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Pittsfield City Council Hears COVID-19 Data Update, Considers Meeting Rules Reforms

The Pittsfield city seal
The City of Pittsfield, Massachusetts
City of Pittsfield

The Pittsfield, Massachusetts city council heard an update on the community’s COVID-19 situation and ongoing efforts on its vaccination rollout plan at its Tuesday night meeting.

Mayor Linda Tyer told the council that the newest COVID-19 data had some good news.

“We are starting to see a slow but steady decline in our case count and our positivity rate,” she said.

The information was provided in two forms, both with and without long-term care facilities included due to the high concentration of cases within nursing and rehabilitation centers as opposed to in the general populace. Earlier in the month, the case rate per 100,000 was at 63, with a positive test rate around 6%.

“As of today, with long-term care facilities included in our data, our case rates are 50.28 per 100,000, and without the long-term care facilities our case rate is 43.68,” said Tyer.

The city’s positive test rate including long-term care facilities is now at 4.59%, and 3.98% without. For the first time since entering the state’s “red zone,” or high-risk designation for COVID-19 transmission in December, Pittsfield dropped down a classification.

“With this data as it stands today, our community is considered yellow,” said Tyer.

As of the last city council meeting two weeks prior, 59 people were hospitalized due to COVID-19, with seven in the ICU.

“As of today, there are 34 patients who are hospitalized and nine in the ICU,” said the mayor.

Tyer also offered an update on vaccinations.

“There are clinics located in North Adams, Pittsfield and Great Barrington," she said. "Beginning on February 1st, people aged 75 and older plus anyone in Phase One is eligible to receive a vaccine. We have scheduled three clinics at Berkshire Community College this coming Thursday from 2 to 7 for Phase One eligible people only. And then beginning next week on Tuesday and Thursday from noon until 6:30, people aged 75 and older can receive their vaccination.”

Tyer encouraged Pittsfielders to visit the state’s vaccine map online and select BCC as the clinic of their choice to register for an appointment.

“The local Councils on Aging will assist anyone who needs help in registering and making an appointment,” she told the council.

The city is also partnering with Community Health Programs to schedule mobile vaccine clinics at nursing homes.

“Berkshire Medical Center will be launching a new website to help anyone who is in need of assistance with information about COVID-18 but specifically about vaccinations," said Tyer. "And the city’s website, we also have links to all of the state information and the Berkshire Medical Center information about how to and when you are eligible for a vaccine.”

The council considered a number of petitions, many prompting contentious debate, and none of which resulted in immediate action. One from City Clerk Michele Benjamin would cap city council meetings at four hours, citing a recent move by the Springfield City Council.

“Nobody’s thinking clearly when it’s midnight or 12:30 in the morning – and we’ve gone until 1 o’clock in the morning, and I just feel strongly that we should be able to process and get through and deliberate and have good strong meetings in four hours,” she said.

That petition was sent to the subcommittee on ordinance and rules.

Another petition that encouraged more commentary on the council’s marathon meetings came from At-Large City Councilors Earl Persip and Pete White. It would move up the start time to 6 p.m. from 7 p.m. Persip said it would make the meetings more accessible to Pittsfield residents.

“If this council took the time to make these meetings worthwhile and addressed issues and kind of just – instead of talking through every single issue when things are getting referred, I think we’d be a lot different place," he said. "But we don’t do that. We talk about everything before it gets referred, then talk about it at subcommittee, and then when it comes back everyone says the same stuff they said the first time around.”

That petition was also sent to the subcommittee on ordinance and rules.

Other referred petitions related to a proposal for a pay-as-you-go trash system, a call to remove the recently installed bike lanes on North Street, and a city investigation into the health effects of a cell tower placed by a residential neighborhood.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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