Dear Community Members,
The new metrics for the State have been released, a day later than usual, and they are not reassuring.
Case counts are up in 9 of the 13 Counties in Massachusetts. The State averages for “Daily Incidence Rate per 100,000” and “Percent Positivity” continue to rise. “Daily Incidence Rate per 100,000” in Massachusetts is 9.2, “Percent Positivity is 1.24%. Essentially, Massachusetts would be in the Red if it was shown on the metrics map as a single community.
Moving forward, an asterisk will be shown on the metrics map for communities in which an outbreak at a single facility (like a college, nursing home, or prison) is a significant contributor to case counts. That is not the case in Holyoke at this time.
In Holyoke, our “Daily Incidence rate per 100,000” is 12.7, a slight improvement from last week. Our “Percent Positivity” is at 2.5%, also a slight decrease.
Six communities in Hampden County are now in the Red. Holyoke, Chicopee, Westfield, Springfield, East Longmeadow and Monson. Several other cities and towns in the County have seen a considerable increase in case counts. The upcoming holidays are not going to make the situation any easier. People are going to travel and gather in larger than recommended groups and that is only going to lead to more cases.
The Board of Health continues to pursue and implement communications and initiatives to help reduce case counts. A few updates about COVID related events and changes:
– Due to being in the Red for three consecutive weeks, Holyoke will revert to Phase 3, Step 1 on October 26th with about 13 other communities. A formal communication will go out from the Board of Health on Monday.
– Fall Sports in Holyoke will end as of 10/26. This decision was made in partnership with HPS and the Parks Department, following State and MIAA guidance, in light of the sustained high case counts in Holyoke and several other communities in the local area. A formal communication was sent out from the Public Schools today. We are hopeful for Winter Sports.
– Massachusetts has effectively closed all indoor ice rinks, ice skating and ice hockey facilities for two weeks beginning today. A notice issued by the state refers to elevated numbers of clusters and case counts associated with ice hockey in Massachusetts and across the country.
– The City of Holyoke and the Public Schools are pursuing supplies of rapid tests that would be utilized in a variety of situations throughout Holyoke to improve and reduce response time for COVID exposures and suspected positives.
– A serology study, conducted in partnership with Harvard and Mass general Hospital, is moving forward and should begin in early November. About 2000 households in Holyoke will be randomly selected and have the opportunity to participate. The study will analyze COVID rates throughout the city utilizing serology tests that indicate whether you have ever been positive for COVID, not just active cases.
We are still looking for Data Collectors: APPLY HERE
– The State will be sending out a mass text to Holyoke residents on Monday 10/26 to raise awareness of sustained high COVID-19 case counts and methods for prevention.
– There are two more free Flu Clinics, sponsored by CVS and the Board of Health, at HCC on 11/3 and 11/6. There will be two sessions on 11/3, a morning and an afternoon. We had a very positive turnout today when testing and vaccinations were available at the same time.
This is the part of the email where I ask for your help.
Case counts will not improve without a conscious decision from Holyoke residents to avoid high risk situations. High risk, meaning an increased chance for the transmission of COVID-19.
Right now, locally and nationally, the leading location for COVID transmission is in the home. Family members are just as likely to to spread COVID as anyone else. The same goes for friends.
Someone, including yourself, does not need to feel or look sick to spread COVID-19. You could be contagious right now and have no idea. The only way to know for sure is to get tested. There are two free test sites in Holyoke that I encourage you to use as frequently as you are comfortable with. The tests are non-invasive and only involve a cotton swab in the lower part of the nostril.
However, please do not allow a negative test to create a false sense of security for activities that take place after the test. A negative test only indicates that you were not carrying COVID-19 before (and right up to) the time you got tested. Any time after the test was administered, you could have picked up the virus in your daily life. Avoiding the virus, and avoiding spreading the virus is a daily routine of minimizing risk, wearing your mask and avoiding high risk activities.
As I have said in the past, the sooner we get this virus under control, the sooner the need for these restrictions will go away. This is a vicious cycle. People get sick -> restrictions are put in place -> people don’t follow the restrictions -> more people get sick -> restrictions stay in place or are increased.
A few easy steps to take to help Stop the Spread:
– Wear a mask (properly and consistently)
– Avoid going to work or spending time with other people when you or someone you live with is symptomatic or sick
– Avoid gatherings with people outside of your household, even family and friends. That might mean changing the way you celebrate holidays this year.
– Get tested!
As always, if there are any questions, feel free to contact me directly.
Sean Gonsalves, RS
Director of Health