Getting Answers: COVID-19 cases in western Mass. schools

Getting Answers: COVID-19 cases in western Mass. schools
Published: May. 5, 2022 at 8:32 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) -With spring break behind us and summer just around the corner, we wanted to check in to see where COVID cases stand locally.

COVID-19 case numbers have been slowly creeping up in western Mass. We wanted to dig deeper into how cases are looking in schools, in the weeks following Massachusetts’ spring vacation, so we checked in with local districts to get answers.

In the last week, West Springfield public schools told us they’ve had 19 positive students and 10 positive staff members.

In Holyoke in the last two weeks, the district has seen 61 total cases, 35 students and 26 staff members.

In Westfield, school officials told us they had 17 total cases the week before April vacation. Last week, that number was up to 28 and today it sits at 20.

In Chicopee, the district currently has a total of 49 positive cases, 23 students and 26 staff members. Which is interesting because last year at this time, the acting superintendent says the district only had 22 total cases.

Taking a closer look at vacation’s effect, officials told us there were 19 positive cases the week of vacation and in the two weeks following they saw 43 total cases and then 59 total cases, 32 of those students.

Western Mass News caught up with Dr. Armando Paez, Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Baystate Medical Center. He told us Springfield is now in the yellow, or medium, risk level.

He said for staff over at Baystate, nothing’s changed. They’re still required to wear masks inside healthcare facilities.

Right now, a new variant, ba.2.12.1, is rapidly spreading in the United States. We asked Dr. Paez about this, but he said it’s not necessarily a reason to panic, as the virus is expected to continue changing.

“That’s something that we have to continue to monitor and we respond to that accordingly. For example, New York City now has a different variant from what is predominantly circulating Massachusetts,” explained Dr. Paez.

Dr. Paez said it is likely to eventually become the dominant strain in Massachusetts. He recommends people make sure they get their booster shots if they haven’t already, get tested if they feel sick, and if you or someone you live with has a weakened immune system. He said you should wear mask and avoid indoor public settings if possible.

Dr. Paez said if you’re at risk for severe illness from COVID-19, there are oral treatments available at Baystate.