PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Mayor Linda Tyer has issued a declaration of emergency to give her administration flexibility in address the effects of the novel coronavirus.
"The health and well-being of every Pittsfielder and our Berkshire neighbors is my greatest concern," the mayor said in announcing the declaration and the members of her preparedness planning team at a press conference in City Council Chambers on Thursday morning.
The city has implemented a 30-day action plan with certain procedures that the mayor is encouraging private organizations to duplicate. These include limiting municipal employees from traveling outside of Berkshire County and to keep in Pittsfield as much as possible; using remote connections for meetings when possible; and staying home when displaying flu-like or respiratory symptoms.
The declaration, said Tyer, is an administrative tool that will aid in working with state and local agencies and allow for more efficient coordination of municipal services, supplies and facilities.
"It allows us to be nimble and responsive as circumstances require this declaration also triggers the establishment of a unified command that will be comprised of senior level city officials, for the purposes of tracking monitoring planning and executing," she said. "So our goals are twofold: Implementing appropriate municipal actions and issuing recommendations to our community in order to contain the spread COVID-19 and for as long as possible."
The preparedness planning team consists of Director of Administrative Services Roberta McCulloch-Dews, Fire Chief Thomas Sammons, Police Chief Michael Wynn, Director of Finance Matthew Kerwood, Superintendent of School Jason "Jake" McCandless, Health Director Gina Armstrong, Commissioner of Public Services Ricardo Morales and Brian Andrews, president of County Ambulance and the county's emergency medical services, professional.
"Our team is in daily communication with local, state, and local and state public health officials," she said. "And we consider recommended protocols that protect us today is intended to create some guardrails and guidelines for our community."
The encouragement of remote meetings does not apply to the City Council, the School Committee or other boards and commissions at this point, but the mayor is recommending limited agendas and postponements and possible.
The city is also waiving sick time for municipal workers who contract or have to quarantine specifically because of COVID-19, as determined by public health officials.
Employees are also being asked "to implement more stringent cleaning practices" in their workspaces and to avoid attending large gatherings.
Berkshire County has identified seven individuals with the novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 30 in the United States and more than 4,500 worldwide. Two city residents are presumptive positive and are hospitalized and six have completed a 14-day quarantine, as of 10:30 a.m., said the mayor.
COVID-19 is spread by person-to-person contact and contaminated surfaces. People are encouraged to "social distance" from 3 to 6 feet, wash hands frequently for 20 seconds at a time, cover coughs and sneezes, and to stay home if feeling sick.
"We are not closing our public buildings, such as senior center, our library, our hall or our schools," Tyer said. "However, we will not hesitate to act if the circumstances warrant closure."
The Froio Senior Center will, however, be operating at reduced services effective immediately. All non-essential programs are postponed for the next 30 days, though this is subject to change. The meal site will be operating from 11:15 to 12:30 only and van transportation is by appointment only. For more information, call 1-413-499-9436.
James Clark, the executive director of the Council on Aging, stated by email that the center is "taking positive steps to allow for social distancing and to reduce the chance of our senior population being exposed to the virus."
The Berkshire Athenaeum has also postponed its annual spring book sale.
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