Residents in the largest city in western Massachusetts are being asked to wear face masks outside the home as preparations continue for a surge in coronavirus cases.
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said he issued an advisory for city residents to wear something that covers their mouth and nose out of “an abundance of caution” to help stem the spread of the coronavirus.
"You still have to go to a grocery store, or big box store, or smaller store," said Sarno. "A lot of people are practicing social distancing, but some are not. This is to protect yourself and others."
The recommendation from the mayor’s office said face covers could include dust masks, scarves, and bandanas. Masks designed for health care workers, the mayor said, should be reserved for people in the health care system.
Officials in other cities, including Boston, have also requested people wear face masks when they go outside.
Wearing a face mask does not negate other steps health care professionals have urged in a bid to cut down the spread of the virus including social distancing, not congregating in large crowds, and frequent hand-washing, according to Dr. Robert Roose, Chief Medical Officer at Mercy Medical Center in Springfield.
"I am wearing this mask to protect you and you are wearing your mask to protect me," explained Dr. Roose. "It is that altruism and community togetherness that will help us combat and overcome this pandemic."
Sarno said Monday that the possibility of a curfew in Springfield has been discussed by city officials, but at this point he does not believe it is needed.
"Our residents have been pretty good and we've already advised if you don't have to go out, don't got out," said Sarno.
Springfield Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood said she concurred that a curfew is not necessary at this time.
"We have been taking calls for large gatherings, cruiser shows up, gets on the PA-system advises the group to disperse and everybody has been cooperating," said Clapprood.
Governor Charlie Baker last week said Massachusetts was preparing for a surge in COVID-19 cases beginning around April 10th and lasting until about April 20th. But, Dr. Mark Keroack, President and CEO of Baystate Health, said epidemiology models suggest the peak in cases may not arrive in western Massachusetts until later in May or even June.
" That is a good thing; we want the long slow burn instead of the big explosion," said Keroack, who added "There is going to be something wrong with every model, but if it helps you with planning than that is a good thing."
As the number of hospitalizations for COVID-19 steadily increase, officials are looking to possibly put a field hospital inside the MassMutual Center, as has been done already at convention centers in Boston and Worcester.
Three large tents have been erected in a parking lot across the street from a homeless shelter in Springfield. These are in the process of being outfitted with electric power, water and sewer utilities, food, and medical supplies, to care for the homeless in Springfield.