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Four area towns in state’s highest-risk category with COVID-19 case numbers

  • CVS Pharmacist Sandra Balbino administers a COVID-19 vaccine Friday at Overlook Visiting Nurse Association & Hospice on Amherst Road in Sunderland. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Physical Therapist Alice Kenney gets vaccinated for COVID-19 on Friday by CVS Pharmacist Sandra Balbino at Overlook Visiting Nurse Association & Hospice on Amherst Road in Sunderland. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Statistics from the state Department of Public Health, as of Thursday, show 275 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Franklin County over the previous two-week period. Courtesy graphic/Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts

Staff Writer
Published: 1/22/2021 6:38:52 PM

Deerfield joined Sunderland, Athol and Orange in the state Department of Public Health’s “red” or highest-risk category this week, reporting 32 new COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks.

Athol remained in the “red” with 88 new cases during that time, while Orange reported 46 and Sunderland, 29. Montague and Greenfield reported 23 and 66 new cases, respectively, over the past two weeks, landing them in the “yellow” or higher-risk category just below “red.” Erving was the only Franklin County town to be placed in the “green” or lower-risk category.

Along with Athol in Worcester County, Petersham reported fewer than five positive cases over the past two weeks, while Phillipston and Royalston both reported 10 cases, but all three towns remained in the “gray” or lowest-risk category, along with the 20 remaining Franklin County towns.

Vaccinations

As Greenfield ended its vaccine clinic for first responders at the John Zon Community Center on Friday, Overlook Visiting Nurse Association & Hospice on Amherst Road in Sunderland vaccinated its staff, which consist of physical therapists, occupational therapists, nurses, home health aides and more, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“We’re vaccinating 70 staff members today,” Overlook Visiting Nurse Association & Hospice Regional Director Sharon Wright said. “We have clients throughout Franklin County, Hampshire County and Worcester County. When patients are released from the hospital or rehab, we go into their homes to provide the care they need.”

The nonprofit, owned by the Masonic Health System of Massachusetts, has a facility in Sunderland and West Springfield.

While Wright said she was surprised vaccines weren’t approved for home health care workers before this, she is happy it happened and the staff will be protected after each receives a second dose in a few weeks.

Greenfield Mayor Roxann Wedegartner said the city had vaccinated 480 first responders from across the county by midday Wednesday — the city’s goal is to vaccinate 600 by the end of Friday.

“Currently, there are few issues more acute than vaccine distribution,” Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, wrote this week in an update from her office. “I’ve heard from constituents who are afraid, angry, confused, anxious — and I get it. The information you’re receiving is complex, changing and incomplete.”

Comerford said she will continue to advocate for her constituents on all issues, including the vaccine. The Biden-Harris Administration has promised an increase in both production and distribution of vaccines as well as requisite funding, which is critical, she continued.

“The full measure of our work at the state level must be to ensure an equitable, rapid rollout,” Comerford said. “My team and I are engaged deeply in this work at the state and regional levels.”

Comerford said experts suggest the state should be administering 30,000 to 40,000 vaccines daily, about five times as many as what’s happening now. She said state COVID-19 case numbers are “ticking up” daily, so there needs to be mass vaccinations sites.

The state’s phased approach focuses on frontline medical providers and first responders, as well as people at the greatest risk, like those in nursing homes, in Phase 1.

Comerford said some constituents have written with concerns about how Massachusetts compares to other states with its vaccine rollout.

“What’s true is that the Massachusetts plan is more methodical than other states and launched a week later than some of our New England neighbors, making an apples-to-apples comparison more difficult,” she said. “But that aside, all plans need oversight and to be accountable.”

For more information about the vaccine in Massachusetts, visit bit.ly/2Y6IBtT. Contact Comerford at 413-367-4656 or 617-722-1532, or email her at jo.comerford@masenate.gov.

Testing

The state’s Stop the Spread COVID-19 testing site at Greenfield Community College will continue testing asymptomatic people until at least March or April. It is a self-testing site that is available by appointment only, so register at bit.ly/3iGlNL1.

Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield (bit.ly/364knF9) and the Community Health Center of Franklin County, with offices in Greenfield and Orange, (bit.ly/3o99PLc) are testing symptomatic people by appointment.

Hospitalizations

Baystate Health reported a total of 129 hospitalized within its system because of COVID-19 as of Friday, with 14 people in its critical care unit in Springfield. Five of those hospitalized were at Baystate Franklin in Greenfield.

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 or afritz@recorder.com.



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