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With COVID Cases Rising, City Health Official Urges Face Masks

Springfield Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris.
City of Springfield

     Like much of the nation, Springfield, Massachusetts is seeing a rise in new coronavirus infections prompting the city’s top public health officer to urge extra precautions.

      New COVID-19 cases have risen for three consecutive weeks in Springfield since reaching a low of 17 cases the week of June 20th.  Last week there were 64 new cases of the illness in Springfield residents.  There were 57 confirmed cases in just the first two days of this week.

     "So the news isn't good and it continues not to be good as far as our cases are concerned in the city of Springfield," said Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris.

      She recommended that people again wear face-masks in public places.

    "It should be all of us when we are in settings where there are individuals we don't know or who are not a part of our immediate circle, I would recommend highly that we use face-coverings," Caulton-Harris said.

            Massachusetts ended its mask mandate – and the threat of $300 fines for violating it – in May. The state adopted guidance from the CDC that says fully-vaccinated people do not need to wear face-coverings in most settings.

     Earlier this week, officials in a popular Cape Cod tourist town issued a new mask advisory.  Provincetown officials encouraged mask-wearing for all residents and visitors.  More than 100 people tested positive for COVID-19 after being in Provincetown during the Fourth of July holiday.

     Boston public health officials urged recent visitors to Provincetown to self-isolate and get a COVID-19 test, according to the Associated Press.

     Of the 64 new cases in Springfield reported during the week of July 11th, 73 percent were among people age 30 and under.

    " It is that younger population that is driving the city of Springfield's numbers right now,' Caulton-Harris said.

     Discussing the latest data with the City Council COVID-19 Response Committee, Caulton-Harris said the city’s fully-vaccinated rate is 41.1 percent – significantly behind the 60.4 percent statewide rate.

     "Individuals in the city are working hard to try to turn these numbers around but they're stubborn at this point," Caulton-Harris said.

         She said the vaccine is readily available at pharmacies, neighborhood clinics, and pop-up sites.

     "We just want to really just engage people, young folks particularly, around education and making sure we are at least meeting individuals where they are," Caulton-Harris said.

     City Councilor Melvin Edwards said Springfield’s low vaccination rate is disheartening.

      "We can't blame the access to resources, its just the numbers are appalling," Edwards said. "The tragedy is it is not a paper cut, it is putting lives at risk."

     One positive statistic is that hospitalizations remain low.  Baystate Health reported six COVID-19 patients in its hospitals on July 21 with one in critical care.



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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