Blog - Williamstown, MA
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Shopping update, March 26th;

The Massachusetts Commissioner of Public Health has issued new shopping guidelines which will include marked social distancing lines. I know that Cumberland Farms have marked intervals with an X on the floor, I assume that others will follow suit.

They are also indicating that  “customers at grocery stores and pharmacies shall not use reusable checkout bags until further notice”. They’re saying that the ban on single use plastic bags is lifted for now and stores will use paper, compostable plastic or single use bags.

Grocers and pharmacies will not be allowed to charge for paper, compostable plastic or single use bags.

If you go shopping, leave your bags at home, you can’t use them for now. And if we are shopping for you, we’re not taking them along for use.

Grocery stores and pharmacies now must provide at least one hour daily for “adults 60 years and older” to limit exposure to the COVID virus..

They should also be providing access to hand washing facilities, alcohol based sanitizers if available and disinfecting wipes as available at the point of entrance.

No salad bars, self serve open food stations or open free samples or tastings either.

A reminder; Social Distancing applies to van rides to shop as well.The number of individuals who can ride at once is restricted to 3 at the most per trip. We’ll provide information to individuals requesting the service about their trip when we’re called.

Finally, after some initial shopping, we’ve discovered that in addition to a check and  store card, a phone number would be helpful as a call back with questions during the actual shopping expedition about orders  might be needed. Not everyone has a number on their check.

                ‘.

Wednesday March 25th, 2020

I imagine that there are numbers of people looking for information about the COVID-19 pandemic we’re in and of course THEY are out there trying to get to you too. By they I mean the unscrupulous creeps who will try to take advantage of the situation. 

Anyway here’s a few suggestions.

Don’t click on any links or attachments you might receive in your email or from a messaging service wanting to give you COVID-19 information.

Don’t fall for legitimate looking messages, they could very well be fakes and cyberthieves are pretty good at making something look real. Or important to read. Or urgent. Just because it says that it’s from a reputable source does not mean that it is.

If you want COVID news and you don’t want to watch the competing talking heads on TV, navigate directly to the WHO and CDC websites. Here are their addresses;

The US Center for Disease Control; www.cdc.goc

The World Health Organization is : www.who.int

By the way, as I was looking them up, the WHO has a scammer alert on their website. People are trying to say that they are from the WHO. Cold people for sure!

Anyway, here in Williamstown, we have a few more people interested in being volunteer shoppers and today we have had some serious interest from several people who would like us to shop for them. We’re picking up groceries for folks tomorrow. Colleagues from across North Berkshire  tell me that there is an uptick in the number of interested people. I’m not surprised. It’s sinking in right? 

Anyway, if your health is compromised or you know someone who’s homebound, has difficulty shopping or should not go out at the moment, tell them to call us. There are options out there. We’re at 423.458.8250  and if you can’t reach us, leave a message with a call back number and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible. 

The  Foodbank of Western Massachusetts is now telling us that the mobile pantry will NOT resume in April. There is information out there indicating that they would  be back in action but as of today, COVID-19 has shut them down. We received an email about this just this afternoon. We’ll keep you posted.

We’re also taking a different approach to van ridership too. Going forward, we’ll not be transporting any more than 2 or 3 people at the same time. We can space people out on the vehicle, so-no more setting together until, well, whenever. Social distancing. For those of you who travel together, we’re sorry. We’ll do what we can but right now it’s ugly out there. As usual, call us and the driver will get back to you with a time the vehicle is available. We’re still providing rides and we’re still focused on life support-medical and food shopping. Well, at this moment there isn’t anything else!

If you use the Williamstown landfill and you missed the news, the requirement to use town sanctioned trash bags has been lifted for now. Limit your exposure in stores…

Finally, while we’re all practicing social distancing, you can be socially distant and still go outside.  If you can, go for a walk. While I was looking at the CDC website earlier there was a new study report talking about how a higher daily step count is linked with lower cause mortality from all causes. It’s a new report. You’ve been hearing us preaching the benefits of walking for a long time. Now here’s an official report. Check it out. And get out of the house, stop watching the news and go for a walk! 

We’ll talk again soon!

March 24, 2020

Dear Northern Berkshire County Families,

In partnership with our pediatricians, Town Managers, Town Administrators,  and Town Health Inspectors, Mount Greylock Regional School District implores students, families and our wider community to combat the spread of the Coronavirus 2019 Disease (“COVID-19”) by practicing “social distancing” most effectively by STAYING HOME.

COVID-19 presents an unprecedented health crisis and public health emergency.  The virus is easily transmitted, and it has the demonstrated ability to infect substantial sections of the community. While the elderly and people with compromised immune systems are at greatest risk, all people, young and old, can contract, carry and transmit this virus.  By interacting and socializing with others, we put people at risk for infection. Regardless of whether we feel ill or well, we have the potential to spread the virus by interacting. There is a single response. STAY HOME.

