With the coronavirus pandemic raging in other parts of the country, officials in the largest city in western Massachusetts Monday implored people to remain vigilant about keeping social distancing, wearing face coverings and other precautions.
Pointing to the large rise in positive test results and hospitalizations for COVID-19 in 22 states, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno Monday said Massachusetts residents should not be lulled into believing the virus is through with us.
"We can't let our guard down," Sarno implored.
For weeks now, Massachusetts has seen the number of new cases decline day-to-day, the percentage of positive test results has fallen, and hospitalizations have come down.
The progress has allowed the state to move to the second half of Phase 2 of a gradual reopening plan laid out by Gov. Charlie Baker. The next phase, which would include reopening museums, movie theaters, and casinos, could start next week.
States that have been seeing a rise in cases have paused their re-openings, with some ordering new closures. Sarno described that as “demoralizing.”
"What we are doing is working in Springfield. What Gov. Baker is doing in Massachusetts is working and we want to keep it that way," said Sarno.
Springfield has recorded 2,641 cases of COVID-19 with 120 deaths. New daily case numbers have held below 20 for just about all of June after peaking at 104 cases on April 23. The city’s Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris said she is pleased with where the city is in the pandemic, as she also implored people not to become complacent.
"Face-coverings, I can not say that enough, if we would just use face-coverings we would save lives," said Caulton-Harris.
As of Monday, there were just 16 COVID-19 patients in Baystate Medical Center in Springfield. There were no COVID-19 patients at Baystate Health’s three community hospitals.
Baystate President and CEO Dr. Mark Keroack said he is nervous about the prospect of vacationers from states with high infection rates coming to Massachusetts.
"What we are doing today is able to keep a lid on a low level of virus, but suddenly if we brought 100 new people in who were all infected and let them spread around the community, we could see a resurgence," said Keroack.
While some states, including New York, Connecticut, Vermont, and Maine have announced quarantines for out-of-state visitors, Baker has said he believes there are constitutional issues with such restrictions. Massachusetts has for months advised people coming from other states to quarantine for 14 days.
The city of Springfield is considering a policy for its employees who travel out of state for vacation that might require them to quarantine for 14 days when they return, according to the city’s Director of Labor Relations William Mahoney.
With the Fourth of July holiday approaching, Pat Sullivan, the city’s parks director, urged people to avoid large gatherings of un-related family members in the picnic areas of the parks.
Spray pads are operating in 18 city parks, but city-owned pools and the beach at Five Mile Pond will not open this summer.
In a reversal, officials said there will be a limited number of cooling sites available in Springfield if a heat wave arrives. Officials said six buildings had been identified where up to 20 people could gather safely-distanced in the air conditioning.
Last week, Sarno said the city was looking to set up hydration stations to give out free bottles of water as an alternative to the cooling sites.