Pittsfield — With fear growing over the coronavirus nationally and locally, Mayor Linda Tyer has developed a team of city leaders to address any developments.
“While this is a fluid situation, I want to assure that I, along with city and school officials, continue to extensively monitor these developments,” Tyer explained at her Thursday press conference to announce her plan to deal with the virus over the next 30 days.
For the time being, the city is not closing any municipal buildings or stopping any services. That includes the announcement that, as of now, Pittsfield Public Schools will remain open, yet the mayor did leave the door open to changing that decision.
“We will not hesitate to act if the situation warrants it,” Tyer said.
Tyer did confirm that two Pittsfield residents are among the Berkshire County residents to test positive and that both are receiving treatment at Berkshire Medical Center. She added that seven additional city residents are also awaiting test results but are receiving treatment.
Tyer laid out the two goals her ad hoc coronavirus team has created: first to implement regulations and provide information to slow the spread of the virus; and secondly to keep the city operating as usual for as long as possible, something that she acknowledged may not be feasible under a larger breakout.
“For as long as possible, we will maintain municipal services while protecting public health,” Tyer said.
The mayor also announced that she had issued a state-of-emergency declaration. That designation will give the city more access to state and federal resources to fight the virus. Tyer explained that the designation also creates a unified command of senior-level city officials for the purpose of “tracking, monitoring and executing our actions.”
While encouraging local businesses to do the same, Tyer announced that no business travel outside the county is allowed for city employees. Also, meetings will be handled virtually or by conference call, except for city board and committees. The mayor added that she was urging boards to shorten agendas or postpone meetings altogether.
To encourage sick employees to stay home, Tyer announced that city workers will stay home if they have COVID-19 or if they are asked by health officials to quarantine themselves.
The city also will not issue any special event permits for the next 30 days to limit large gatherings and Tyer asked those with already approved events in that timetable to delay them voluntarily.
As of noon Thursday, the state Department of Public Health said that there were 95 cases in the Commonwealth and seven in Berkshire County. That includes cases in Pittsfield, Clarksburg and Otis. Also over 70 staff members of Berkshire Health Systems were under quarantine.
According to Berkshire Health Systems spokesman Michael Leary, the quarantined employees had a “higher than low risk” of contact with patients with the virus, and have been placed on a 14-day paid furlough to ensure they don’t contract it.
BHS has set up a hotline for advice and answers to questions. It is staffed by nurses and open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week. The number is (855) 262-5465. BHS has also set up a webpage with information and frequently asked questions.