Health Director praises local COVID response; outbreak linked to C&S Wholesale

WESTFIELD – Health Director Joseph Rouse praised the local response to the COVID-19 pandemic as Westfield continues to report low infection rates despite a cluster of cases at a local grocery wholesaler.
Rouse said that the general population of Westfield residents is averaging just 1.2 new confirmed COVID-19 cases every day. There have been many stretches in the previous month in which there were zero new cases for several days.
Despite the low numbers, however, the city had to contend with a large cluster of cases at the C&S Wholesale facility on Summit Lock Road. Rouse said that the facility had 42 cases among its employees, although most of them were from Holyoke or Springfield.
“Fortunately for Westfield, there were only five or six cases in which the person had any ties to or residency in Westfield,” said Rouse.
The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Westfield was updated to 468 Wednesday afternoon. Rouse also announced during Wednesday evening’s Board of Health meeting that one person had died due to COVID-19 in the past week in Westfield, the first such death in the city in well over a month. The total number of COVID-related deaths in Westfield now stands at 54.
Because the infection rate has been relatively low locally and statewide, Rouse floated the idea of only updating the city’s online COVID-19 case counter 2-3 times a week as opposed to every weekday. He said that if the current trend continues for a couple more weeks, he may do so.
As the local infection rate remains low, the number of cases in other parts of the country continues to skyrocket. Florida, Arizona, California, and Texas are among the biggest new hotspots of COVID-19 in the country. Rouse said that he suspects that those states are experiencing their surges right now in part because they reopened their economies too early, but also because they were spared from the worst of the outbreak early on.
“For the south and the west, this is largely their first wave. They reopened before they should have because their cases weren’t as bad as ours,” said Rouse. “Now for them it is kind of like where we were in April. We don’t realize how hard we got hit at the beginning in Massachusetts because we had nothing else to compare it to in the country. Unlike the first time, we are ready.”
Rouse said that he had heard conflicting reports about when the state will move to Phase 4 of Gov. Charlie D. Baker’s plan to reopen the economy. He said that he first heard that Phase 4 will not proceed until there is a vaccine. He said he more recently heard that Phase 4 may come if a widespread, viable treatment for COVID-19 is available instead.
Rouse said that so far, businesses have been largely happy to comply with COVID regulations and people seem to have been getting used to the “new normal” that we are all experiencing.
He also said that the sharps collection kiosk that is normally located in the Health Department in City Hall has been moved to the Police Headquarters on Washington Street due to the closure of City Hall to the public.

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