Hadley relaxes capacity limits, Amherst maintains them

  • Route 9 in Hadley GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 2/22/2021 1:42:39 PM

HADLEY – Restaurants, gyms and other businesses in Hadley will be able to have larger capacities and be open for extended hours, based on rules set by the state, after the town’s Board of Health rescinded a more stringent local order.

But while the Hadley board is opting to relax its order, going into effect at 12:01 a.m. Monday and coming after the University of Massachusetts saw a significant drop in COVID-19 cases, Amherst is keeping in place its identical order that limits capacity to 25% and requires business closure at 9:30 p.m.

The orders, which were also implemented by Sunderland, where many off-campus students reside, had come in response to UMass moving to a high-risk designation for spread of infection beginning Feb. 7.

UMass announced Friday that it was stepping back to an elevated risk campus posture, meaning students living on- and off-campus are no longer required to self-quarantine and can resume taking classes in person and going to their jobs.

The COVID-19 tracking dashboard at UMass on Monday showed four new cases, with 239 active cases. That is 209 fewer cases, a 47% drop, from two weeks earlier.

UMass Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy in a letter Friday wrote that the restrictions had moderated the initial surge that began in early February.

“If conditions continue to improve, other aspects of campus life could return in a phased manner, including in-person dining, access to the Recreation Center, and hosting a guest in a residence hall,” Subbaswamy wrote.

Dr. Susan Mosler, chairwoman of the Hadley Board of Health, wrote in an email that the decision to rescind the order for Hadley businesses brings the town into alignment with Massachusetts COVID-19 guidelines.

Amherst Town Manager Paul Bockelman said Amherst officials are not lifting the emergency orders yet.

“The health director will continue to monitor and make adjustments as necessary,” Bockelman said. 

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

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