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As Massachusetts Reopens, Health Data Remains Positive


      A week into the second phase of gradual reopening and officials in the largest city in western Massachusetts say the health data continues in the right direction. 

    The city of Springfield saw the number of new COVID-19 cases remain in single digits each of the last three days.  One of the city’s hospitals reported no new cases one day last week – a first since the virus initially appeared in western Massachusetts in early March.

   "So, we are moving in the right direction-- there is light at the end of the tunnel," said Mayor Domenic Sarno.


  At his weekly briefing on COVID-19, Sarno said phase two of the state’s gradual reopening plan that began June 8th is going well in Springfield. 

    In this phase, retail stores welcomed back shoppers, child care centers and day camps resumed, playgrounds reopened, sports leagues can have practices, libraries provide curbside pick-up and restaurants can have outdoor dining. 

    The city processed applications from 40 restaurants seeking permits to develop outdoor dining spaces, A portion of downtown street was closed to traffic to accommodate one restaurant’s plans.

    Sarno said the city is following all of the guidelines from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to keep the spread of the virus in check and he urged everyone to continue to follow the advice for social distancing, wearing face coverings in public and frequent hand washing.

    "It would be demoralizing to take a step forward and then end up having to take two steps back and have to re-shut things down," said Sarno.

    COVID-19 has claimed the lives of 115 Springfield residents as of Sunday. According to data from the city’s health department, 54 were residents of long term care facilities. Eleven of the COVID-19 deaths were people under the age of 60.

    The Baystate Health network of hospitals had 25 COVID-19 patients on Monday with five in intensive care.  A far cry from early April when the hospitals had 180 patients and 40 in the ICU.

     Baystate CEO Dr. Mark Keroack said what Massachusetts did to fight the spread of the virus is working.   But nationwide, the number of new cases has plateaued at a very high number—about 20,000 per day with 800 deaths.   Twenty-two states are seeing cases rise.

   "So the virus is not done with us yet," said Keroack.

     As Massachusetts hospitals return to some of the pre-pandemic routines, Baystate announced Monday that it will allow visitors once again for non-COVID-19 patients.

     Dr. Robert Roose, the chief medical officer at Mercy Medical Center, said the percentage of positive tests has consistently declined for the last 12 weeks and is now 2-5 percent daily-- down from a peak of 40 percent.

     "In fact we are only  seeing a small number, a handful or less of positve patients at Mercy Medical Center every day," said Roose. "This past week we had our first day with zero positive tests."

     Gov. Charlie Baker announced Monday that 50 pop-up testing sites will open in Massachusetts later this week for people who participated in the recent large protest rallies and marches. A listing of the sites available on Wednesday and Thursday is at mass-dot-gov.




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