case of COVID-19, bringing the total to 592; the death toll remained at 44, with no change since June 19.

The DPH said the number of confirmed and probable deaths statewide climbed by 50, to 8,013. New cases for Massachusetts increased by 233, to 108,070.

The case tallies (and death counts) in neighboring counties: Franklin, 364 (54); Hampshire, 952 (109); Hampden, 6,691 (657).

HEALEY OFFERS NUDGE ON LOAN PROGRAM: Though Congress still is trying to come into accord on the next federal pandemic relief program, a loan offer used by scores of businesses in the Berkshires, if not hundreds, still is available. Until Tuesday, that is.

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Late this week, Attorney General Maura Healey recommended, in a release, that small businesses consider use of the Paycheck Protection Program — and offered guidelines on how to apply. The Small Business Administration loans can be forgiven if borrowers meet requirements on use of the money.

"This program has provided an important lifeline to many of our small businesses across the state, so we need to make sure they are getting the relief they need," Healey said.

Her office estimates that $100 billion still is available from the program. But, Tuesday is the last day businesses can apply through local lenders.

AT THE HOSPITALS: As of Friday, neither Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield nor Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington had any COVID-19 cases.

The patient count for other Western Massachusetts hospitals: Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, 12 cases, one in ICU; Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield, three cases, none in ICU; Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, 21 cases, four in ICU; Mercy Medical Center in Springfield, five cases, none in ICU; Holyoke Hospital, two cases, neither 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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