© 2023
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Pittsfield Offers City Council Conflicting Information On COVID-19 Death Toll

A graph shows declining COVID-19 rates in Pittsfield.
City of Pittsfield
Pittsfield's COVID-19 dashboard as of February 10th, 2021.

A city council COVID-19 briefing by Pittsfield, Massachusetts Mayor Linda Tyer Tuesday led to some confusion over the city’s total confirmed death toll from the pandemic.

Tyer’s presentation pointed to a positive sign for Pittsfield following the spike in cases that ended 2020.

“Yesterday we had zero positive cases, and today we only had three," said the mayor. "So our case counts are coming down and our positivity rate is also quite low now.”

The city’s case rate per 100,000 sits at just over 16, down from over 77 as recently as mid-January. In the same timeframe, positive test rates have dropped from over 6% to under 2%.

“This is a significant improvement over what we’ve been experiencing for the last really two solid months – three months, really," said Tyer. "This is an outstanding outcome after a long period of surge. I’m hopeful that this is going to be a positive trend going forward.”

The mayor described the countywide vaccination efforts as proceeding smoothly, and that state leadership had praised the Berkshires for it.

“Berkshire Community College added Saturdays to their vaccination schedule so now we are vaccinating on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays," she said. "And it’s important to point out that while we have had a tremendous participation by our seniors aged 75 and older, we still have a ways to go, and they also now will have to come back for their second vaccination.”

Ward 1 councilor Helen Moon voiced concern that the city wasn’t publicizing private pharmacy vaccination options closer to the heart of Pittsfield.

“Especially for people who do have transportation issues and aren’t able to get to BCC or Greenfield or North Adams or Great Barrington, that there’s a way for us to share that there are more than the board of health options available," said Moon. "I think having a diverse set of options is always a good thing.”

Then Ward 7 councilor Anthony Maffuccio asked about the official COVID-19 death toll.

“Does the count right now still stand at 49, or is it higher than that?” he asked.

“It is higher than that, and it is specifically related to Springside Nursing Home,” said Tyer.

“So you don’t have that direct number right now?” responded Maffuccio.

“Not right now," said Tyer. "We need to verify the information that’s been provided to us by Springside.”

Despite that, however, Ward 5 city councilor Patrick Kavey noticed that the city’s own COVID-19 dashboard did offer a specific death total.

“Our deaths for Pittsfield, to I guess answer what Councilor Maffuccio is asking, are at 85,” he pointed out.

He asked Commissioner of Public Utilities Ricardo Morales, who manages the city’s COVID-19 data, what to make of the discrepancy.

“It is a number that is still being verified, but it is a high number,” responded the commissioner.

Morales said the update to the count had been recent.

“We know information that – it gets to the health department via the Springside Nursing Home – that this latest update was specific to the Springside Nursing Home and it’s information that is being worked right now with the nursing home,” he said.

Mayor Tyer did not respond to a request for comment on this story before broadcast.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the dashboard’s most recent update includes Tuesday’s data, with 964 active COVID-19 cases in the city.

The council also voted Tuesday to move meeting start times up to 6 p.m. from 7, and institute a flexible four-hour limit on the often marathon bimonthly assemblies.

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.
Related Content