Parks Commission Chairman Adams Resigns / iBerkshires.com

By Brian RhodesiBerkshires Staff

ADAMS, Mass. – As COVID-19 cases spike across the county after the holidays, the Board of Health continues to consider the possibility of a mask mandate and other potential restrictions.

Between Jan. 1 and Jan. 7, Adams recorded 97 new cases of COVID-19, with 50 of those cases coming from people 40 and under. Sixty-nine percent of the city is considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with only 30% receiving a booster shot.

Board of Health Chairman David Rhoads said he hopes to get as many people as possible in Adams vaccinated against COVID-19. He pointed to young people, many of whom only recently became eligible to get vaccinated, as a group that will need to see an increase in the number of vaccinations.

According to data compiled on January 6, Adams had a vaccination rate of 37% for children aged 5 to 11, compared to 49% in North Adams and 63% in Cheshire.

“You can see that obviously vaccinations are an issue,” he said. “Our public health nurse says ‘vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate, booster, booster, booster.'”

The council called on the community to provide feedback on what to do in the event of a pandemic via the city’s website. Rhoads said he’s only received a handful of responses so far, but hopes for more by the next meeting to determine the best course of action for the city.

Several responses, according to Rhoads, appeared to argue for larger mask and vaccine mandates. Some who responded, he said, are even going elsewhere due to the lack of restrictions in town.

“They said now that they were indeed buying elsewhere because the companies weren’t enforcing masking here in Adams,” he said. “One person asked for full community action. Provide masks, require employees and city workers to mask up and get vaccinated, we should provide better access to vaccinations, perhaps providing transportation to the local clinic, etc., then mount a huge public awareness campaign to saturate Facebook, etc.”

The council and code enforcement officer Mark Blaisdell debated the city’s ability to enforce a mask mandate and the viability of other options, such as giving out special signage and approving businesses that the council deems follow directions. Board member Peter Hoyt said enforcement would prove difficult for Adams given his limited resources.

“I think it’s worth considering, but again, we always come back to the app,” he said. “And do we have the manpower to enforce it? And will it really be enforced? So I understand that we want to mandate and protect people, but the mandate implies enforcement. And I don’t know if we can really enforce it. want to make it mandatory, it should be enforced and people have to be fine. And that’s the only way it’s going to happen.

Blaisdell said he’s not sure there are enough comments currently to set up a warrant at this time. He said if the city decides to do something, the public will have to be part of it via a public hearing.

“I don’t know, based on your responses or the feedback you’ve received from the community so far or the interoffice communications I’ve had,” he said. “I don’t know if there’s support for that. I know some companies already have massive mandates in place both within Adams and outside of Adams.”

Board member Joyce Brewer said action on a mask mandate may not be necessary by the next meeting.

“What we’re seeing is our post-holiday bubble,” she said. “We have no idea what we’re going to see in three weeks. It could start to calm down again.”

As part of Wednesday’s meeting, Rhoads invited several local health experts to discuss the omicron variant, vaccines and the number of cases in the area. These experts, Rhoads said, provided the context of the situation with the omicron variant and why additional protective measures might be useful.

Sandra Martin, senior public health planner at the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, said vaccination and wearing a mask are crucial to preventing the spread of the omicron variant in particular, as it is more contagious than the previous variants.

“It’s basically a numbers game because the healthiest individuals can handle a few virus particles,” she said. “But if you have too many, they overload the immune system and you get infected. With omicron, they produce so many particles of virus particles, and each of the particles is very adaptive, adaptive to invade your cells. And so that’s enough easy to get a big viral load and overwhelm your immune system whether you’re vaccinated or not.”

Martin said people who are vaccinated are less likely to get seriously ill from the virus and are sick for shorter periods of time. She stressed the importance of everyone, including those vaccinated, wearing a mask at all times in public if possible.

“You want to lower your viral load, and the best way to do that right now is to use a well-fitting N95 or KN95 mask,” she said. “If it doesn’t fit your face and isn’t slightly uncomfortable, you probably have a lot of air leaks around it, and it’s an airborne virus. will therefore seep into and beyond your mask if it does not fit properly.”

Self-testing, according to Martin, is also extremely important. She said, whatever type of COVID-19 test it is,

“Basically, use the tests, if you have symptoms, to see if it’s a cold or the flu or if it’s COVID,” she said. “And stay home until you know. That’s what the test is for, it’s to figure out where you can go out and where you have to stay home.”

Dr. Daniel Doyle, ICU Medical Director and Pulmonary Disease Consultant at Berkshire Health Systems, agreed with these points and added, despite a higher number of cases compared to the same period last year, overall hospitalizations for COVID-19 are down.

“And that’s, I think, the take-home message for vaccinations and now, for older people, boosters,” he said. The pattern in hospital continues to be the same as I’ve been told: two-thirds to three-quarters of patients hospitalized symptomatically with COVID are unvaccinated. We will start to see from the state how many people are accidentally diagnosed with COVID on admission compared to those who had symptoms due to COVID. I think it’s going to be interesting to watch.”

Also discussed at the meeting, the board voted to authorize a mobile syringe service program in Adams, as detailed at the previous board meeting. Rhoads said more action on adopting these services cannot begin until the minutes of the meeting are available after they are approved at the next meeting.

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