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Tyer Lifts Pittsfield’s COVID-19 State Of Emergency

A woman in a blue dress stands behind a podium in front of a row of people and a trio of local, state, and federal flags
Josh Landes
Pittsfield, Massachusetts Mayor Linda Tyer issuing the COVID-19 state of emergency on March 12th, 2020.

On March 12th, 2020, Pittsfield, Massachusetts Mayor Linda Tyer announced a state of emergency as the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic hit home. On Tuesday, both Pittsfield and the commonwealth formally ended the state of emergency and rescinded all remaining pandemic restrictions. Tyer spoke with WAMC about the milestone, what the pandemic cost the city, and the potential lasting impacts of COVID-19.

TYER: First of all, this is a great moment for the city of Pittsfield, that we're in a position that we can lift our state of emergency. It's been a long road for all of us. And what it essentially means is that we are able to resume all of our normal governing activities without having to deploy any extraordinary measures to address COVID-19.

WAMC: Now, when you first imposed the state of emergency back in March, you talked about it allowing Pittsfield to essentially bill state and federal agencies for pandemic management related costs. What did the COVID-19 pandemic ultimately cost Pittsfield in those lines?

Oh, my goodness. So, you know, back in March of 2020, when we issued the state of emergency, we weren't aware of how much financial resources would come from the federal government and from FEMA. And so there were a number of funding sources that were available to communities to help pay for things like personal protective equipment, but also to provide support to small businesses. So I don't have an exact number in terms of the total cost for you at the moment. But I'd be happy to follow up with you in terms of what we what were the expenditures associated with the public health response, but also, what were the investments that we made in helping to provide economic relief and recovery.

Would it be safe to assume this number is in the millions?

I would say- Yes, I would say so.

You were in charge of Pittsfield during an absolutely unprecedented period. The pandemic took the world by storm and continues to in large swaths of the global community. What are your reflections on the last year and a half or so of leading Pittsfield through this, again, unprecedented crisis?

Wow, so many things. First of all, just the extraordinary gratitude that I have for all the essential workers and first responders and doctors and nurses and everyone who kept our city afloat during this extraordinary unprecedented time. I'm also extremely grateful for the willingness of our partners to join the COVID-19 task force that we established very early on, and the absolute commitment every member had to ensuring that we use everything within our power to protect the public. I'm also extremely grateful that we have come all this long way to a point now where our citizens are healthy and resuming normal activities. Our status now is, we’re a “gray” city, which means we've been able to really control the transmission of COVID-19. And I think it's going to be wonderful for all of us to get back to the things that we enjoy the most, especially things like normal school schedules in September. And so there's so much to be grateful for. Also a lot of heartbreak and sorrow that people experienced by, you know, losing loved ones to this really horrible illness. And we are well on our way to full recovery. And it was just an extraordinary experience to be a part of this, really representing the people of Pittsfield and protecting them to the best of my ability.

At this point, what vaccination percentage is Pittsfield looking at as of mid-June?

As of last Tuesday, so we could go our vaccination first dose rates was 64% and fully vaccinated was 51%.

What do you see as lasting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on how Pittsfield municipal government works moving forward?

Well, I think there are some elements of COVID-19 that we want to carry forward. And I'm hopeful that the state legislature will pass some laws- I’m especially intrigued by the ability for us to have access to remote participation for our public meetings. I think the ability of our governing bodies to convene virtually has been- We've opened up those experiences to more people, and I hope that we are able to continue to do that. I think we are much stronger- I mean, we've always been, Pittsfield and the Berkshires, has always had very strong networks, deep collaborations, and this only tested our mettle even further and I think we're stronger now than ever before in terms of our networks and our collaborative spirit.

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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