The Checkup; Virus deaths hold steady, at 40, in Berkshires

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

PARKING LOTS — THE NEW WAITING ROOM: As of Monday, a new routine is helping to keep people apart when they seek medical care. People arriving at Southwestern Vermont Health Care's hospital and clinics can call in when they arrive and park — and get a text when their caregiver is ready to see them. The number to call is 802-447-5000.

The system is part of an effort to address patient concerns about contagion as the Vermont facility, used by many in Berkshire County, ramps up again for surgeries and diagnostic work.

Remember to have that phone charged, the hospital says. People will be reminded of the number to use — for what is being called the "virtual waiting room" — when appointments are confirmed.

THE NUMBERS: The number of COVID-19 deaths held Tuesday at 40 for Berkshire County. The number of new and probable cases rose by one, to 568. As of Monday, the state Department of Public Health is reporting statistics on probable coronavirus cases and deaths, not only those confirmed by molecular tests.

On Tuesday, the number of confirmed and probable deaths statewide rose by 50, to 7,085. The DPH reported 358 new confirmed and probable cases, for a total of 101,163.

Death totals in neighboring counties: Franklin, 47; Hampshire, 90; and Hampden, 603. Hampden County continues to lead the state in the death rate, based on the number of fatalities per 100,000 people. Hampden's rate is 127, followed by Essex (122), Norfolk (119) and Suffolk (111).

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The inclusion of probable cases in Monday's report from the DPH includes cases from March 1.

FREE LEGAL HELP: More and more lawyers are willing to provide free legal advice during the pandemic. This week, Western New England University's School of Law and the law department at MassMutual, the big insurance company, joined up with the COVID Relief Coalition.

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The pro bono advice is intended for small businesses and nonprofits. To sign up for assistance, visit covidreliefcoalition.com/en/Pro-Bono-Assistance.

Among other things, the lawyers involved will help people navigate use of federal relief efforts, like the Paycheck Protection Program. Members of the law school's Small Business Clinic, including alumni, will focus on helping people in the state's four western counties.

AT THE HOSPITALS: As of Tuesday, Berkshire Medical Center reported caring for four patients, none 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, 14 cases, five in ICU; Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield, two cases, neither in ICU; Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, 44 cases, three in ICU; Mercy Medical Center in Springfield, 16 cases, three in ICU; Holyoke Hospital, seven cases, one in ICU; Baystate Noble Hospital in Westfield, two cases, neither in ICU.

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LEADING INDICATORS: The state DPH 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: 6.5, down 77 percent;

- Three-day average of number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals: 1,743, down 51 percent;

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

- Three-day average of COVID-19 deaths: 45, down 70 percent.

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


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