As Massachusetts starts the next major step in its gradual reopening, the number of new COVID-19 cases detected daily in Springfield remains on a downward trajectory.
With just four new COVID-19 cases reported Sunday, that it is a 96 percent decline from the 104 cases that were recorded on April 22nd at what turned out to be the peak of the pandemic in the largest city in western Massachusetts.
"Yes, that is amazing news, " said Springfield Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris. She thanked city residents for following the advice of public health officials to stop the spread of the virus.
As Massachusetts permits more commerce and activities under Phase Two of the state’s gradual reopening, Helen Caulton-Harris appealed to people to not let their guard down.
With restaurants allowed to serve diners outside, shoppers permitted to go inside stores, children returning to playgrounds, and sports leagues resuming practices, the city’s top health official encouraged people to become familiar with workplace safety rules for social distancing and cleaning, continue to wear face-coverings, and frequently wash hands.
" As we look across the country, what we are seeing is in those places that have opened up, many of them --not all -- have seen a resurgence and we in the Commonwealth and the city of Springfield do not want to go backwards," Caulton-Harris said.
The number of COVID-19 patients being treated at the four hospitals in the Baystate Health network has fallen below 30 for the first time in three months. Mercy Medical Center in Springfield has seen a steady decline in COVID-19 patients for 10 weeks.
Officials said the hospitals are prepared with enough spare bed capacity if the further reopening of the state’s economy and society along with the massive protests over racism and police brutality leads to a resurgence of the virus.
Dr. Andrew Artenstein, Baystate Health’s Chief Physician Executive, said the state is taking a very cautious approach to reopening.
" I feel very comfortable with the way things are moving forward," said Artenstein.
Springfield plans to stop staffing a medical tent for the homeless Tuesday when the last person in quarantine there is scheduled to leave. The city set up the tent complex early on in the pandemic. It is the last field medical facility still open in Massachusetts.
Mayor Domenic Sarno said the city is ready to move to the next phase of reopening.
"The initial reopening has gone very very well," Sarno said.
Building on two earlier rounds of business assistance programs, Sarno said the administration is creating a $500,000 fund to help restaurants and other small businesses cover some of the expenses to reopen under the new health and safety requirements.
"We have put in well over a million dollars in three phases for our restaurants and small businesses to help them keep going and now to reopen," said Sarno.
Later this week, the city is expected to announce details of a $2 million housing assistance program to help people struggling to pay their rent or mortgage.