Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz tests positive for COVID-19

  • Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz speaks in Northampton last June. The mayor announced Thursday that he has tested positive for COVID-19. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 3/26/2020 12:40:19 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Mayor David Narkewicz has tested positive for COVID-19 and is in isolation and working from home, “where he hopes to make a full recovery from the virus,” his office announced Thursday.

So far, five Northampton residents, including Narkewicz, have tested positive for COVID-19, and the city’s first case was reported on March 18, the city’s health department said on Thursday. Amherst also reported its first positive case of COVID-19 on Thursday, according to an announcement by town officials. Hadley and South Hadley reported their first confirmed cases on Wednesday.

As of Thursday afternoon, Massachusetts had 2,417 confirmed cases of the virus, 579 more than the previous day, according to figures released by the Department of Public Health. Of those who have tested positive, 17 are from Hampshire County. The state has seen 25 deaths attributed to COVID-19, including two men in their 80s from Franklin and Hampden counties, according to the state agency. 

Narkewicz started exhibiting “cold and flu-like symptoms” on Monday that worsened overnight into Tuesday. The city’s public health director and nurse recommended that he be tested due to a “contact investigation that revealed possible exposures,” according to a statement from the city. Narkewicz received his test results on Thursday morning.

The source of Narkewicz’s exposure remains under investigation by the Northampton Health Department, the statement said. He told a Gazette reporter Thursday that he does not know how he contracted COVID-19.

“At this point, all I know is I tested positive, and I need to isolate and take care of myself and protect my family,” he said.

Narkewicz is resting comfortably at home and is in strict isolation from his wife and youngest daughter, who are both non-symptomatic and are now both in home quarantine for 14 days, according to the statement put out by his office.  He is continuing to carry out the duties of his office while allowing himself time for rest and recovery. 

Narkewicz said he felt it was important for people to know he tested positive, and that the statement was “one of the more surreal press releases I’ve had to write.”

He encouraged people to practice social distancing and take other public health precautions. “I just want to continue to emphasize what the CDC, DPH and our health department has been emphasizing — to really take this, COVID-19, coronavirus, seriously and to the fullest extent possible, stay at home and be safe and avoid unnecessary social in teractions,” he said. “It’s important for all of us to do our part to keep ourselves healthy so we can keep our entire community healthy.”

In the case that the mayor becomes unable to work, the city charter includes ways to move forward. “If I were to become incapacitated, there's a provision that the City Council could appoint the City Council president as the acting mayor,” he said. Gina-Louise Sciarra has been the City Council president since January. 

“If that eventually happens,” Narkewicz continued, “I have full confidence in her.”

Sciarra commented on the news saying, “My primary concern is that he gets better and that he gives himself the chance to rest. He works really hard and I know he’s working from home. He’s been in touch, and I know that he is doing everything he needs to get better and also still performing his duties.”

In Amherst, local health officials said they were alerted to the town's first COVID-19 case through the Massachusetts Virtual Epidemiological Network (MAVEN) and by email from the state Department of Public Health. The patient first experienced symptoms on March 13 and self-quarantined with a household member, according to a statement. Testing was done by health care professionals in full protective gear at an outdoor testing location and the person who tested positive is in isolation at home while the other household member is quarantined at home. 

“This is the first case in Amherst, but it won’t be the last,” Amherst Town Manager Paul Bockelman said in a statement. “We all must work together, making sacrifices in what we want to do, to limit the spread of this virulent pandemic.” 

Amherst Health Director Julie Federman commended the steps the residents involved took by staying at home as much as possible, calling it a “real service to the community.” 

“This case reinforces the need that every member of our community must practice social distancing by staying home as much as possible,” she said. 

Hampshire College also reported Thursday that one of its employees was confirmed to have Covid-19. The employee has been out of the office and not working on campus since March 13, and does not work directly with students, according to a statement from the college.

“The employee had no campus contacts that put any student or colleague at risk of exposure, and a small number of employees who may have been in direct contact with the employee in the last 14 days have been notified. The employee’s work area has been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected,” the statement said. 

Baystate Health reported Thursday that the hospital has now had 97 patients test positive for COVID-19, up from 52 the day before. That significant change was because the health system received “additional test results back in the past 24 hours,” according to a statement.

Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton reported a total of 21 positive cases as of Thursday, up from 14 the day before.

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com. Gazette Staff Writer Dusty Christensen contributed to this report. 


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