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Health Officials Concerned By COVID-19 Increases In Springfield And Worcester

Nurses talk to a patient at the COVID-19 mass vaccination site at Eastfield Mall in Springfield, Massachusetts, in January 2021.
Nurses talk to a patient at the COVID-19 mass vaccination site at Eastfield Mall in Springfield, Massachusetts, in January 2021.

The numbers remain low compared to earlier in the pandemic, but local public health officials are expressing concern about upticks in COVID-19 cases in two of New England's largest cities.

"We went from a low [on] June 20 of 17 cases, and then the week of July 4, there were 37 cases," said Helen Caulton-Harris, Springfield's commissioner of health and human services. "This week, I am seeing another increase in the cases in the city."

The latest state data show 49% of Springfield residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. That's about 20 percentage points below the state average.

Caulton-Harris said she believes the relatively low vaccination rates in the city could be playing a role in the uptick in cases.

"Obviously, the more transmissible Delta variant is something everyone is watching, which could contribute to the increase in cases," she said.

Caulton-Harris said people gathering for the Fourth of July may have also led to more COVID-19 infections.

In Worcester, new COVID-19 cases went from 39 for the two weeks ending July 1, to 47 for the same period ending July 15.

Dr. Michael Hirsh, the medical director for the city's division of public health, said it may be a temporary blip. But he said there has also been an increase in hospitalizations for those aged 20 to 40.

Hirsh said he's particularly concerned by what he's heard from younger people.

"There's a number of those folk in that demographic that just feel like it's just as well if they get the disease and get it over with and that's how they'll get their immunity," Hirsh said. "Unfortunately, we're seeing more and more people populating these long-term COVID care clinics with protracted problems with their breathing, with their cardiac function."

Hirsh said the long-term effects of getting COVID-19 are still unclear.

Copyright 2021 New England Public Media. To see more, visit New England Public Media.

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