Several Franklin County, North Quabbin towns see increase in new COVID-19 cases

Staff Writer
Published: 10/21/2020 9:50:19 AM
Modified: 10/21/2020 9:50:12 AM

The county is seeing new cases of COVID-19 now that fall is upon us, but that doesn’t mean a “surge” is starting, health officials say.

Most recently, Sunderland reported nine new cases over the two-week period between Sept. 27 and Oct. 10. The state Department of Public Health (DPH) will report new numbers this week — it currently does so every two weeks.

Athol reported five cases of COVID-19 during the last two-week period reported by the state.

Buckland’s Board of Health and COVID-19 Task Force are meeting this week to discuss a rise in the number of cases it has seen. A person there was diagnosed with the virus and, according to Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG) Regional Health Agent Randy Crochier, contract tracing is being done to identify and test the people that person has been in contact with recently.

“There are ‘zero to five’ cases in Buckland right now, according to the state,” he said. “The person who contracted COVID-19 had a lot of contacts, so nurses are currently contact tracing. Those who have been found have been placed in quarantine.”

Crochier said there have been “a few” new cases reported in other towns that FRCOG serves, and according to the DPH, Bernardston, Colrain, Ashfield, Greenfield, Montague, Leverett and Whately have all reported five or fewer cases.

“We just can’t say if this is the beginning of a fall surge,” Crochier said. “We have no clue. But, we’ll be keeping an eye on things. This isn’t a whole lot different than what we’ve been seeing, but the number of contacts is higher than we’ve seen in the past.”

Phoebe Walker, FRCOG’s director of community services, said the agency has been preparing for a possible convergence of the flu and COVID-19 this fall and winter. A list of flu clinics is available at bit.ly/2Hm9Dso. Health officials are recommending everyone over the age of 6 months old get a flu shot.

Walker said FRCOG has been meeting regularly with school and public health nurses, health agents and directors, and local boards of health to plan to prevent a surge, and effectively respond to it if it does occur. The agency is also providing COVID-19 updates and data on its website — although it does not plan to provide Franklin County numbers, but rather lists a link to the state’s numbers.

“People need to continue washing their hands, wearing masks, staying home as much as possible and social distancing,” Walker said.

FRCOG also provides a link to the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts’ map. People can click on their town to see local COVID-19 case numbers.

“We believe an overview of the entire county, rather than looking at each town, makes more sense,” she said.

Walker said people will be able to find all information in one place by going to the FRCOG website, even if it means they have to click on links to other websites.

“People will have access to a weekly summary,” she said. “The maps and charts and information are easy to access and understand.”

The map, for instance, codes each town and city with colors: gray for those with fewer than five cases; green for lower risk (greater than four cases per 100,000); yellow for moderate risk (four to eight cases per 100,000); and red for high risk (greater than eight cases per 100,000).

FRCOG has also been providing businesses with “mask signs,” asking patrons to wear masks when entering. New ones have just arrived and will be distributed to those who want them, Walker said.

“We’re doing what we can, all working together to make sure nothing gets out of hand,” she said. “We want everyone to have access to see the big picture for the county, get a countywide overview when searching for data.”

For more information, call your town office or FRCOG at 413-774-3167, or visit bit.ly/33UEmUZ. From there, you can follow various links to the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts, the Massachusetts COVID Command Center and more.

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


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