The mayor of Pittsfield, Massachusetts says the city is experiencing a COVID-19 surge in the weeks after a new reopening phase in the state.
At her last update to the city council, Mayor Linda Tyer reported that Pittsfield’s positive test rate had dropped below 1%, putting the city into the state’s “green zone” transmission designation for the first time in months. By Tuesday’s city council meeting, things had regressed.
“If you've been following the situation, you know that we have gone backwards and our community is now categorized as a yellow community," said Tyer. "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 9th, 157 new cases have emerged.
“The increase in cases is very close to the dip that we saw during the fall surge," said the mayor. "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.”
Tyer said that in addition to the rising numbers, a lack of community participation in the effort to curb it has complicated matters.
“Public health nurses that are doing contact tracing are examining the possibility of five potential clusters," she said. "I want to urge residents to please cooperate with the public health nurses. If you receive their call- There has been some resistance to their recommendations during those contact tracing phone calls. 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. The cases include both adults and children. However, there has been no in-school transmission.”
Pittsfield’s return to in-person education last month was accompanied by outcry from educators, mirroring the statewide effort to end remote learning by May.
As of March 23rd, Tyer said Pittsfield is reporting a 14-day case rate of 25.51 per 100,000 and a test positivity rate of 3.26% – up from 0.85% on March 9th.
“Just since March 13 we only had two people hospitalized," said Tyer. "We have now have 11 people who are hospitalized, one person is in the ICU, and thankfully at this point we haven't had any additional death.”
The city has had around 74 deaths to date from COVID-19.
Tyer also reported that two of three UK COVID-19 variants have been found in Pittsfield.
“It's also important to point out that the UK variant has already been identified in Massachusetts," said the mayor. "So while we hope that variants don't become a serious public health threat to us, they have been in our state, they have existed in our state. And this is another reason why we've really got to, all of us, have got to get back to basics doing the things that we know work, because the less transmission that there is, the less likely the variants will have an impact on our community life.”
Ward 7 City Councilor Anthony Maffuccio asked Tyer about how the city planned to respond to the new surge in light of the statewide removal of capacity limits on dining at restaurants on March 1st.
“Has there been any consideration of pullback in the city regarding restaurants or where the spreads are happening?” he asked.
“No, not at this time,” responded Tyer.
The mayor said that 22% of Pittsfield’s 40,000 residents have received COVID-19 vaccinations.