Southwick to roll back to Phase 3, Step 1 on Monday

SOUTHWICK- The Town of Southwick will roll back to Step 1 of Phase 3 of Gov. Charlie D. Baker’s reopening plan Monday after the town was reported as a high risk community for COVID-19 for three straight weeks. 

The decision by the Massachusetts Department of Health and Human services comes as the Southwick Health Department reported 37 new confirmed COVID-19 cases since Nov. 25. That number represents a new weekly high for Southwick since the beginning of the pandemic, but it includes tests reported on Nov. 25 and Nov. 26, making it a longer reporting period than normal. The total number of cases reported in Southwick since the beginning of the pandemic now stands at 215. 

As of Thursday’s Board of Health meeting, Southwick had 41 active COVID-19 cases in quarantine, 47 people in isolation from contact tracing, and one person in the hospital due to COVID-19. 

Spencer said that there are no known clusters of COVID-19 cases in Southwick, but that more densely populated neighborhoods seem to have more cases. For the most part, Spencer said, most people do not know where they got infected and there is no major commonality linking those who have been infected.

“This has been the busiest month of the pandemic,” said Spencer. 

She said that even though Thanksgiving was last week, she does not expect that many cases reported this week were a result of Thanksgiving gatherings. Instead, she expects Thanksgiving-related cases to become known next week and the week after. 

Public Health Nurse Kate Johnson was recently contacted by the state’s Contact Tracing Collaborative who informed her that they were unable to contact a number of people in Southwick because of a heavy backlog. 

Southwick’s new designation as a step 1 community begins Monday, though Spencer said that it does not have as much of an effect on the town because Southwick does not have a lot of the relevant services that would be restricted. 

Businesses that will now be prohibited from operating include indoor performance venues, skate rinks, trampoline parks, obstacle courses, laser tag, and escape rooms.

For other businesses, operating capacity must be reduced from 50 percent to 40 percent. These include driving and flight schools, gyms, libraries, museums, arcades, and lower contact indoor and outdoor recreational businesses.

Outdoor gatherings at event venues and in public settings will now be limited to 50 people. Outdoor theater and performance venues will now have to operate at 25 percent capacity, but with no more than 50 people. 

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