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Regional News

Springfield, Mass., Official Cautious About State's Move To Loosen Mask Restrictions

Springfield, Massachusetts, Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris speaking at City Hall on Monday, May, 17, 2021.
Alden Bourne
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NEPM
Springfield, Massachusetts, Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris speaking at City Hall on Monday, May, 17, 2021.

Springfield's top public health official said it's good news Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker will lift the state's COVID-19 restrictions soon, but urged the city's residents to exercise caution.

While about 45% of Massachusetts residents are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, that's true of fewer than 26% of Springfield residents.

Helen Caulton-Harris, the city's health and human services commissioner, said while the governor is relaxing the mask mandate at the end of this month, people still need to make their own decisions about whether to wear one — especially if they have other risk factors.

"This virus is not finished with us yet. And the more we relax and appear as if it is, then people are going to take risks," she said.

Caulton-Harris announced that all city-run COVID-19 vaccination clinics will soon provide shots to people without an appointment.

"I think it's good news we're moving in the right direction," Mayor Domenic Sarno said at a City Hall press conference. "We are still putting out the clarion call about vaccination, vaccination, vaccination."

Virtual school planned

Also Monday, Springfield School Superintendent Daniel Warwick said he plans to apply to Massachusetts education officials for approval of a new virtual school for the fall.

"This would be for our families that wouldn't be comfortable coming back in next year and might be considering home instruction," Warwick said

Warwick said he is going to bring the proposal to the Springfield School Committee at the end of June. A district spokesperson said a number of families have expressed interest in the virtual model.

One reason for Springfield to move forward may be financial: A district receives less money if parents choose to home-school a child.

Meanwhile, Springfield will soon provide its largest summer school ever, both in-person and remote. Warwick said the goal is to make up for some of the learning loss associated with the pandemic.

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