Amherst, Sunderland, Holyoke remain at higher risk for virus spread

  • GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 10/15/2020 2:02:57 PM

Amherst, Holyoke and Sunderland all continue to be considered high-risk communities for the spread of COVID-19, according to the latest metrics released by the state’s Department of Public Health on Wednesday.

Amherst and Sunderland, placed in the high-risk category for the first time last week, and Holyoke, which returned to the high-risk designation last week, remained red-coded communities with more than eight active daily cases per 100,000 residents over a two-week period.

The three municipalities are among 63 communities, up from 40 last week, that are in the high-risk category for transmission of coronavirus, based on data collected from Sept. 27 to Oct. 10. The statewide average daily case rate is up to 8.7 per 100,000 residents, and the three largest cities — Boston, Worcester and Springfield — are all in the red zone.

In Amherst, there were 89 cases over the two-week period or 15.7 daily cases per 100,000 residents. That was a slight drop from the 16.75 daily cases per 100,000 residents last week.

In Holyoke, there were 75 cases over the two-week period, or 13 daily cases per 100,000 residents, an increase from the 10.75 daily cases per 100,000 residents reported last week.

In Sunderland, there were nine cases over the two-week period, or 16.91 daily cases per 100,000 residents, a decline from the 20.67 daily cases per 100,000 residents noted last week.

Amherst Town Manager Paul Bockelman said this week that Amherst’s active case numbers have continued to drop following the recent surge in COVID-19 cases among off-campus students from the University of Massachusetts.

Though on Thursday, the UMass COVID-19 dashboard reported seven new positive coronavirus cases from the testing being done at the Mullins Center. That followed a report of five new cases on Wednesday. Amherst’s active cases, which stood at 58 over the weekend and dropped to 49 on Tuesday, were back up to 53 on Thursday, based on data from the Massachusetts Virtual Epidemiologic Network.

Bockelman said as a red community, he will continue to request a local testing facility for the general population, as well as epidemiological support for contact tracing.

Sunderland Town Administrator Geoff Kravitz said the continued red designation can have an impact on businesses in town, especially ones that work out of state and may now face travel restrictions, such as Delta Sand & Gravel and All States Materials Group. This may also affect electrical, plumbing and welding contractors and environmental and engineering companies that cross state borders.

Almost all of the remaining cities and towns in Hampshire and Franklin counties received a gray label, meaning they have had fewer than five total reported cases over the past two weeks.

But Northampton received a green label, where its two-week case count of five translated to 1.22 daily cases per 100,000 residents, and Easthampton was marked yellow, or moderate risk, due to its two-week case count of nine, which means there are 3.96 daily cases per 100,000 residents.

The state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll is now nearly 9,430 and its confirmed caseload is more than 138,000, according to the state data.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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