There has been an uptick in new COVID-19 cases in the largest city in western Massachusetts prompting appeals for people to stick with the state’s health and safety guidelines.
During the last week in August, there were 29 COVID-19 cases in Springfield. During the week of September 14th there were 51 new cases. And on Sunday, September 20th, the city recorded 13 confirmed cases.
"What you are seeing in our city is a slow creep of cases," said Springfield Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris.
She said the bump in cases may be the consequence of people gathering for backyard cook-outs or parties over the Labor Day weekend. There were increases in COVID-19 cases following both Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.
"After two weeks we start to see an increase in cases based on potential gatherings," said Caulton-Harris.
For now, the average daily infection rate in Springfield remains low at fewer than 4 cases per 100,000 people, keeping the city “green” on the state health department’s color-coded map of each city and town, which is updated every Wednesday.
"It is important to understand that this slow creep is preventable," said Caulton-Harris. "We can do the things necessary to sustain our status as a green city."
Caulton-Harris said the city through its contact tracing program had not detected any “super-spreader” events and she said there have been no outbreaks on the college campuses in the city.
Springfield has not recorded a death from COVID-19 in a month. The virus has claimed the lives of 131 city residents.
Speaking at his weekly COVID-19 update in City Hall, Mayor Domenic Sarno urged people not to succumb to “pandemic fatigue” and to keep following the state’s public health and safety guidelines.
"I know people are getting a bit stir crazy. We all are," said Sarno. " We have to keep every vigiliant and do the little things: wear that mask!"
Dr. Mark Keroack, president and CEO of Baystate Health, said the increase in cases is not a second wave but rather “the brushfire phase” of the pandemic. He said people need to assume the virus is present in every building they walk into.
"If we can maintain this mindset of being careful in simple ways on a consistant basis in public places, we can reduce the frequency of these brushfires and their impact and hopefully break this pattern we've been seeing in the past few weeks," said Keroack.
Hospitalizations for COVID-19 remain low in the Springfield area. The Baystate Health hospital system has had a daily patient count in the mid-teens for several weeks.
Mercy Medical Center in Springfield went six days in a row last week without a COVID-19 patient and had just one on Monday.