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Pittsfield Returns To “Green” Status For COVID-19 Transmission, Misses Vaccination Goal

A stone building with a colonnade.
Josh Landes
Pittsfield, Massachusetts City Hall.

Pittsfield, Massachusetts is reporting its lowest COVID-19 rates in months as the city returns to the state’s “green” designation for coronavirus transmission.

Mayor Linda Tyer shared the good news with the city council at its penultimate remote meeting Tuesday night.

“If you've been following our dashboards, you'll know that we are now a ‘green’ community," she said. "This is really great momentum for all of us.”

The designation means Pittsfield is considered at a low risk for COVID-19 transmission.

“Since my last report to you on May 11th, we've had three days during that 14 day period with zero positive cases," said Tyer. "And that's quite something to have three days without any positive cases. Our estimated active case count at this time is at 10, which is down from 25 when I report last reported to you. So this is consistently demonstrating an overall downward trend.”

That downward trend represents a rare valley after serious peaks in late 2020 and spring 2021.

“The last time that we were in such a good position was on February 23rd of 2021, just before we experienced the spike, and then also the last time we were at this point was around October 23rd or 25th, so to speak, just before we had some real difficulties,” said the mayor.

Pittsfield’s positive test rate has dropped from 2.59% to 1.23%, and its case rate per 100,000 has also fallen significantly.

“In my last update to you our case rate was 16.9%," said Tyer. "Today that case rate, that 14 day average case rate per 100,000, is 6.5%.”

The state reports that 60% of Pittsfield residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, with 46% fully vaccinated. That’s just short of Tyer’s previously stated goal of reaching 50% of Pittsfield being fully vaccinated by May 18th.

“In our last meeting, we had indicated our hope that we would see somewhere in the range of 50% fully vaccinated," said the mayor. "We have not reached that milestone, and it is related to the fact that we have a significant number of people who have not returned for their second dose. So they received their first dose, but they have not returned to receive their second dose, which, as you know, makes them fully vaccinated. So that's where that that's that distinction in what our projections versus actual is related to that pattern.”

The return to the “green” designation wasn’t the only notable piece of COVID-19 news Tyer had to share.

“There are zero patients hospitalized at Berkshire Medical Center for COVID related illness," said the mayor. "So this is a really great milestone for our community.”

Despite the general improvements in Pittsfield’s pandemic condition, sewage testing has continued to show an increase in copies of the virus.

“The last test result received last Thursday from the tests performed on Tuesday last week did show an increase. But it isn't an increase that concerns and it's not indicative of any rise in cases," said Commissioner of Public Utilities Ricardo Morales. “Last week's test was an increase from the week prior to that, but it is still lower than the week before, and we see this back and forth within very small variations compared to the April and March numbers.”

Wastewater also shows evidence of a higher than average presence of a COVID-19 variant.

“In the last result we saw a quantification of 45% of the close to 50 copies per milliliter of the virus was attributed to the UK variant B.1.1.7," said Morales. "That is slightly higher than the 34%, 32% we had seen last. Last time we had qualification and it is it is as well higher than the reported state average of the share for the B.1.1.7.”

The update comes as Massachusetts prepares to drop most of its COVID-19 restrictions on Saturday, including downgrading the face covering order to an advisory.

“Starting Tuesday June 1st, City Hall and 100 North street will fully open to the public resuming our traditional business hours of 8:30 to 4 Monday through Friday,” said Tyer.

Fully vaccinated city employees and visitors to public buildings will not be required to mask indoors starting on that date. The Berkshire Athenaeum and the senior center will resume full operations on the same day.

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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