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Tyer: Pittsfield has 'Gone Backwards' With COVID-19, UK Variant Found
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
07:30PM / Wednesday, March 24, 2021
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COVID-19 is on the upswing in Pittsfield.


Mayor Tyer urges residents to work with the public health nurses on contact tracing and continue pandemic protocols.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Mayor Linda Tyer is not happy about the emergence of a COVID-19 surge.
 
"A lot has changed since my last update to you on March 9," she said at Tueaday's City Council meeting. "If you've been following the situation, you know that we have gone backward and our community is now categorized as a yellow community, and the information that I'm sharing with you this evening should really be a call to action for everyone in our community to get back to basics around COVID-19 safety precautions."
 
Since March 9, there have been 117 new cases in the city that public health nurses are examining for the possibility of five potential clusters. The 14-day average cases per 100,000 people are now 25.51 and the 14-day positivity rate is 3.26 percent. These two elements have put the city back into the yellow incident rate classification.
 
These cases include both adults and children, Tyer said, however, there has been no in-school transmission.
 
"The increase in cases is very close to the dip that we saw during the fall surge," she added. "This is not a good sign and it is certainly an indicator of what needs to happen in our community in order for us to reduce transmission."
 
The mayor described residents' "resistance" to public health nurse recommendations during contract tracing phone calls and warned of the risk that ignoring quarantine protocols poses.
 
"The information that the public health nurses have to share is important, around your health, the health of your family, and precautions for proceeding forward carefully," she said. "Anyone who is experiencing symptoms is encouraged to contact the BMC link lines to schedule a COVID-19 test, this is an important element in slowing the transmission."
 
Tyer informed the council that recent Biobot wastewater testing indicated the presence of two of the three UK COVID-19 variants in Pittsfield. The city is in the process of examining what this data means in terms of prevalence in the community and what it means in terms of transmission.
 
The UK variant has already been identified in Massachusetts, she said, and this is another reason why the city has to get back to prioritizing the proven methods such as social distancing, mask-wearing, and increased sanitation.
 
"[The tests] certainly say that it is an indicator that the virus mutation that the virus variant is in our community," Commissioner of Public Utilities Ricardo Morales said. "But we don't have any indication as to what the estimated cases are or anything like that."
 
As of Tuesday, the state has fully vaccinated 1 million residents, 67 percent aged 75 or older have been vaccinated across the state and the Berkshires have achieved 80 percent vaccination of residents in that age group.
 
About 66,000 vaccinations have been administered to public school employees. There are 1,000 doses set aside for teachers and this Saturday coincides with the state's designated school personnel day.
 
As of March 17, the Berkshire Community College vaccination site has administered 17,00 vaccines and 22 percent of Pittsfield residents have been vaccinated.
 
The Berkshires vaccination supply for this week is 2,700: 1,800 Pfizer and 900 Moderna vaccines. Next week, the county is expecting 2,300 first doses but Tyer said that number could change if the commonwealth is "lucky enough to get an additional supply."
 
Tyer also announced that the Massachusetts Department of Public Health is working with communities to launch a homebound vaccination program for which about 25,00 state residents will qualify. Families and caregivers working for said residents are urged to contact Elder Services for more information and to register.
 
"As we all know by now this is a constantly fluid situation," Tyer said. "We have been in this position before where we started to see a surge, and we know what our response actions need to be including the role that every member of our community needs to play in order to slow the spread of this particular transmission."
 
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