Approaching the one-year anniversary of the coronavirus public health emergency in Massachusetts on Wednesday, there is optimism as new COVID-19 cases fall and vaccinations increase.
In Springfield, the weekly tally of new COVID-19 cases continues to decline from the peaks of earlier this winter.
"The numbers are skewing better," said Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno.
Speaking at his weekly COVID-19 response briefing, Sarno said there were 391 new confirmed cases of the disease last week, down from 414 the week before. Springfield recorded 4,496 cases last December, 4,342 in January and 2170 last month.
"We are heading in the right direction," Sarno said. " We can't let our guard down. We must stay ever vigilant and we'll continue to work together and soon someday we won't have to wear these masks."
Six more deaths were attributed to COVID-19 in Springfield last week, bringing the total number of city residents to die since the pandemic started to 224.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Monday said people who have been fully-vaccinated against COVID-19 can gather together privately without face-coverings or social distancing. Springfield Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris said she hopes Massachusetts adopts the CDC guidelines.
"But, I would recommend that we continue to follow the Massachusetts guidelines as put out so that we are all doing the same level of intervention in the Commonwealth," said Caulton-Harris.
Caulton-Harris said people still should adhere to the rules about face masks and distancing when in public regardless of vaccination status.
"As more and more people get vaccinated, the federal government, state, and local will relax restrictions," said Caulton-Harris.
More than two million vaccine doses have been administered in Massachusetts.
Sarno said his administration along with the city’s legislative delegation continue to lobby the state to allocate vaccines for Springfield to operate neighborhood clinics. He said these would be for city residents who are unable to get to the large-scale vaccination site the state set up at the Eastfield Mall.
"Especially affecting our brown and Black populations and underserved and hard-to-reach populations," Sarno said.
The city health department this Friday plans to vaccinate eligible residents of the Springfield Housing Authority.