COVID-19 cases spike in Westfield

WESTFIELD- The Westfield Health Department reported Oct. 14 19 new COVID-19 cases and a single death in a week, the biggest single-week spike since the spring.

The rise in new cases comes as Westfield Public Schools prepare to welcome some students back for in-person learning on Oct. 19. 

The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the city now stands at 586 with 58 deaths. There are 15 active cases in isolation. 

Westfield Director of Public Health Joseph A. Rouse. (THE WESTFIELD NEWS FILE PHOTO)

Health Director Joseph Rouse said during Wednesday’s remote Board of Health meeting that the spike could possibly be attributed to a number of factors. He said that one major factor is that the state has recently relaxed some restrictions on gatherings. While some standalone spikes have occurred in Westfield in recent months, Rouse said that the new numbers follow an upward trend that can’t be explained.

“We expect to see these numbers spike, but then they resolve usually,” said Rouse. “Now we are starting to get outside of being able to explain it away in that way.”

With schools preparing to reopen Monday with a limited number of students, Rouse said that the Health Department has to look very closely at the number of new cases in the coming days. If there is a significant daily spike in cases, Rouse may consider putting out new recommendations to the School Committee.

He said that the numbers right now wouldn’t necessarily require schools to cancel in-person learning yet. 

“We aren’t even back to school yet but we are seeing cases in schools with staff members,” said Rouse. 

He said that he would not be surprised to see Westfield designated as a “high risk” community in the coming weeks. Nearby Springfield and Holyoke both currently hold that status. 

“Everybody is in the same boat, I don’t want people to think this is just a Westfield problem,” said Rouse. 

Case numbers have been increasing throughout the state, with the percent-positive rate remaining above 4% in recent days. 

There is no common denominator in age or central location for the 19 new cases. They range in age from 8-years-old to 75-years-old, with the average age being approximately 41-years-old. Rouse said they are also scattered all over the city. 

“When we get back into a situation with community spread, then we really have to evaluate everything,” said Rouse, “We are not there yet, but it is a slippery slope.”

New Board of Health member Stanley Strzempko suggested that the board focus on enforcement and education for now rather than implementing more restrictions. 

“It seems like a no-brainer to ask our friends at the Westfield Police Department to better enforce the mask mandate,” said Strzempko.

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