BERKSHIRE COUNTY

Coverage of Berkshire County, Massachusetts.

The 2020 U.S. Census form.
Ɱ / Creative Commons

Census workers are expected to start going door-to-door in western Massachusetts to collect information this week. But an official with the U.S. Census said it’s already had a strong response from households in the region.

Downtown Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in 2019.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPR

Two groups in Berkshire County — one focused on helping immigrants, the other on economic development — are launching a project to support immigrant-owned or operated businesses. 

Mitchell Rozanski during a press conference introducing him as archbishop of St. Louis.
screenshot / Archdiocese of St. Louis

An advocate for clergy sexual abuse survivors said he's filed a complaint against the Springfield Roman Catholic bishop, accusing Mitchell Rozanski of trying to cover up allegations against priests.

A fish advisory next to a path to a fishing spot on the Housatonic River, in a file photo.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPR

The EPA is proposing changes to its toxic waste cleanup plan for the Housatonic River, and is asking the public to submit comments starting Tuesday. The public comment period ends August 28.

Museums around Massachusetts are gearing up for their reopenings after being shuttered since mid-March. Announcements have been rolling in since Gov. Charlie Baker gave Phase 3 the green light last week. The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston announced Wednesday that it will unlock its doors first to members on July 14 and 15, then to the public on July 16.

St Mary's High School in Westfield, Massachusetts.
File Photo / Masslive

The Springfield Catholic Diocese said its 13 schools in western Massachusetts will open in September for in-person learning five days a week.

After being closed for the first four months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Baker Administration has given Massachusetts museums the green light to reopen.
Courtesy MASS MoCA

Three major Berkshire County museums say they plan to reopen next weekend after shutting down for nearly four months. 

Naomi London of Northampton, Massachusetts, survived a serious case of COVID-19.
Courtesy of Naomi London

While some parts of the country are seeing surges in COVID-19, cases in Massachusetts are down — but not gone. So, with the governor's reopening plan underway, early survivors of the virus are hoping their experience will convince others to be cautious.

Tourism has been decimated by widespread coronavirus closures. The impact is especially hard felt in regions that rely heavily on seasonal dollars, including the Berkshires in western Massachusetts. It’s a place where art, theater and music drive a post-industrial, creative economy now shuttered by the pandemic.

The Springstube Farm in West Stockbridge, Mass. sold its development rights on 165 acres as a way to preserve the farm fields and pastures.
Berkshire Natural Resources Commission

The state of Massachusetts has purchased the development rights on 165 acres of farmland in West Stockbridge. In a statement, the state said preserving farmland is all the more important during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Westfield High School.
File Photo / The Republican / masslive.com/photos

Just a few months ago, Massachusetts communities were anticipating new money for public schools because of the state education act signed into law last year. But the financial picture has changed significantly because of COVID-19.

Leavitt Family Jewish Home in Longmeadow, Massachusetts, reported 66 deaths so far from the coronavirus.
The Republican / masslive.com/photos

More than half the people who have died from COVID-19 in Massachusetts caught the virus in nursing homes, according to new data from the state. 

The Springfield Roman Catholic Diocese is forming a new panel tasked with looking at how the church deals with clergy sexual abuse.

A veterans' monument in Easthampton, Massachusetts.
Adam Frenier / NEPR

Memorial Day usually means parades and other public ceremonies honoring those who died while serving the armed forces. With COVID-19 restrictions, some western Massachusetts communities are changing how they mark the occasion. 

Virginia Sullivan Finn in her younger days.
Submitted Photo

One former western Massachusetts resident who recently died from COVID-19  is Virginia Sullivan Finn. 

