BOSTON — A reported outbreak of COVID-19 at Springfield's Baystate Health coincided Monday with the commonwealth's plans to provide free testing to asymptomatic residents in two Western Massachusetts communities.
On Monday afternoon, Gov. Charlie Baker announced that Springfield and Agawam are among eight sites chosen for the next round of "Stop the Spread" testing, which aims to provide expanded testing in communities where postiive test rates are among the state average and testing volume has fallen off.
Monday morning, the CEO of Baystate Health reported that an outbreak of infections of the novel coronavirus has affected 23 employees and 13 patients of the Springfield institution, though Dr. Mark Keroack declined to identify which units of Baystate were affected, according to the Springfield Republican.
Baker addressed the Baystate Health outbreak during his daily press availability.
"There's recent information about an employee at Baystate [Health] who went to a hotspot state, came back and was lax with respect to wearing a mask," Baker said. "And there are now a number of people who work at Baystate and a couple of patients who were there, as well, who tested positive."
Keroack told the Republican in a story posted on its website, Masslive.com, that prior to the recent outbreak, there were no documented cases of COVID-19 transmissions between patients and employees at the hospital.
Baker used the Baystate incident and a widely reported cluster on Cape Cod linked to a house party to again emphasize the importance of remaining vigilant in the fight against the pandemic.
"We can also assume that there's simply a lot more mobility out there, some of it the result of the economic activity associated with opening up some of our commonwealth's businesses and employers, but some of it's also just people being out and about," Baker said. "It's warm out, and people, generally speaking, are in contact with other people more than they were in the months of April and May and even June.
"We should all remember where we were when we started this reopening program in May. We were seeing positive test rates north of 10 percent on much fewer tests. That's why we can't say enough about how important it is, and until we have a vaccine, that everybody continue to play their role. When we let our guard down, the virus will make gains."
Statewide, the positive test rate remains below 2 percent, though the seven-day average nudged up slightly on Sunday to 1.9 percent after hovering around 1.7 or 1.8 percent last week.
The positive test rate was even higher, 2.3 percent, in the eight communities chosen for the second round of the state's Stop the Spread testing program.
That initiative began on July 10 and is expected to run through mid-August in communities in eight communities eastern Massachusetts.
On Monday, Baker announced that it will expand to Agawam and Springfield as well as Worcester, Brockton, Methuen, Randolph, Revere and Taunton.
"These eight communities make up approximately 10 percent of the population but constitute 15 percent of the commonwealth's positive tests in the past week," Baker said.
Baker was asked Monday to react to a tweet from the president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, who pointed to a recent rise in positive test results in the commonwealth and suggested rolling back the administration's stages to reopen the economy.
"The data is early, but it looks like we are on the way back up," Dr. David Rosman wrote. "We should consider backing down a phase."
Baker indicated it is too soon to take that step.
"At this point in time, the most important thing we need to do is to continue to do the things that got us here in the first place," Baker said, referring to guidance on social distancing, face covering and hygiene. "When we look at the where clusters are that have been created so far, many of them are the result of people simply not doing the things we've been telling everybody to do, which has a lot less to do with the nature of what's open and what's not open.
"I think, certainly, the public health data is going to drive our decision making. But, so far, most of the data we've seen about where the clusters have come from have a lot more to do with people letting down their guard a little bit than anything else. The Chatham thing was a big outdoor party in someone's backyard. The Baystate thing was somebody not really abiding by the mask guidance and criteria that existed in the hospital.
"Most of the time, when people do the right things, we should be successful in containing this."
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Mount Greylock School Committee Gets Report on Start of School Year
By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Mount Greylock Regional School District on Tuesday evening plans a community forum on the start of the school year.
The School Committee last Thursday heard that things are going as well as can be expected as the PreK-12 district re-invents the way it teaches students during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We are really appreciative of the fact that we've had a couple of weeks of remote learning actually, despite some challenges," said Joelle Brookner, who this summer transitioned from being principal at Williamstown Elementary School to being director of curriculum and instruction for the district.
"Bringing in small groups of people that we have in each of the student support centers in the schools has its own set of challenges, and it's allowed us to work out some kinks. It's allowing us to anticipate some of what the problems are probably going to be when we have more students in the building, such as distancing."
Last week, the president of Williams College announced to the school community that the college will provide office space to the Stockbridge-Munsee Community’s Tribal Historic Preservation Extension Office.
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Appearing with Baker at his regular press availability, Riley twice declined to say what enforcement actions the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will take against more than a dozen districts who last week received a letter challenging their preference for remote learning to start... click for more
In all, there are four School Committee seats up for grabs in November. One, the lone seat for a Lanesborough resident up for election this cycle, has a single candidate, Michelle Johnson, running unopposed for a four-year term.
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The Diversity, Inclusion and Racial Equity Committee on Monday discussed a statement of principles to guide the group's work as it seeks to work for justice in the college town of 7,700. click for more