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People Under 30 Appear To Lead Spike In COVID-19 Cases In Springfield

Helen Caulton-Harris points to a chart
Paul Tuthill

       Springfield, Massachusetts is recording its highest numbers of new COVID-19 cases in months --and it is younger people who are getting infected. 

     There were 166 new COVID-19 cases in Springfield last week to go along with 124 confirmed cases the week before that.

     "The uptick continues," said Mayor Domenic Sarno at his weekly COVID-19 briefing.

      After reporting Monday that an analysis of 191 recent cases found that 54 percent were people under 30 years of age,  Sarno chastised young people for not adhering to public health and safety protocols.

     "To all you young people out there: you are not invincible and then you become spreaders," said Sarno.

     The new cases are coming predominately from four ZIP codes in residential neighborhoods. Clusters have been found in households where some children have tested positive for the virus.

    " This is not a pandemic that is just affecting middle age and senior citizens," Sarno said.

     With help from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the city will target these “hot spots” to drive home the importance of wearing face coverings, hand-washing, isolating if sick, and following the state’s requirements to quarantine after traveling from a state where the virus has been very active.

      There are plans to produce public service announcements, have the mayor make a robocall, hold virtual meetings with neighborhood councils, and door-to-door community outreach, according to Springfield Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris.

      "This pandemic is something we can once again get our arms around, but we need the cooperation," said Caulton-Harris.

      Last week, Springfield was designated as a high risk area for COVID-19 because of the recent uptick in cases.  So while the rest of western Massachusetts could go to the next step in the state’s reopening process, Springfield had to pause.

     "This impacts our economic health as well," said Caulton-Harris.  She warned that if the case numbers don't start to drop the city will "stay stuck where we are and potentially have to move backwards."

     Statewide, there has been an increase in new COVID-19 cases since late August.  The number of people hospitalized across the state has also gone up.  

     In western Massachusetts however, hospitalizations have held fairly steady,

     Dr. Sarah Haessler, an infectious disease expert at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, said the younger people who are becoming infected are not sick enough to require hospital care.

    "We are seeing the same pattern where it is not predominately elderly people anymore, its is young and middle age people who are testing positive and a lot of what we are seeing are family clusters" said Haessler.

     Last week, Springfield recorded its first death from COVID-19 in five weeks.  132 city residents have died so far in the pandemic.


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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