Springfield, Massachusetts has reached a milestone in efforts to combat the coronavirus.
Springfield is no longer flagged among communities in the state where the risk is high for getting COVID-19. The city has moved from red to yellow on the color-coded map updated weekly by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
Yellow indicates “moderate risk” for community spread of the coronavirus.
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno noted that yellow, like on a traffic signal, denotes caution.
" We can't let our guard down and we have to stay ever vigilant,"said Sarno.
Springfield had been listed as a red, or high risk, community for coronavirus activity since last October 1st.
" Green is go and our goal is to get to green, baby, green," exclaimed Sarno.
Springfield Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris credited city residents for their patience, resilience, and ability to continue to follow public health guidance.
At Sarno’s weekly COVID-19 response briefing, Caulton-Harris reported the number of new COVID-19 cases in the city continues to decline week over week. There were 360 confirmed cases during the week of March 14th, down 16 cases from the week before.
"We still have postive cases, so we continue to test, trace and advise quarantine," said Caulton-Harris.
Massachusetts Monday took the first step in the fourth and final phase of a staggered reopening plan.
Among the changes, event venues can have 100 people inside and 150 people outside. Stadiums, arenas, and ballparks can welcome back patrons with a 12 percent capacity limit.
Out-of-state travelers are advised to quarantine when they return to Massachusetts, unless producing a negative COVID-19 test, but they are no longer subject to the possibility of a fine for failing to do so.
Saying the changes should wait until more people are vaccinated against COVID-19, The Massachusetts Public Health Association had urged Gov. Charlie Baker to delay this step in the reopening for at least a month.
Dr. Mark Keroack, the president and CEO of Baystate Health, said he has concerns about moving to the next stage of reopening because cases counts have inching up.
"I suspect that we may get away with it, but I think we need to be ready to pull back if we see an increase in cases," said Keroack. "It makes me a little bit nervous this particular step at this particular time given the way the numbers are going."
But, Dr. Robert Roose, chief medical officer at Mercy Medical Center in Springfield, believes the changes are appropriate .
"No significant concerns about continuing to take the next step, but always listening to the science as it continues to evolve," said Roose.
Also, Massachusetts Monday expanded vaccine eligibility. People over 60 and essential workers including restaurant and grocery store employees can attempt to sign up for appointments.