Holyoke mayor pleads for more residents to get vaccinated, but no mask mandate yet
The mayor of Holyoke, Massachusetts, appealed to residents of the city Friday to get vaccinated against COVID-19. But he stopped short of issuing a mask mandate.
According to a city health official, cases in Holyoke have more than tripled since the last week of October, from 50 to170. And the city's rate of fully vaccinated residents is now 62% — well behind the state average of about 74%.
Mayor Joshua Garcia said case rates in Holyoke are not as high as some surrounding communities, so he's taking a wait-and-see approach on requiring masks indoors.
Garcia said news that Baystate Medical Center in Springfield is over capacity, and on the verge of rationing care, motivated him to ask residents to get vaccinated.
"When you get the cry of help from the CEO of one of our major hospitals in the region of how things are bottlenecking in their institution, that in of itself should be a concern for all surrounding communities," Garcia said at a press conference at Holyoke City Hall.
Garcia acknowledged at least some Holyoke residents will not be vaccinated under any circumstances. He asked them to do the "bare minimum."
"Wear your masks. Get tested whenever possible before going to large gatherings," he said. "If you're not feeling well, get tested. After large gatherings, get tested. Know whether or not you have the symptom. If you do, stay home."
At least two other western Massachusetts communities, Greenfield and Westfield, have recently decided to bring back mask mandates.
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said this week he wasn't planning to reinstate a mandate right now — but would if health data dictated the need for it.
Governor Charlie Baker announced this week that his administration "has no plans" to bring back a mask mandate.