The Checkup: Virus transmission rate ticking up in Bay State

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

WE'RE NOT NO. 1: Massachusetts is no longer the state with the lowest COVID-19 transmission rate, as it was in late June. As The Checkup reported last month, the founders of Instagram are tracking transmission rates in all 50 states on a website, https://rt.live/.

On Thursday, the transmission rate in the Bay State was 1.01. Anything above a measure of "1" shows an expansion of the virus. The figure represents the number of people to whom an infected person passes the virus.

When we last reported the figure, it was 0.68. The site has changed how it presents data, so a straight comparison with last month's numbers aren't possible. But relative to other states, Massachusetts isn't doing as well. The site's numbers are drawn from government data, updated continually.

While Massachusetts is hovering at the edge of the website's red zone this week, seven other states now show lower rates of transmission, including all five other New England states, Arkansas, North Carolina and the District of Columbia.

THE NUMBERS: Berkshire County's death toll held steady at 45 but the confirmed COVID-19 case count rose by five to 609 as of Thursday, the state Department of Public Health said.

The DPH said 25 new deaths were reported, pushing the statewide total to 8,053. The number of confirmed cases rose 177 to 105,138.

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The case tallies (and death counts) in neighboring counties: Franklin, 381 (56); Hampshire, 993 (117); Hampden, 6,932 (671 — down by one due to a data correction).

GETTING READY FOR NEXT TIME: Massachusetts is far from out of the woods on the coronavirus pandemic, but already lawmakers are pressing for a look back. In a bill filed Tuesday, a state representative and a state senator outlined their wish to see a seven-member panel created. It's mission: Probe how well state officials responded. And then suggest how, if possible, to do better.

One of the proponents is Rep. Jon Santiago, an emergency room doctor. "The Commonwealth deserves a thorough, deliberate, and reflective inquiry of the actions taken to date," he told the State House News Service. "We owe it to the countless number of families who lost loved ones and to the many healthcare and essential workers who continue to risk their lives."

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William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, is a co-sponsor.

State Rep. Eric Lesser, who filed the measure with Santiago, said the point is to provide an unvarnished, nonpartisan assessment that can help Massachusetts prepare to do better next time. No elected officials — or lobbyists or business interests — would serve on the commission.

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. Thursday's figures:

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

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- Three-day average of number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals: 639, down 82 percent.

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

- Three-day average of COVID-19 deaths: 19, down 88 percent.

AT THE HOSPITALS: As of Thursday, Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield and Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington continued to have no COVID-19 cases.

The patient count for other western Massachusetts hospitals: Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, nine cases, one in ICU; Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield, two cases, one in ICU; Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, 19 cases, three in ICU; Mercy Medical Center in Springfield, no cases; Holyoke Hospital, five cases, one in ICU; Baystate Noble Hospital in Westfield, no cases.

The numbers include both confirmed and suspected cases.

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


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