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Regional News

An 'Alarming And Scary' COVID Rise, And A Huge 'Gap' In Hospital Staffing

This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses.
Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAM
/
CDC
This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses.

Calling the spike "alarming and scary," Mayor Domenic Sarno said there were more then 250 new cases of COVID-19 in Springfield, Massachusetts, on Tuesday and Wednesday combined.

The city this week instituted an indoor mask mandate with cases continuing to climb, and with the vaccination rate in Hampden County still the lowest in the state — with 60% of residents receiving one shot and 53% fully vaccinated.

Sarno and public health officials have been pleading with residents to get vaccinated for months, even saying at one point they've been going door-to-door to make the case for the shots.

More cases, of course, puts stress on area hospitals. And several in western Massachusetts said they've been dealing with a staffing shortage. Baystate Health CEO Mark Keroack said his organization has 1,400 openings.

"We now, as a result of early retirements, resignations, and leaves, have 1,400 open positions among our 12,000 employees," Keroack said at a recent press conference. "We've done a number of things to get our arms around this including raising salaries, enhancing benefits, bonuses, hiring travelers and contractors — but the gap is still there."

Also, this week, another moldy public building was in the news. Students at South Hadley High finally started the school year Thursday — two weeks late and online. Remediation efforts are underway to clean up mold from nearly 70 classrooms.

State education officials initially blocked the request for remote learning, saying students lost too much in-person class time last year because of the pandemic. But this week they changed course and granted a waiver to allow five days of remote learning. 

Finally, some area communities are preparing to hold preliminary elections for mayor in the coming weeks. In Holyoke, Northampton and North Adams, the fields will be winnowed to two for November's general election.

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