In Massachusetts, people staying safe, keeping COVID-19 numbers down

Staff Writer
Published: 7/24/2020 8:29:02 PM

NORTHAMPTON — As some states continue to endure major spikes in COVID-19 caseloads, recent numbers of people infected with the disease in both Hampshire County and Massachusetts have remained comparatively low.

As of July 23, the state has counted a total of 114,647 confirmed and probable coronavirus cases, 1,065 of which were in Hampshire County, according to the state Department of Public Health. Deaths from the disease reached at least 8,265 in the state Thursday.

There has been an average of 295 cases of the coronavirus per day in the Massachusetts over the past week, a 33% increase from the average two weeks earlier, according to The New York Times. In contrast, Florida has seen an average of 10,585 COVID-19 cases per day, an increase of 16% from the average two weeks earlier, The Times reported.

Massachusetts public health officials also reported Thursday that COVID-19 hospitalizations, deaths and positive test rates have all decreased in the state since April 15.

Dr. Herbert T. Abelson, a retired academic physician and a member of the Granby Board of Health, said he believes that Massachusetts hasn’t seen a drastic increase in cases partly because residents of the Northeast have largely complied with COVID-19 preventative measures. Gov. Charlie Baker has also handed down clear directives for containment and reopening the economy, Abelson argued.

“It’s a pretty straightforward issue of maintaining distance, wearing masks, remaining cognizant of crowds and being respectful of what little is actually known about how this disease is transmitted to others,” Abelson said.

Holyoke had an increase of 17 new confirmed cases between July 15 and July 22, from 942 to 959, according to detailed caseload data by city and towns released weekly by the state DPH.

In Hampshire County as of July 22, Northampton had a cumulative total of 283 confirmed COVID-19 cases, up from 282 on July 15; South Hadley had 168, up from 150; Belchertown had 113, up from 107; Amherst had 103, up from 100; Easthampton 91, up from 87; Hadley 45, up from 44; Southampton stayed at 31; Granby stayed at 32; Hatfield 18, no increase; Huntington 14, no increase; Williamsburg 11, no increase; Westhampton five, no increase; and Goshen at five, up from having fewer than five cases.

Plainfield, Cummington, Chesterfield and Pelham once again reported fewer than five cases, while Worthington and Middlefield have stayed at zero cases.

Worldwide as of Friday afternoon, there have been at least 15,594,551 cases of COVID-19 and at least 635,086 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday there have been 4,024,492 total cases of the disease in the United States and 143,868 total deaths. The University of Massachusetts Amherst COVID-19 Forecast Hub on July 14 predicted that that 157,000 people in the U.S. will have died of the disease by Aug. 8.

The Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts said Thursday there has been a decrease in confirmed cases in the region since April, with the number of new COVID-19 cases staying under 200 each week since the beginning of June. There are also zero current cases of COVID-19 inside the Hampshire County Jail and House of Correction, according to the sheriff’s office last Thursday.

Abelson said he thinks the same factors he believes are keeping the state’s case numbers steady is also why there hasn’t been a marked increase in COVID-19 in western Massachusetts.

“I think people in western Massachusetts have been responsible,” Abelson said, “and that fact of being responsible has helped us not have runaway case numbers.”

Abelson said there may very well be another wave of COVID-19 coming in the United States. In the face of rising cases elsewhere in the country, Baker signed an executive order Friday threatening $500 fines for travelers entering the state from places with high COVID-19 caseloads who do not self-quarantine, beginning Aug. 1. But Abelson hopes that since residents of the Northeast have been vigilant with social distancing and other precautions, such habits will stick and cases won’t rise dramatically.

“We need to do what we’ve been doing,” Abelson said. “It’s been effective here in Massachusetts, it’s been effective in New England, and we need to continue doing the same kinds of things to protect ourselves.”

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