Other countries already grappling with the spread of the virus have seen their health care systems overwhelmed by ill patients. Without the capacity to care for such large numbers, these health care systems have watched thousands of patients die. And now the rampant spread of this virus threatens to overwhelm our community’s health care system if we, as a community, do not act proactively and responsibly by distancing ourselves from each other and STAYING HOME.  

The letter shared below from County Boards of Health, Berkshire Health Systems and the our largest Berkshire County cities articulates succinctly the threat COVID-19 presents to our community, its health services and health care workers fighting this virus and caring for the ill.  This is our critical health problem, and it is our responsibility to act to eliminate it.

Sincerely,

Superintendent Kimberley Grady and The Mount Greylock Regional School District Administrative Team

Town Managers Jason Hoch and Kelli Robbins

——————————————————————————————————————————————-

AN OPEN LETTER FROM THE BOARDS OF HEALTH OF BERKSHIRE COUNTY, THE CITIES OF PITTSFIELD AND NORTH ADAMS, THE TOWNS OF ADAMS, CHESHIRE, LANESBOROUGH AND WILLIAMSTOWN  AND BERKSHIRE HEALTH SYSTEMS (March 23, 2020)

The Coronavirus 2019 Disease (“COVID-19”) presents our community with a public health emergency of unprecedented severity. This virus is easily transmitted, especially in group settings. In other parts of the world it has already demonstrated the ability to infect large segments of a population and overwhelm the capacity of health care systems to care for ill patients. It has resulted in the deaths of thousands of individuals. It now threatens the health of our community, particularly those most vulnerable to the virus and our health care workers.

The most effective tool we have available to combat the spread of this disease is to rigorously follow a straight forward strategy. That strategy is to STAY HOME. Experience in other parts of the world has already demonstrated that effective “social distancing” is an effective way to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Since the first cases of COVID-19 were recognized in Berkshire two weeks ago, we have witnessed an alarming increase in patients requiring hospital care by our health care system. If as a community we fail to implement an effective STAY HOME strategy, the increasing number of ill patients will overwhelm our ability to provide the care necessary for many of them to survive this infection.

Given the presence of the COVID-19 virus in the Berkshires, even with effective social distancing, the number of cases of COVID-19 in Berkshire County will continue to rise for some weeks as we STAY HOME. Among the steps to protect the health of the public and prevent the further spread of COVID-19, as cases of COVID-19 are diagnosed, public health nurses and other health care professionals will be determining the need for some of us to be placed under “Quarantine” and in some circumstances ”Isolation.”

Again, full participation by the citizens of Berkshire County is vital to our success in combating COVID-19. Ultimately, it will not be the acute care resources of the health system but our ability to prevent the spread of this disease that will turn the tide in this battle. We all have the responsibility to do what we can to reduce the risk to ourselves, to our families and to our communities. We will only be successful if all of us, not just some of us, adhere to the requirements for social distancing as well as Quarantine and Isolation when indicated.

If we all do our part, together we will save lives and beat this virus.

Mayor Linda Tyer, City of Pittsfield

Mayor Tom Bernard, City of North Adams

Town Manager Jason Hoch, Town of Williamstown 

Town Manager Kelli Robbins, Town of Lanesborough

Town Administrator Edmund R. St. John, IV, Town of Cheshire

Town Administrator Jay R. Green, Town of Adams

James Lederer, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Berkshire Health Systems

Laura Kittross, Director, Berkshire County Boards of Health Association, on behalf of the 32 Boards of Health in Berkshire County

Updates for March 23rd, 2020.

Happy Monday!

We’re now being told that the Foodbank of Western Massachusetts will be doing the Brown Bag delivery for March after all. They’ll come to us pre-packaged. We’ll deliver to your door this time…we really don’t want people in the building if we can avoid it.

CVS Pharmacy in North Adams will also deliver medications via mail. It’s a program called Rx Delivery. The number there is 413.664.8712. They need pertinent information to set up an account with you including credit or debit cards. 

The Williamstown Food Pantry at St.Patrick/Raphael Church will be open again this week, Wednesday March 25th, 9:30 to noon. If you’re driving over, use Mission Drive and circle around behind the church, stay in line, do not exit your car. Volunteers will ask for your list, completed packages will be left on the table for drive by pick up.

Walkers should go to the front of the line and they’ll try to serve you quickly.

At no time will anyone be allowed into the building!

And while they’re thankful that they are thinking of them, they’re not able to accept any new volunteers at the moment!

Big Y has indicated that they will be open from 8AM-8PM and reserved times at 7:00AM-8:00 AM  for seniors and people with compromised immunity daily.

