In response to the Massachusetts State of Emergency announced this week the town has stepped up preventive actions to help reduce residents’ risk of exposure to, or transmission of, the COVID-19 virus.

The town has taken the following steps, effective immediately:

· Suspending non-essential meetings of town board and committees until further notice.

· Suspending SELECT classes and fitness activities at the Claire Teague Senior, but the Center remains open for community meals and routine appointments with Center staff. Call ahead to see if your class is still happening: (413) 528-1881.

· Lifting the town’s ban on the sale of single-use plastic water bottles until April 30, 2020, at which time the measure will be reviewed.

· Discouraging residents from hosting or attending larger public or private gatherings.

The town will make efforts to ensure that essential town meetings will be televised by CTSB-TV, so that residents can remain informed without attending in person, said Town Manager Mark Pruhenski.

Meanwhile, the town continues to urge residents to be diligent with personal hygiene, avoid contact with those who may be sick and generally keep a social distance from others.

Town Hall will remain open to provide essential services to residents at this time. However, the town encourages residents to make payments for taxes or other town bills at the town website.

The town will continue to update residents with information on the town website, social media and traditional media outlets.

Earlier this week, the town announced the formation of a COVID-19 response group that is meeting regularly to evaluate public health information and determine any initial steps needed to protect residents from the COVID-19 virus to the best extent possible.

Anyone with flu-like symptoms—fever, cough, shortness of breath--should remain home. But if you believe you have been exposed to the COVID-19 and need medical assistance:

-Call your primary care provider for guidance
-Before going a local hospital/emergency room, call the Berkshire Health Systems information line: 1-855-262-5465.
-If you are severely ill, call 911.

To stay as healthy as possible:

-Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
-Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
-Clean things that are frequently touched (like doorknobs and countertops) with household cleaning spray or wipes.
-Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. Use a tissue or your inner elbow, not your hands.
-Stay home if you are sick and avoid close contact with others; keep children home from school of they are sick.
-Avoid non-essential meetings, gatherings or events, and keep a distance from others.
-Assist elderly or medically vulnerable friends and neighbors to the best extent possible while keeping yourself safe and healthy.

The town’s COVID-19 response group includes the emergency management director, town fire and police, town manager and assistant town manager, health agent, a representative from Fairview Hospital, superintendent of the Berkshire Hills Regional School District and the director of Southern Berkshire Ambulance.

Residents seeking the most up-to-date information about COVID-19 are urged to check periodically with:

Massachusetts Dept. of Public Health

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Residents may also contact the Great Barrington Board of Health,