Tyer: cautious optimism, continued vigilance

This article, authored by Noah Hoffenberg, was originally posted in The Berkshire Eagle, as part of the city’s “Bring Back the Joys of Life – Stay in the Fight” awareness campaign.

The city’s “Bring Back the Joys of Life” billboards might be coming down, but its message to end COVID-19 will continue on with the help of the Pittsfield Police Department.

The awareness campaign, originally a six-week effort, was designed to offer inspiration through the pandemic. With clear and simple messaging, it encouraged all Pittsfield residents and visitors to keep doing their part so that we can all, once again, experience the joys of life.

The billboards, which went up Jan. 11, are set to be taken down on Feb. 22; costs were covered by a pandemic-related funding.

But, says Mayor Linda Tyer, the message to Bring Back the Joys of Life will continue, with “wraps,” or banners, now displayed on the rear windshields of 20 department police cars. “Now, we have mobile billboards traveling all over the city of Pittsfield,” says Tyer.

The campaign kicked off in January at a critical time for the city, as it was still grappling with ripple effects from a coronavirus surge that began in October, notes Tyer.

“We have come through the other side of that. I’m cautiously optimistic that we’re going to be able to maintain it. It requires us to adhere to all the things we know that work,” Tyer says. “Wear a mask, keep your distance, wash your hands, stay home, don’t gather with groups you don’t live with, and please, get your vaccination when you’re eligible.”

Even with vaccinations, people in the city should still maintain all of the protocols that have kept us safe, she says.

“We’re not there yet, but we can do a lot right now to continue to protect ourselves and get us to the point where we’re actually bringing back the joys of life and not just dreaming about it,” says Tyer.

High praise for vaccine collaborative

Tyer had high praise for the Berkshire Vaccine Team which established the various vaccine clinics in North, Central and South County areas.

“This regional collaboration has received very high marks from the state’s public health officials. It’s been a massive partnership between the hospital, the local boards of health, the Western Massachusetts Medical Reserve Corps and the councils on aging,” says Tyer. “We set up this very thorough infrastructure, and we were able to launch as soon the vaccine became available.”

She says the region is well-positioned to continue providing the service as eligibility continues to open up.

The work of the all-volunteer Western Mass Medical Reserve Corps has been inspiring, Tyer notes, as is the continued support of the region’s police, fire and EMS outfits that have been providing assistance at the countywide clinics.

The Medical Reserve Corps still needs volunteers, Tyer adds, and anyone who is interested should visit its website, wmmrc.org/covid-19, to apply.

“Volunteers are needed to serve in many different capacities. Not everyone has to have a background or be trained in a medical field. Many volunteers are helping with data entry, which is vital to reporting to the state, while trained medical personnel administer the vaccination,” Tyer says.

Tyer recently attended a parade of thanks for medical professionals, first responders and other essential workers who never stopped working through the pandemic, and she continues to be moved by their selflessness.

“I am in complete awe of anyone who has been on the front line of this pandemic, the doctors and nurses, nursing home health care providers, police and fire, local boards of health. All of those highly trained professionals that have a specific area of expertise, have contributed to protecting the people of our city,” says Tyer.

She also lauds grocery store workers, in particular, who through great personal risk kept their stores open during the outbreak.

“They ensured we’ve had access to the food and supplies that we need to maintain our households. That’s not a small thing,” Tyer says.

A focus on the COVID weary and children

As the city looks with hope to the approaching end to COVID-19, Tyer is already thinking about the near future, with a particular emphasis on “how we provide the proper care to people who have been fighting hard in the trenches all this time.”

“I will advocate for programs for people who have experienced extraordinary levels of stress, so that they can also experience the joys of life,” says Tyer.

The same holds true for the young people of the city, Tyer says. One of her priorities — and that of the School Committee — is to have schools reopen fully when safe.

While kids seem to be the ones who are least affected initially by the virus, the long-term effects of remote learning is the next potential crisis that we have to be planning for, says Tyer.

“I know that teachers, school adjustment counselors, administrators, principals, and so many in our community, are thinking about ways to help kids restore their equilibrium. They’ve gone through a lot, they’ve lost a lot, and reopening means we have to do several things to bring back the balance they once had before schools closed,” notes Tyer.

There is tremendous power and joy in the simple things like socializing in the hallways, or having lunch together, in addition to the major occasions like prom and graduation, she says.

“All of these things are vital to a young person’s sense of connectedness and well-being,” she says. “Re-opening our schools is a crucial next step for our students, that will allow them to both resume their academics and experience the joys of school life once more,” says Tyer.

For more news from the mayor’s office, or for coronavirus updates and resources, visit cityofpittsfield.org.