Virus cases on decline in county

Staff Writer
Published: 2/18/2021 8:22:14 PM

NORTHAMPTON — After the state’s website for vaccine sign-ups crashed Thursday morning, there was an overflow of voicemails left on the city Health Department’s phone line, Public Health Director Merridith O’Leary told the Board of Health at its meeting on Thursday evening. People were calling asking for help. “They were anxious and sad and in tears,” O’Leary said.

The city Health Department is planning to ramp up the number of vaccines given each day pending state approval, O’Leary told the board. “We’re holding our own here in little ole Northampton,” she said, although O’Leary still worries about getting enough vaccine from the state. “I hate canceling appointments,” she said.

While the city is working on its vaccination clinic, cases of COVID-19 have decreased in most parts of Hampshire County, according to the latest report from the state Department of Public Health released on Thursday.

Only one town in Hampshire County, Southampton, is in the “red” category — or at high risk for COVID-19. The town had an average daily incidence rate per 100,000 people of 55.8 over the last two weeks.

Holyoke was also in the high risk category with an average daily incidence rate per 100,000 of 54.3.

Towns with a population between 10,000 and 50,000 are in the red category if they have 10 or more cases per 100,000 people and a positivity rate of 5 percent or more. Towns with less than 10,000 people are in the red category if they have more than 25 total cases.

Amherst has seen 637 cases of COVID over the last two weeks, and its percent positivity was 2.19 percent. Cases skyrocketed there recently amid a COVID outbreak at the University of Massachusetts. New cases peaked at UMass on Feb. 8, when 125 people tested positive for COVID. As of Thursday, the university reported that there were 309 active cases, according to its online dashboard

Despite the outbreak, Amherst was still in the “yellow” category in the state’s report because its positivity rate was below 5 percent.

Between Feb. 4 and Feb. 10, three students in Southampton public schools tested positive for COVID-19, one staff member at Amherst tested positive and four staff members in Holyoke tested positive, according to the data re leased Thursday by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Statewide, COVID cases have been decreasing since early January.

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