Ocean State Job Lot is keeping regular hours but are limiting purchase of essential items, such as cleaning and personal care supplies.

Updates for Friday March 20th

The Williamstown Council on Aging now has the capacity, limited at the moment, to shop for and deliver groceries to homebound or health compromised  elders. We have individuals who have indicated their willingness to volunteer to help with this and we will utilize staff resources as well including the van to deliver.

The process will be very simple. Individuals who need our help can contact us at 413.458.8250 and we’ll talk. It would be most convenient if we could  pick up a written list directly from participants to avoid misunderstanding. We will want to know what sorts of food you need and the quantities, i.e two loaves of bread, one dozen eggs, etc. We’ll take your list and shop. As a matter of logical convenience we’ll be utilizing our local North Adams Stop and Shop. 

We’re happy to purchase items we can, however,  given the current state of affairs with COVID-19, some items may be out of stock. You’ll have to decide whether a substitute item is acceptable whether it be a different brand or size of item. Initially we won’t be thinking about utilizing coupons, it adds unnecessary time to the process. We’d also appreciate it if you have your own shopping bags, pandemic or not, we don’t want to flood the world with more plastic. 

We’ll be asking you questions about  exposure to the Coronavirus. Be honest.  We won’t expose our staff or volunteers to this infection however, we might be able to leave food outside the door  to retrieve after we have cleared the location.

We won’t be able to retrieve medications for you either. Sorry.

You can give us a signed check and your Stop and Shop card to pay for your order, we’ll fill in the amount and you’ll have a receipt to verify what we bought. You’ll get the purchase points! This will be a weekly effort while the pandemic lasts so don’t feel that you have to buy for an entire army…

Of course, if you want to go yourself, our van will bring you as usual. This all sounds contradictory but some disabled individuals who can’t carry groceries like going to the store to pick out items.

Speaking of the van, we’ll be going to the senior only shopping hours (6AM-7:30 AM) at Stop and Shop on Tuesday and Thursday mornings -they’re opening at 6 AM to accommodate elders shopping and we’ll bring people without transport over. Call us by 2:00 in the afternoon Monday and Wednesday if you’re planning on going along with us.

Questions? Call 413.458.8250 or email; bogrady@williamstownma.gov

Now for those folks who prefer Big Y, they have the Instacart Delivery Service we spoke about the other day. Participants order groceries online and have them delivered directly to the home. Enroll in the program and choose items from the sale flyer, place orders at www.instacart.com/big-y  The phone number there is 413.663.6549. And don’t forget the curbside  pickup option at Wild oats Community Markets. order@wildoats.coop is the address there.  Both of these programs have service fees. The phone number at Wild Oats is 413.458.8060.

While we’re on the topic of delivery, remember that two local pharmacies-the Berkshire Community Pharmacy in North Adams, 413.664.5333 and Williamstown Walgreen, 413. 458.2138, deliver medications to the homes of their customers- Berkshire Community delivers directly and Walgreens via FedEx.

Finally, for those of you who regularly contribute to our food collection for the St. Patrick/Raphael Food Pantry, unfortunately at this moment we’re not open to receive your donation but please leave them at the vestibule in the Parish Hall next to the church on Southworth Street.

That’s it for this week, we’ll be back on Monday. In the meanwhile, have a great weekend everyone!

From the Council on Aging

Big Y Supermarkets have a program called “Instacart” where participants can order groceries online and have them delivered directly to the home. Participants sign up at www.instacart.com/big-y Choose items from the weekly Big Y Sales Flyer and submit your order. An instacart shopper assembles the order and delivers it. There are delivery charges. Additionally the weekly in store deals, coupons, etc won’t be honored-it’s all done without using a Big Y card.

The number to our local North Adams Big Y is 413.663.6549, call them with specific questions.

Wild Oats Community Markets have initiated a new service called “Curbside PickUp”.

This is also an online based order program, order@wildoats.coop is the address.

They’re asking you to include your phone number in your message with your list of items. They’ll need that to process your order and communicate with you at pick up time. Credit Card orders must be processed by telephone and they’ll ask you for billing information when they call to let you know that your order is ready. Essentially, order online, they will assemble the order and call you when ready, you go and pick it up, they’ll bring it to your car. This saves you from having to go into the market yourself.  There is a $5 fee to make this happen. Wild Oats main store number is; 413.458.8060. Call them for information.

Two local pharmacies are able to deliver medications to individual homes. Walgreens here in Williamstown uses FedEx to deliver, usually within 24 hours of receiving a prescription and they say that they send orders out twice daily. The number there is 413.458.2138

The Berkshire Community Pharmacy housed in the lobby of the former hospital also delivers medications. You can reach them at 413.664.5333