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Even As More People Are Vaccinated, COVID Infection Risk Rises In Springfield

a bar graph of covid cases.
Paul Tuthill

     Springfield, Massachusetts is again at high risk for community spread of the coronavirus. 

     After just two weeks of being rated at moderate risk for COVID-19 infections, rising case counts and test positivity rates have driven Springfield back to the “red” on the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s latest risk assessment map.

    Until its brief two weeks designated as “yellow” or moderate risk of infection, Springfield had been in the high risk category since October 1, 2020.

   At his weekly COVID-19 briefing Monday, Mayor Domenic Sarno urged residents and businesses to double down on prevention efforts.

  "People are getting a little lax out there as I do notice more and more people not wearing masks," Sarno said. "We still have to stay ever vigilant and businesses need to follow all the COVID-19 public health regulations and guidence."

   Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Springfield have soared since mid-March. There were 546 cases recorded during the week of March 21st – a more than 40 percent increase over the previous week.  Cases totaled 486 during the week of March 28th.

    The overwhelming majority – 79 percent -- of the new cases in Springfield are in people under the age of 50.  Fifty-three percent of last week’s cases were in people under 30 years of age.

    Statewide, the seven day average of new daily cases hit 2,200 last week – up from an average of 1,100 cases a day a month ago.

    Hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19 are also increasing, but not at the rate as new daily cases, said Dr. Robert Roose, Chief Medical Officer at Mercy Medical Center in Springfield.

   "The data trends tell me that vaccination works," Roose said. "Vaccination is really our hope to staving off a third surge of hospitalized  cases and deaths here in Massachusetts."

    About 27 percent of the adult population in Massachusetts has now been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

          In Springfield, close to 5,000 residents have been vaccinated by the city’s health department at several neighborhood-based clinics.

    "We believe very strongly that neighborhood clinics are the way to get our population vaccinated," said Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris.

     She said additional strategies are being developed to increase vaccination rates including a walk-up clinic and a vaccination drive in partnership with faith-based institutions.

    "When we asked, 'Who is your most trusted voice as far as vaccine is concerned?'  In every poll, faith ( leaders) came out number one," said Caulton-Harris.

    Effective Monday, a million more people in Massachusetts became eligible to be vaccinated. People over age 55 and people over age 16 with one chronic health condition can now book vaccination appointments.

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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