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COVID-19 Metrics In Massachusetts Moving In 'Alarming Direction,' Says A Top Hospital Official

Dr. Mark Keroack speaking at podium
Paul Tuthill

With COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts soaring along with hospitalizations, a top health official says it would not be a surprise if the state took a step back in reopening.

All the key metrics that measure the spread of the coronavirus and its impact on the health care system in Massachusetts are moving in an “alarming direction,” said Dr. Mark Keroack, president and CEO of Baystate Health.

"Given the trajectory we are going on it would not surprise me if we followed other areas, either countries or urban areas, in pulling back," said Keroack.

Speaking Monday, during Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno’s regular weekly update on the city’s response to the pandemic, Dr. Keroack, who is a member of Gov. Charlie Baker’s Reopening Advisory Board, said he had no inside information on what steps state officials might take to attempt to arrest  the spread of the virus.

"There is unfortunately likely another spike on top of this spike. It's on the way," said Keroack.   He said people exposed to virus while traveling for Thanksgiving are most  likely to develop symptoms  this week.

In the Baystate Health hospital system Monday there were 103 COVID-19 patients – the highest number since late April.

"Our staff is fatigued and stressed and they know there is still a long way to go," said Keroack.

Springfield recorded 675 confirmed cases of COVID-19 last week, Nov 22-28, an increase of 43 cases from the previous week.

The 165 confirmed cases on Wednesday, Nov 25th was the highest for a single day in the city since the start of the pandemic, according to Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris.

"My hope around that 165 is that it reflected individuals who went to get tested before traveling for Thanksgiving or before going to visit relatives for Thanksgiving,” Caulton-Harris said. “So when I look at that 165, I’m hopeful there were infections that were prevented because individuals got their positive tests and acted accordingly.”

The COVID-19 test positivity rate in Springfield is 8.4 percent.

Clusters of cases have been identified at three long-term care facilities and two group homes in Springfield, and contact tracing efforts are underway to try to contain the outbreaks.

Springfield’s public safety agencies are being impacted by the surge in the virus. The Springfield Police Department has 26 officers off the job because of COVID-19.  Five cadets at the police academy are isolating and the academy has switched  to remote classes, according to Springfield Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood.

"The academy is still continuing without missing a beat," said Clapprood.

The Springfield Fire Department has eight people out after either testing positive for COVID-19 or after being exposed to someone with the virus.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.
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