Just a few weeks after sounding an alarm about rising COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts, government officials and health experts in Springfield say the virus trends are positive in the state’s third-largest city.
The region’s largest hospital system, Baystate Health, said the number of people being treated in its facilities for COVID-19 Monday is 15 – a 50 percent drop from one week ago. Just one patient is in intensive care.
The closely watched seven-day average positive test rate in Massachusetts has dropped to 1.4 percent. For Baystate it is 1.1 percent, according to Dr. Mark Keroack, the health care system’s president and CEO.
" These are all very good trends," said Keroack.
Baystate is testing about 800 people per day, which is below its capacity to test a thousand people a day.
" We continue to scrounge for testing supplies based on competition from other areas of the country and because more testing is encumbered when we start opening other parts of the economy," said Keroack.
Last week, Massachusetts officials released a color-coded map to report weekly updates on the incident rates of COVID-19 in each of the state’s 351 cities and towns. Keroack said this data is helpful when it comes to making decisions about things like reopening schools and also to identify virus hotspots.
"The map also shows the virus is out there spreading in our communities, and it is only as a result of active efforts by everybody we have been able to keep it at low levels," said Keroack.
Springfield is in the yellow category with 4-8 daily cases per 100,000 residents indicating a moderate risk for COVID-19 infections, but Mayor Domenic Sarno said the city is seeing a downward trend in cases over the last two weeks.
"We are about a quarter of a point, .25 percent, away from being a green zone and we want to keep moving in that direction," Sarno said during his weekly COVID-19 update at City Hall.
To help communities at moderate or high risk with strategies for reducing infection rates, the Baker administration has formed a cross-agency team. It can help ramp up enforcement and support contact tracing and testing initiatives. So far, Springfield has not sought the help, according to Sarno.
The statewide positive test rate of 1.4 percent is the lowest it has been since the beginning of the pandemic, according to Dr. Robert Roose, chief medical officer at Mercy Medical Center in Springfield.
"We've shown that a science and data-driven approach along with everyone in the community adhering seriously to the public health recommendations does work," said Roose.
After a spike in cases earlier this summer that Gov. Charlie Baker blamed on large parties and unsanctioned events, new restrictions took effect a week ago that lowered from 100 to 50 the number of people allowed at an outdoor gathering.