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Williamstown Officials: 'Yellow' COVID-19 Designation Not Accurate
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
02:18PM / Thursday, September 10, 2020
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The latest community-level map of COVID-19 cases on the state's website. The interactive map is also posted on iBerkshire's COVID-19 update page.

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The town's health inspector said Thursday he has no idea why the commonwealth's COVID-19 Community Level map is showing Williamstown as the lone "yellow" community in Berkshire County.
 
"I don't know where those numbers are coming from," Jeff Kennedy said. "I'm checking my computer. I'm checking the communicable disease database. I talked with my public health nurse.
 
"We only have, basically, one positive [COVID-19 test] in town right now, and that's the one you know about at Williams that's under isolation."
 
Late Wednesday, the state Department of Public Health posted its latest weekly map categorizing all 351 Massachusetts municipalities as "higher risk (red), moderate risk (yellow), or lower risk (green)" for the current rate of spread of the novel coronavirus.
 
According to the map, Williamstown has had five cases in the last two weeks and an average daily incidence rate per 100,000 people of 4.85.
 
It is one of four communities in Western Massachusetts designated as yellow, joining Easthampton, Holyoke and Wilbraham on that list. Monson is the lone town in the region listed in the red, with an incidence rate per 100,000 of 8.47, according to the commonwealth.
 
Williamstown's Kennedy was at a loss to explain how the town of 7,700 moved from grey (fewer than five reported cases) to yellow (4 to 8 cases per 100,000) in the period from Sept. 2 to Sept. 9.
 
"It's one of the glitches in the system," he said. "I wasn't aware of it until I got a couple of emails coming in, including one from Win Stuebner."
 
Stuebner, a member of the town's Board of Health, said Thursday morning he was not aware of the town's designation as yellow until after he received a phone call from iBerkshires.com seeking comment.
 
"Of course, we knew we had the two at the college," Stuebner said.
 
Williams College maintains a public "dashboard" of test results from the testing program it stood up on Aug. 17. It currently shows two positives since Aug. 17 out of 7,427 tests; one positive was in the last seven days. 
 
"The first case at Williams, there were no exposures [in town]," Stuebner said. "He or she was dropped off by their parents and went right to the testing area. The second one at Williams came by bus. Ten other students are currently quarantined as well as the driver. But no cases I'm aware of have popped up from that."
 
Kennedy speculated it was possible that Williamstown is being "credited" with a diagnosis that happened outside of town of someone, like a student, who lists the North Berkshire community as their hometown.
 
He said he would ask the town's designated public health nurse to contact DPH to find out why the map designation does not match the numbers on the ground.
 
Kennedy said he has notified officials at the Mount Greylock Regional School District, which has triggers in its reopening plan based on the town's status under the green/yellow/red designations, that the designation as yellow appears to be without basis.
 
"I don't know how we got yellow," Kennedy said. "Maybe someone got overambitious with a highlighter."
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