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The Checkup: More about those new fines for quarantine violators

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The Berkshire Eagle

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

THOSE NEW RULES ON TRAVEL: Starting Saturday, people coming in to Massachusetts from most U.S. states will have to quarantine themselves for 14 days, or provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test within the previous 72 hours. Failure to comply can result in fines of $500 a day.

The new rules do not apply, as of now, to people coming in from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut (in short, all the New England states) as well as New York, New Jersey or Hawaii. That list, however, is going to be updated regularly.

It should be noted that the rules, if they remain in place, will apply to students coming back to Massachusetts colleges next month. The fines put teeth into a policy of self-quarantine for new arrivals that has been in place since March.

Though this is Gov. Charlie Baker's rule, local public health agencies, including those in Berkshire County, will be able to issue the financial penalties, according to the State House News Service. It's the first time Massachusetts has imposed the threat of financial penalties, a step already taken by other states.

In a news briefing last week, Baker said that, as you might expect, the honor system will be in play. The governor said he believes that if word about the new policy gets out adequately, the "vast majority of people will play by the rules."

"The honor system in Massachusetts has worked pretty well," Baker said. "We're not going to be stopping cars, but we're going to expect people to comply."

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THE NUMBERS: Berkshire County's death toll stood at 45 as of Sunday, the same since July 3. The confirmed COVID-19 case count rose by five to 643, the state Department of Public Health said.

The DPH said 19 new deaths were reported in Massachusetts, pushing the statewide total to 8,310. The number of confirmed cases rose 273 to 108,380. Meantime, probable cases (a separate tally) rose by 96 as of Sunday to 7,257.

The case totals (and death counts) in neighboring counties: Franklin, up three to 396 (59); Hampshire, up eight to 1,090 (126); Hampden, up 24 to 7,283 (687).

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As of Sunday, 24,055 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 5,433 deaths linked to COVID-19.

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: 377, down 89 percent.

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

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

AT THE HOSPITALS: As of Sunday, Berkshire Medical Center reported caring for one COVID-19 patient, not 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, four cases, one in ICU; Holyoke Hospital, one case, not in ICU; Baystate Noble Hospital in Westfield, one case, not in ICU.

The numbers include both confirmed and suspected cases.

Statewide, as of Sunday there were 364 people hospitalized, with the latest daily admission of 180 people. Of those hospitalized, 56 are in ICU and 30 are on ventilators.

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


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