Coverage of Franklin County, Massachusetts.

A woman on a zipline at Berkshire East in Charlemont, Massachusetts.
Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism

A western Massachusetts town official addressed state lawmakers Monday, asking them to support a bill that would allow the community to impose a 3% tax on commercal recreation services like rafting, skiing and ziplining.

A vial with a swab test for COVID-19.
Tony Spinelli / Connecticut Public

A western Massachusetts public health expert said the data isn't clear on whether COVID-19 cases are leveling off in the region.

What Is Holding Western Massachusetts Behind In COVID Fight?

Sep 27, 2021
Richard Bodo of Auburn, Massachusetts, receiving the COVID-19 vaccine at the Eastfield Mall in Springfield, Massachusetts, on February 1, 2021.
Alden Bourne / NEPM

The surge in COVID-19 cases across Massachusetts since the late summer fueled by the delta variant is showing its first signs of slowing down. But concern remains high in the western half of the state, which is home to the counties and communities with some of the state’s highest rates of COVID infection and lowest rates of vaccination.

Audrey Helen Weber wrote and illustrated the children's  picture book, "On The Day the Horse Got Out."
Submitted Photo

"On the Day the Horse Got Out" is a rhyming picture book written and illustrated by Hampshire College graduate and Greenfield resident, Audrey Helen Weber. Weber said she has created "a lot of little self-published books" throughout the years, but this is her first “official book.”

The entrance to the Franklin County Sheriff's Office in Greenfield, Massachusetts.
Jeff Brown / Masslive /

In Berkshire County, at least 13 incarcerated people have tested positive for COVID-19 since late last month.

Six staff members have also tested positive. About half of those who tested positive for COVID in Berkshire County correctional facilities are vaccinated, according to the sheriff's office.

Masked fairgoers walk past unmasked participants inside an animal exhibition barn at the Three County Fair in Northampton, Massachusetts, on September 6, 2021.
Alden Bourne / NEPM

The head of the Three County Fair in Northampton, Massachusetts, said he expects the organization to be fined by the city health department because some visitors did not follow mask rules.

Singer Tinky Weisblat with pianist and composer Jerry Noble, after their July 31, 2021, concert in Charlemont, Massachusetts.

I agree with the creator and star of “Hamilton,” Lin-Manuel Miranda, who said performers are “like Tinker Bell in the play ‘Peter Pan.’ We need applause to live.”

Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, Mass.
Kevin Gutting / Daily Hampshire Gazette /

While the numbers of COVID-19 patients are creeping up, western Massachusetts hospitals have not yet had to limit elective care.

Massachusetts Secretary of State Bill Galvin (left) and Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno in Springfield walk to a press conference.
Adam Frenier / NEPM

Massachusetts Secretary of State Bill Galvin said action needs to be taken to grow the population of the western part of the state. He made his comments Wednesday during a visit to Springfield.

Downtown Holyoke, Massachusetts.
Joseph / Creative Commons/

New figures from the U.S. Census show the four counties of western Massachusetts ranked at the bottom in the state for percentage population growth over the past 10 years.

Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts -- a village located in the towns of Buckland and Shelburne.
Mary Serreze/Masslive /

Two small towns in western Massachusetts are ranked among the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the state. But some officials blame a glitch in the data collection.

A map, produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, showing the level of community transmission of COVID-19 in Massachusetts as of August 2, 2021. Red signifies high, orange means substantial and yellow is for moderate.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recent COVID-19 guidance recommends that everyone — regardless of vaccination status — wear a mask in indoor public settings in areas of substantial and high community transmission. That now includes all of Massachusetts, except for Hampshire and Franklin counties, which the CDC lists as having a moderate level of transmission.

Massachusetts State Auditor Suzanne Bump.
File Photo / Daily Hamsphire Gazette /

The state auditor concluded that a western Massachusetts educational collaborative failed to ensure some teachers who worked for it were properly licensed.

A PVTA bus.
Mark M. Murray / The Republican / MassLive

State lawmakers from the western part of Massachusetts disagrees with Governor Charlie Baker's veto of funding requested for regional bus systems — like the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority.

Interior of St. Michael's Cathedral in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Farragutful / Creative Commons

Updated at 4:09 p.m. 

