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Springfield Won't Open Cooling Centers, Pools Because Of Coronavirus

City of Springfield, Office of the Mayor

     It will be harder to find relief from the heat this summer in the largest city in western Massachusetts. 

     Typically during heat waves, the city of Springfield encourages people to leave their sweltering homes and gather for a few hours in neighborhood senior centers and other air-conditioned buildings

      But that would risk spreading the coronavirus to a highly vulnerable population.

      Mayor Domenic Sarno announced Monday, as the temperature reached a high of 91, that the city would not be opening any cooling centers during the heat wave.

       "Cooling centers, unfortunately, for right now we can not do," said Sarno.

      Springfield Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris said alternatives are being explored including distributing free bottles of water.

     "We will figure out together how to make sure we are having some hydration that we can give to our residents," said Caulton-Harris. "We are working on a plan."

      The city closed its senior centers on March 19th.    Concerned with leaving seniors isolated, the city has done outreach by telephone and has provided some meal deliveries.

      Dr. Robert Roose, chief medical officer at Mercy Medical Center in Springfield, said the heat can have a tremendous impact on health.

      "Certainly with this type of decision you have to weigh individual and public health and weigh those risks together," said Roose.

       City-owned swimming pools and a popular beach are not open this summer because of the health and safety challenges posed by the pandemic, according to Springfield’s parks director Patrick Sullivan.

     "Sadly, the pools and Five Mile Pond will not be opening as we just cannot meet the guidelines by the Commonwealth and the CDC," said Sullivan.

      Water spray pads in 18 city parks are expected to open next week with distancing guidelines in place.

      "There will be signs and we are depending on parents and guardians to assist us with that as they do at the playgrounds," said Sullivan.  He said there will be hand sanitzers and the sites will be frequently cleaned.

       Sullivan said city-run camps will not be open this summer.


Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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