HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – With the holidays around the corner, there are increasing concerns about COVID-19 as many local communities report a spike in cases.
In Holyoke, the mayor is choosing to not mandate mask wearing for now, but that may change depending how case numbers keep trending.
Holyoke Mayor, Joshua Garcia told 22News, “As long as each of us are doing our part we can prevent cases from increasing.”
COVID-19 isn’t slowing down as communities prepare for the holidays. Mask mandates are making their return, Westfield being the latest community to bring it back to stop new infections.
From last week to this one, new cases more than doubled in Holyoke going from 50 to 107. It’s a number that wasn’t high enough for the mayor to implement a mask mandate, although he isn’t writing it off.
“We can also prevent a mask mandate from being implemented. It’s not the direction we want to go. If understand if we have too, my administration will mandate one if we have too,” added Mayor Garcia.
Remote learning is still not an option for Massachusetts schools. Holyoke’s superintendent is a firm believer of keeping kids in school.
“We need to make sure to boost that attendance rate up. I know we are asking families to keep their kids home if they’re sick. But we do have a test and stay program and its designed to keep our kids in school and safe,” said Holyoke School Superintendent Anthony Soto.
The city was a receiver of 25,000 new testing kits, and the schools will be getting a large share of them. Despite the rise of Omicron, local health leaders say Delta is still the biggest threat, among variants, and is responsible for the most hospitalizations.
Hospitalizations continue to increase locally. Baystate Health is now caring for 142 patients with COVID-19 at their hospitals, that’s 14 more than Thursday.