BERKSHIRE COUNTY

Coverage of Berkshire County, Massachusetts.

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.  

Some of the Tiffany windows inside the First Congregational Church in Pittsfield, Mass. The 22,176-square-foot building is for sale.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPR

The oldest church congregation in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, is selling its building.

In this file photo from 2014, thousands gather for Mercy Sunday Mass at the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
File Photo / Berkshire Eagle / berkshireeagle.com

With new cases of COVID-19 announced every day in New England, many events, meetings and conferences are being postponed or canceled. Among them is an annual Catholic gathering, in April this year, that attracts 15,000 faithful from around the world to Stockbridge, Massachusetts.  

The Clarksburg Senior Center in Clarksburg, Massachusetts, in 2019.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPR

The number of confirmed or presumed positive cases of the new coronavirus has grown to five in western Massachusetts — all in Berkshire County, according to numbers the state public health department released on Monday.

The Housatonic River.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPR

Some Berkshire County residents say they should have more of a say in whether PCBs will be buried in a disposal site in the region. 

The Berkshire Innovation Center was built on part of the site of the former General Electric plant in Pittsfield, Mass.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPR

The Berkshire Innovation Center opens officially on Friday morning. One of its goals is to help companies keep pace with changing technology. An even bigger goal is to attract and retain talented workers to the area. 

A stretch of the Housatonic River in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPM

Public meetings on a new toxic waste cleanup plan for the Housatonic River are being held in two Berkshire County towns this week. The first meeting was organized in Lee by a group that opposes the plan.

The Housatonic River in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in 2009 after a GE/EPA cleanup.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPM

General Electric and several stakeholders reached a deal this week on the next phase of cleaning up toxic waste from the Housatonic River.

A voting sign.
Keith Ivey / Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/kcivey

The voter registration deadline for the March 3rd Massachusetts presidential primary is this Wednesday. And a new state law is causing some people to be registered more than once. 

A stretch of the Housatonic River.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPM

Updated at 11:00 p.m.

After more than a year and a half of mediation, the U.S. EPA New England office, General Electric and cities and towns along the Housatonic River have agreed to dispose some toxic PCB sediment at a site near the Lee-Lenox line, about 1,000 feet from the river. But not all participants in the mediated settlement agree with the decision. 

The Housatonic Rest of River Municipal Committee met behind closed doors in Lee, Massachusetts.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPR

Berkshire County municipal officials are discussing the details of a possible mediated agreement with General Electric on the cleanup of the Housatonic River.

The Housatonic River.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPR

Massachusetts has allocated the last of a pot of money designated to compensate for the damage to the environment caused by General Electric's Pittsfield plant. 

A courthouse in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
Berkshire District Attorney's Office / Facebook

A top lawyer in the Berkshire County District Attorney's office resigned this week after a dispute involving the release of public documents.

Elizabeth Freeman is buried in the Sedgwick family plot in the Stockbridge, Massachusetts, cemetery.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPR

Nearly 250 years ago this month, 11 men gathered in a house on the Housatonic River to draft a document on equality and independence aimed at the British crown. A woman who was enslaved in the house overheard the discussion, and determined the words applied to her, too.

A stretch of the Housatonic River in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPM

A citizens group focused on the cleanup of the Housatonic River is meeting in Lenox, Massachusetts, Wednesday night, but a key issue will not be discussed.

Recreational Marijuana Sales Help Pittsfield Save For Rainy Day

Jan 10, 2020
Marijuana at Temescal Wellness in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Aviva Luttrell / MassLive / masslive.com/photos

Recreational marijuana sales have been a boon to Pittsfield's ability to stash money away in case of an emergency or downturn, a strategy that a Massachusetts official said Thursday could be useful in other communities.

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