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State COVID-19 data show Holyoke, Northampton hardest-hit area communities

  • The rate (per 100,000) of confirmed COVID-19 cases by county across the state as it appears in data released by the state Department of Public Health on Wednesday. SUBMITTED PHOTO/MASSACHUSETTS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH

Staff Writer
Published: 4/23/2020 6:39:13 PM
Modified: 4/23/2020 6:39:03 PM

NORTHAMPTON — State health officials on Wednesday released the second round of weekly data detailing COVID-19 cases by cities and towns, showing that Northampton has the highest reported case count in Hampshire County with 119 confirmed cases, a rate of 407 cases per 100,000 residents.

Neighboring Holyoke, where a coronavirus outbreak has ravaged the Soldiers’ Home since late March, has been harder hit, with 474 total reported cases or 1,150 cases per 100,000 residents.

Chelsea has the highest per-capita rate in the entire state at 3,842 cases per 100,000 residents, reporting 1,447 confirmed cases of the infectious and deadly disease.

The expanded reporting by the state Department of Public Health comes as the agency begins to release more comprehensive data about the impact of the coronavirus in Massachusetts.

On Thursday, the DPH reported 3,079 new cases in Massachusetts, the highest one-day total since reporting began, bringing the total to 46,023, and 178 more deaths, making a total of 2,360. The state also reported conducting by far the most tests in a single day, more than 14,600.

Hampshire County has reported 367 cases and 15 deaths.

Just this week, the DPH began releasing a multiple-page document each day that describes cases, case growth, deaths, and prevalence by county; daily and cumulative hospitalizations and deaths; demographic data on COVID-19 cases and deaths, and more.

Some factual inaccuracies have crept in. A Gazette query of reported data of known COVID-19 cases at long-term care facilities in the area as of Tuesday found that at least one operation was placed on the list incorrectly and that another, Day Brook Village Senior Living in Holyoke, actually had 26 residents test positive for COVID-19 whereas state data listed fewer than 10 cases.

The nursing home data does include the caveat that not all staff or residents have been tested, that facilities not included may have cases that have not been identified, and that a low number of cases does not necessarily mean low prevalence.

The inconsistencies are not unique to western Massachusetts. The Boston Globe reported Tuesday that the state’s data about long-term care facilities incorrectly listed some nursing homes in the eastern part of the state as being in its western areas, and that other reports about case counts in nursing homes were inaccurate.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders told the Globe that the state would clean up the data. Sudders also has paused parts of the state’s testing process at nursing homes as samples were not being collected properly.

Some errors also showed up in the data for cities and towns, but those have been corrected, officials said.

“The original city and town data chart contained an error in formatting, leading to incorrect numbers for several locations. A new chart was posted late yesterday,” said DPH spokeswoman Ann Scales on Thursday.

Regardless of the errors, the data for cities and towns are still a window into how COVID-19 is impacting municipalities across the state, though it is not known how accurate a representation it is of the true amount of cases in each municipality.

In Hampshire County, Wednesday’s report shows South Hadley with the second-highest COVID-19 count after Northampton, with 46 cases, a rate of 254 per 100,000 residents. Belchertown reported 40 cases, a rate of 251 per 100,000 residents, and Easthampton has 37 cases, a rate of 228 per 100,000 residents.

Southampton, a town with an estimated population of 6,196 according to the U.S. Census Bureau, has 24 cases of COVID-19, resulting in a rate of nearly 400 per 100,000 residents — the second-highest in all of Hampshire County, behind Northampton. In recent weeks, Southampton officials have reported that at least three residents have died from COVID-19. 

Hadley has 17 reported COVID-19 cases, a rate of 296; Amherst has 16 reported cases, a rate of 39.5; Granby has 13 cases, a rate of 212; Ware has 10 cases, a rate of 99; Huntington has six cases, a rate of 271; and Hatfield has six cases, but per-capita rates were not available on the data sheet. Williamsburg has five reported COVID-19 cases and a rate of 202.69.

Chesterfield, Cummington, Pelham and Westhampton all reported fewer than five cases. The communities of Goshen, Middlefield, Plainfield and Worthington all reported zero cases of COVID-19, according to the state’s data.

Michael Connors can be reached at mconnors@gazettenet.com.


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