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One Mass. county has high community COVID-19 level, 10 have medium levels, CDC reports

The Boston Globe 9/30/2022 Martin Finucane
The CDC recommends an increasing number of precautions, building on the basics of getting vaccinated and boosted, depending on how high the COVID-19 community level is.  Booster shots of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine are displayed during a vaccine clinic in Townshend, Vt., on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022. © Kristopher Radder The CDC recommends an increasing number of precautions, building on the basics of getting vaccinated and boosted, depending on how high the COVID-19 community level is. Booster shots of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine are displayed during a vaccine clinic in Townshend, Vt., on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022.

Berkshire County has a high community COVID-19 level, according to the latest data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends that people wear masks in indoor public spaces when that level is reached.

It was the first time in about three months that any Massachusetts county has been rated as having a high level. It comes as experts have warned that COVID-19 is likely to make a comeback this fall and winter, though one that will hopefully be blunted by the immunity developed by people from prior infections and from vaccinations and updated booster shots.

Ten Massachusetts counties, including Suffolk, Middlesex, Norfolk, and Worcester, were given a medium rating, while three were given a low rating. Only three weeks ago, in the Sept. 8 report, all the state’s counties were given a low rating.

Several counties in New York and Vermont near Berkshire County were also seeing high levels, including Bennington County in Vermont, and Rensselaer and Columbia counties in New York, according to the CDC.

The CDC calculates community COVID-19 levels each week by reviewing the number of hospital beds being used, hospital admissions, and new COVID-19 cases in an area.

The CDC recommends an increasing number of precautions for individuals and communities depending on how high the COVID-19 community level is. The recommendations build on basics such as getting vaccinated and boosted, improving ventilation, and getting tested.

At the high level, the list of recommendations includes “consistently and correctly” wearing a well-fitting mask in indoor public spaces. The agency also recommends that, when the level is high, people at high risk of getting very sick “consider avoiding nonessential indoor activities in public.”

About 130,000 people live in Berkshire County. Michael Leary, spokesman for Berkshire Health Systems, which runs Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield and Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington, said that there were 11 patients with COVID-19 at the Pittsfield facility and one at the Great Barrington facility. About half of the patients typically are found to have COVID-19 while being treated for something else, he said.

That number of patients is not spiking, he said; It’s been generally between 10 and 12 for the past month. But he noted that COVID-19 test positivity at the hospitals, and the system’s three testing centers, was nearly 13 percent in the last two weeks.

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