The Catholic Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts, has expanded a list of clergy and lay employees credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor while serving in the diocese. Some of the findings date back decades, as the diocese has expanded its criteria for disclosure.

A van from the Franklin County Sheriff's Office.
State of Massachusetts

A lawyer who works with people detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement said some of them are not happy after they were transferred from a facility in Greenfield, Massachusetts, to one in the eastern part of the state.


Banjo camps and academic discussions of the centuries-old instrument have been taking place for years, according to Greenfield, Massachusetts, musician Michael Nix. But there are not many events that showcase how the picking and playing of the banjo has evolved.

Anna Dellarosa, at left, is raising her three great-nieces in Turners Falls, Massachusetts. Gretchen Emond is co-director of The Support Network, which assists families in navigating the mental health care system.
Ben James / NEPM

Gretchen Emond and Anna Dellarosa have a relationship forged from years of common experience.

A new psychiatric hospital called MiraVista, operated by Health Partners New England, is scheduled to open April 21, 2021, at the site of the former Providence Behavioral Health Hospital in Holyoke, Massachusetts.
Ben James / NEPM

Jodi is a mom who lives in Franklin County, Massachusetts. Her daughter started experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression about five years ago at age 13. Those symptoms, along with a serious problem with alcohol abuse, spiked during the pandemic.

Nurses talk to a patient at the COVID-19 mass vaccination site at Eastfield Mall in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Hoang 'Leon' Nguyen / The Republican /

New numbers from the state show Hampden County now trails all other Massachusetts counties in the percentage of residents fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Downtown Springfield, Massachusetts.
Rusty Clark / Creative Commons /

More than $2 billion in federal aid from the recent COVID-19 relief bill could be flowing to Massachusetts cities and towns. There are a lot of unknowns, but Springfield stands to get a chunk of it.

Jack Kelley at right, with his father John Kelley, of Hadley, Massachusetts.
Submitted Photo

High school senior Jack Kelley of Hadley, Massachusetts, has observed a milestone few other teens could claim. Inspired by a videogame he played as a preteen, Jack began to visit fire towers, or fire lookouts. 

Norton Juster, who wrote "The Phantom Tollbooth," has died at 91.
Joyce Skowyra / NEPM

The well-known children's book author Norton Juster has died at age 91. Juster started out as a New Yorker, but spent the last few decades of his life in western Massachusetts.

Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, Massachusetts.
File Photo / Daily Hamphire Gazette

At least one western Massachusetts hospital is no longer scheduling appointments for the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine — for now. That's after the state said it's focusing its limited supply on other sites like the Eastfield Mall in Springfield.

Mercy Medical Center in Springfield, Massachusetts
Don Treeger / The Republican / Masslive

The top doctor at a Springfield, Massachusetts, medical facility said the region has enough capacity to treat patients for COVID-19 and other illnesses — at least for now.

The Daily Hampshire Gazette is based in Northampton, Mass.
File photo / Daily Hampshire Gazette /

Five more employees have been laid off at the Daily Hampshire Gazette, based in Northampton, Massachusetts. The job reductions are again being blamed on the pandemic.

The office of the bishop of the Springfield Catholic Diocese.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPR

The Springfield Roman Catholic Diocese said it will expand which clergy accused of sexual abuse it lists on its website.

The incoming bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese in Springfield, Massachusetts, William Byrne, appeared at an introductory press conference in October 2020.
Adam Frenier / NEPM

On Monday, the Rev. Bill Byrne will be installed as bishop of the Springfield Roman Catholic Diocese. He succeeds Mitchell Rozanski, who left this summer to become archbishop of St. Louis.

A health care worker places a cotton swab into a vile after taking a sample from someone being tested for COVID-19 last month at a drive-through testing area at Somerville Hospital.
Jesse Costa / WBUR

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker announced on Monday an expansion of free COVID-19 testing in the western part of the state.

An inmate is tested for COVID-19 at the Hampden County Correctional Center in Ludlow, Massachusetts.
Mark Murray / Hampden County Sheriff's Office

Earlier this week, the sheriff of Hampden County announced that 10% of inmates in the department's Ludlow, Massachusetts, jail had tested positive for COVID-19.  But the sheriffs of the other three counties in western Massachusetts said they see no need to test all their inmates.