A visitor used hand sanitizer prior to the Springfield Regional Chamber of Commerce Outlook luncheon at the MassMutual Center on Friday, March 6, 2020.
Hoang 'Leon' Nguyen / The Republican / masslive.com/photos

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has said he'll unveil a reopening plan next week for the state's economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Erica Heinlein manages the natural foods department at Guido's Fresh Marketplace in Great Barrington, Mass. where all workers have been required to wear masks since mid-April.
Submitted / Alana Chernila

The coronavirus pandemic has fed fears of both getting sick and food scarcity. And that’s infused grocery shopping with more anxiety for customers and workers. 

Even though school is closed, on a given day there are about a dozen cars lined up in the parking lot of Sanderson Academy in Ashfield with people using the school’s WiFi.

Natalie Szewczyk is one of them. The 18-year-old has turned her Toyota Corolla into a mobile work station.

“I stay in my driver’s seat. I push my seat all the way back,” she explained. “And then I prop my Chromebook on the steering wheel with my work on the passenger seat.”

Her sister, who is in 10th grade, usually takes the back seat.

Saint Michael's is the cathedral of the Roman Catholic  Diocese of Springfield. It is the city's oldest Catholic church.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPR

The Springfield Roman Catholic Diocese and three western Massachusetts prosecutors have reached a deal on how the church will report sexual abuse allegations.

Amber VanBramer, 33, is a critical care nurse at Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. She cares for patients with COVID-19.
Amber VanBramer / Courtesy Amber VanBramer

Critical care nurses like Amber VanBramer are confronting challenges they've never faced before, with about 3,500 people in Massachusetts hospitalized with COVID-19, and about a quarter of them in intensive care.

The north side of Main Street between Eagle and Holden Street in North Adams, Massachusetts.
Beyond My Ken / Creative Commons

Crane Stationery, which has roots in the Berkshires dating back to the early 19th Century, said it's laying off 85% of its workers at the paper company's North Adams, Massachusetts, factory.

A stretch of the Housatonic River in Massachusetts.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPR

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said the COVID-19 pandemic is not delaying the cleanup of the Housatonic River.

Pastor Sam Saylor of Gardner Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church in Springfield, Massachusetts, speaks in a Facebook video.
Gardner Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church / Screenshot / Facebook

Virtual platforms have become a gathering place for many religious groups in New England during the coronavirus pandemic. Faith leaders are tweaking the experience to bring a sense of human contact or address community needs.

A N95 respirator mask.
Robin Lubbock / WBUR

Massachusetts has more than 30,000 confirmed COVID-19 infections as of Thursday, one of the highest state totals in the country, as Gov. Charlie Baker said the peak demand on hospitals is approaching fast.

 At the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Madame Tricot (Dominique Kaehler Schweizer)'s "A Selection of Vegetables 2019." The hand-knitted wool art is part of the exhibit "Savor," now only online during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Toni Hafkenscheid

Like so many places where people gather, museums are closed in the COVID-19 pandemic and people have lost their jobs. Around New England, the big museums are taking a variety of approaches to engage would-be visitors and donors as they try to envision the future. 

The COVID-19 drive-through testing station at Lawrence General Hospital.
Robbin Lubbock / WBUR

A researcher at MIT projects three counties in western Massachusetts have seen the peak in daily new cases of the novel coronavirus, while a fourth will see the top in about a week.

As the coronavirus continues to ravage links in the supply chain, food banks across the state are struggling to feed hungry families while keeping staff and volunteers safe. But a new partnership between the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and local farmers promises to increase access to fresh, organic produce at a time when it’s needed most.

Falasha Paul of Springfield, Massachusetts, after the home birth of her daughter in January 2020.
Submitted / Jharna Harvey-Ahmei

COVID-19 is upending many aspects of life, including the beginning of it.

The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams announced it would lay off 120 of its 165 employees, citing lost revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic. The staff reduction goes into effect April 11.

The Williamsburg Market has had twice the amount of business than usual. Sean Mallari and Steve Smith, who just bought the business this month, unpack a recent delivery that was much bigger than usual.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPR

While the goal of closing schools and businesses is to slow the spread of COVID-19, the impact on employment has been swift in Massachusetts.  

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