WESTFIELD- There was an increase in the local spread of COVID-19 this week in multiple communities as Massachusetts’ daily case counts rise to numbers not seen since May.
The City of Westfield reported 76 new confirmed COVID-19 cases this week and three additional deaths, bringing the pandemic total to 754 cases and 64 deaths in the city. Fifty people were in isolation when the Health Department reported the weekly numbers Nov. 4.
Health Director Joseph Rouse said that many of the cases are associated with clusters in the Westfield Gardens Nursing Home and Westfield State University. He said this week that there were fewer new cases in the nursing home than were reported the week before. He was optimistic that the clusters would come under control and that the number of new cases in the city would be lower than 76 this week.
“If that number goes up next week, I will be very discouraged,” said Rouse.
The Town of Southwick reported seven new confirmed positive cases this week, bringing the total to 102 cases since March 1. There are currently 13 people in isolation because they previously tested positive and 19 people in quarantine due to close contact with a positive case. Public Health Nurse Kate Johnson said Thursday that there have not been any recent hospitalizations or deaths in the town.
At least some of the new cases in Southwick are tied to a gathering between two families in which at least one person tested positive shortly after in each family. Johnson said that most of the contact cases so far have been asymptomatic, but those who tested positive would later develop symptoms.
She said that Southwick had a percent-positivity rate of 3.4 percent in October, and said that the town is experiencing a resurgence. Southwick’s relatively low population means that a few new cases can greatly increase the percent-positivity rate.
In Southwick. 582 people were tested in October and 5,300 people have been tested in the town since the beginning of the pandemic.
Westfield State University went into a two-week shelter-in-place state Thursday morning after another round of mandatory testing for students found 55 confirmed positive cases, bringing their total to 63 since in-person learning resumed at the end of September.
There were 1,338 people tested this week at Westfield State, with a total of 7,203 people having been tested since the beginning of in-person learning on Sept. 29. Some of the mandatory tests had not yet been completed by the time Westfield State had to update their weekly case count. Those tests will be reflected in the data reported next Thursday, Nov. 12.
Some of those cases consist of commuter students who will be quarantining in their own homes. Residential students who test positive can either quarantine in their own home outside of Westfield or live in the Lansdowne Place apartments in Westfield’s downtown for two weeks.
Some commuter students may have also been counted as part of the city’s data, meaning they’re positive test would not be reflected on Westfield State’s website.
While the number of daily new cases is increasing significantly, the state began reporting a significant number of COVID-19 tests that were administered. This dropped the weekly average positivity rate to 3.7 percent across the state. On Oct. 30, the rate was 7.3 percent with 1,488 new cases. On Nov. 2, when the number of tests increased dramatically, the rate was 1.4 percent.
Gov. Charlie D. Baker announced this week that the statewide mask mandate would be expanded to include all public spaces regardless of ability to socially distance. He also put out an order that lowers the maximum number of people who can gather in high risk communities.