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News and events in South Berkshire, Mass.

Baker Discusses Genesis of 'Essential' Business List
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
03:32PM / Tuesday, March 24, 2020
BOSTON — As the state order to close "non-essential" businesses went into effect on Tuesday, Gov. Charlie Baker addressed criticism that the commonwealth's definition of "essential" is overly broad.   "The essential operation portfolio we put out builds off a national standard that every other state that heads down this road has used as a baseline," Baker said in response to a question at a noon news conference. "I don't know what the crossover would be between states, but I would put it north of 90 percent."   Baker said the list of essential operations published by his administration is "well defined and

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Administration Filing Measure to Extend, Suspend Deadlines
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
01:03PM / Tuesday, March 24, 2020
BOSTON — The governor's office is filing a municipal relief package giving broad leeway to communities and school districts to extend deadlines and fees and bring back retired first-responders.    "It's amazing the details of how government works but when in a crisis like this, these adjustments need to be made, so that it can continue to work," Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said at Tuesday's COVID-19 briefing.   The emergency legislation would allow municipalities to bring retired firefighters and police back on board by suspending the cap on hours and compensation for pensioners.    "We've heard a lot about front-line workers -- your

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March 23 COVID-19 Briefs: BMC Not Seeking Homemade Masks
05:06PM / Monday, March 23, 2020
BMC Not Accepting Homemade Masks Berkshire Medical Center is not accepting homemade masks at this time. Several groups on Facebook have been discussing a grassroots effort to make the masks and sharing patterns but Michael Leary, director of media relations for Berkshire Health Systems said, "we are not accepting any donations yet as our supplies are stable right now."   Leary said the hospital was grateful for the community for offering to donate supplies or sew the masks but that it was waiting for guidance from the Department of Public Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.    "This certainly may be an option for us in the near future. We are

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Governor Orders Nonessential Services to Close or Work Remote
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
10:33AM / Monday, March 23, 2020

LIVE COVID-19 update: https://t.co/9eihELHGs1

— Charlie Baker (@MassGovernor) March 23, 2020 BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker issued an emergency order on Monday morning for only essential services to continue operating and reduced the 25-person gathering limit to 10.   The move comes just days after Baker said there was no need to follow in the footsteps of neighboring states New York and Connecticut, who issued similar orders.   On Monday morning, Baker said there were a number of factors that led him to take the step.   "We're in constant contact with other governors, other states, federal and local officials, health care experts and a host of other

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Berkshire County Man Dies From COVID-19
05:55PM / Sunday, March 22, 2020
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The novel coronavirus has claimed its first Berkshire County victim, according to the Department of Public Health.    The number of those who have died in the state now stands at five, including the man from Berkshire County who was reportedly in his 70s.    The first death reported as a result of COVID-19 was on Friday, a man in his 80s from Suffolk County, and on Saturday, a woman in her 50s from Middlesex County.   DPH reported on Sunday that three more people died: the Berkshire County man, a man in his 70s from Hampden County and a man in his 90s from Suffolk County.    All three had been hospitalized.    "The

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March Going Out Like a Lion; Winter Storm Watch for Berkshires
12:28PM / Sunday, March 22, 2020
It may be spring but Mother Nature is giving us one last blast of March winter.   Parts of the Berkshires and Southern Vermont could get up to 10 inches of snow Monday and into Tuesday.    The National Weather Service's office in Albany, N.Y., has issued a winter storm watch from Monday afternoon through late Monday night.    NWS is forecasting 2 to 4 inches during the day Monday and another 3 to 5 later in the evening. A few more inches could arrive early on Tuesday and again on Wednesday through Thursday, when it may finally change over to rain as temperatures rise.   Accuweather says the pair of storms moving thorugh the upper Midwest and into the

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Q&A: Wahconah High Teacher to Participate in NASA Program for Educators
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
07:30AM / Sunday, March 22, 2020

Wahconah science teacher David Dahari is participating in a NASA program this summer. DALTON, Mass. — Wahconah Regional High School science teacher David Dahari is looking out of this world to get some real world experience.   This winter, Dahari was selected to participate in the 2020 NASA Airborne Astronomer Ambassador program.   As one of 28 teachers selected from 13 states, Dahari will have the opportunity this summer to train at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center in Palmdale, Calif., and study aboard the agency's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), a modified Boeing 747 carrying a 100-inch diameter

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Governor Says Army Corps Sussing Out Patient Capacity Options
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
09:20PM / Saturday, March 21, 2020
BOSTON — The state's COVID-19 command center has been in discussions with the Army Corps of Engineers about expanding patient capacity.   "Earlier today, we had a very productive conversation with U.S. Army Corps about ways they could potentially support the commonwealth and its citizens and its health-care system," Gov. Charlie Baker said at Sunday's coronavirus update. "During this outbreak, as most people know, the Army Corps has expertise and skills in designing and building critical infrastructure in a big hurry in times of need."   The governor said the Corps is looking at structures that can be easily modified into patient facilities, with

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Business as Unusual: Small & Large Shops Try to Weather Outbreak
By Tammy Daniels & Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
06:13PM / Friday, March 20, 2020
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Peter Oleskiewicz was near tears early this week as he called his employees and told them they no longer had jobs.    "Hardest thing I have ever had to do," he said.    Like so many local restaurants, Oleskiewicz's Desperados on Eagle Street is trying to adapt to the coronavirus shutdown by shifting from sit-down service to takeout. But you don't need waiters or hosts or bartenders to do that. Oleskiewicz is down to two people in the kitchen as he tries to keep his business alive.    Storefronts and restaurants are going dark or reducing hours across the country as governors and local officials try to keep a

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Baker: No 'Shelter-in-Place' Planned in Massachusetts
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
03:46PM / Friday, March 20, 2020
BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker said on Friday that it was "heartbreaking" that the commonwealth has seen its first fatality because of COVID-19 and continued to maintain he has no plans to issue the kind of shutdown of nonessential businesses New York's governor ordered earlier in the day.   A man in his 80s from Suffolk County with pre-existing medical conditions became the first resident of the commonwealth to die from the pandemic disease, state officials confirmed on Friday.   "Obviously, it's heartbreaking to say, but this is certainly a day I think we all knew would come," Baker said during a livestreamed 40-minute Boston news conference with

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Food Services Continue to Adjust; Fundraiser Set for Williamstown Pantry
Staff Reports,
01:20AM / Friday, March 20, 2020

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Al Nelson Friendship Center Food Pantry will continue to operate during the COVID-19 emergency, officials announced Thursday, a day after changing its pickup procedures for the first time as a result of the pandemic.

"We as a group are committed, in the time-honored fashion of North Adams and Northern Berkshire pulling together, to do our part to take care of each other," Mark Rondeau, co-founder and board president, said in a statement. "We have hope that after this crisis much better days are coming. Stay tuned."

The next pickup is Wednesday, March 25, from the center's 45 Eagle Street location. Social distancing procedures will be

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Governor Activates Massachusetts National Guard
06:55PM / Thursday, March 19, 2020
BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker late Thursday activated the Massachusetts National Guard to support the commonwealth's response to the COVID-19 outbreak.   Baker's order authorizes activation of up to 2,000 National Guard members who will be tasked with supporting requests from state agencies for equipment, logistics, warehousing, and related duties. Local cities, towns, and state agencies should submit requests for support through the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.   "Activating the National Guard will help support our administration's efforts to keep residents safe and secure during the COVID-19 outbreak," said Baker in a statement. "The

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