The number of new COVID-19 cases in Springfield, Massachusetts continues to go down as the state picks up the pace of vaccinations for the coronavirus.
There were 531 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Springfield last week continuing a downward trend from a peak in the first week of January when the city recorded 1,177 new cases – the highest weekly total since the start of the pandemic.
"That is good news," declared Springfield Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris. "We want to continue to go in that direction."
Caulton-Harris, speaking Tuesday at Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno’s weekly COVID-19 update, warned that community spread of the virus remains high. Hampden County has the second-highest incidence rate for COVID-19 of any county in the state.
As the pace of vaccinations for the coronavirus picks up in Massachusetts, Caulton-Harris said the Springfield health department is continuing to emphasize mitigation efforts to stop the spread of the disease including wearing face coverings at all times in public places and maintaining social distancing.
"Those are the things that will get us through until everyone is vaccinated and herd immunity is a part of our environment," Caulton-Harris said.
Springfield recorded 10 deaths from COVID-19 last week bringing the pandemic death toll to 209 city residents.
"This virus is taking valued members of families in our communities and we believe it can be prevented," Caulton-Harris said.
Testing for COVID-19 is being expanded in Springfield to two neighborhood locations at the Rebecca Johnson Elementary School in Mason Square and at Kennedy Middle School in Indian Orchard.
Mayor Sarno said he remains hopeful that the state will allocate coronavirus vaccine to the city’s health department so that it can open neighborhood vaccination sites.
"We can do it for Springfield residents and make it convenient in those neighborhoods," Sarno said. He has previously said the city is looking to stand up perhaps as many as ten neighborhood vaccination sites.
The state is prioritizing its weekly allotment of roughly 100,000 vaccine doses from the federal government to mass vaccination sites. The only one in western Massachusetts is at the Eastfield Mall in Springfield.
Last week, the state cut back on the amount of vaccine doses shipped to hospitals. As a result, Mercy Medical Center in Springfield closed its vaccine clinic.
Baystate Health, the region’s largest hospital network, is still receiving the same amount of vaccine as before, enough to do about 1,500 shots per day – the same as the Eastfield Mall site, said Baystate president and CEO Dr. Mark Keroack.
He said 4,000 people per day need to receive the shot in the Pioneer Valley, if the goal of vaccinating everyone by the end of summer is going to be achieved.
" We need the Baystate program, the (Eastfield) Mall, and more to complete the job," said Keroack.
Also on Tuesday, CVS announced it was making vaccine appointments available at three of its pharmacy locations in western Massachusetts including its store in Springfield’s Sixteen Acres neighborhood.
CVS is receiving vaccine directly from the federal government.
Massachusetts hit a milestone last Friday of 1 million vaccine doses administered