With COVID-19 case counts remaining high in the greater Springfield, Massachusetts area, officials are wary about the upcoming holidays.
With the recent surge in COVID-19 cases driven by younger people and with the spread of the virus occurring more-and-more among family members and friends, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said people will need to forgo – or at least greatly alter – upcoming seasonal traditions including giving out candy to trick-or-treaters and having large gatherings for Thanksgiving dinner.
"Hopefully, this is the last year we have to look at curtailing holiday traditions, but unfortunately it has to be done," said Sarno.
Springfield was one of the first municipalities in the state to say it would not sanction door-to-door trick-or-treating this Halloween and is not issuing official permits for activities such as haunted houses. Car parades and drive-through events are acceptable alternatives, according to the city’s website.
Since late September, Springfield has seen a surge in new COVID-19 cases that has landed the city in the red, or high risk, category for community spread of the virus. Last week there were 107 new confirmed cases. That is down by 59 cases from two weeks ago, but still considerably higher than the weekly case counts for most of the summer.
The recent trend of younger people becoming infected is continuing. Of the newest cases, 39 percent were in people under age 30 and 76 percent were in people under age 50, according to Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris.
"It is important that we really do understand we are a critical juncture, not only in Massachusetts but across the nation," said Caulton-Harris.
The Springfield Public Schools last week announced a two week “pause” in all fall sports practices and games after a student athlete tested positive for COVID-19. Officials declined to reveal the sport or the school involved. Classes are being held remotely in the district.
Also, the city closed the Cyr Arena in Forest Park for deep cleaning and sanitizing last week after city officials said they become aware of coronavirus outbreaks in New England associated with hockey.
Hospitalizations for COVID-19 are inching upward. For the first time in six weeks, there are more than 20 people hospitalized with the virus in the Baystate Health network, according to Baystate president and CEO Dr. Mark Keroack.
"The news has not been great around COVID," said Keroack who noted cases are climbing globally, in the U.S., in Massachusetts and western Massachusetts.
Speaking at Mayor Sarno’s weekly COVID-19 response briefing, Keroack urged people to carefully plan upcoming holiday events, such as Thanksgiving dinner, to mitigate risk.
"You can make things safer instead of throwing caution to the winds," said Keroack.
Guidelines for holding holiday gatherings during the pandemic are on the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.