Three new western Massachusetts towns now high risk, one lowered to moderate

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EAST LONGMEADOW, Mass. (WWLP) – Three more western Massachusetts towns have been added to the state’s COVID-19 high risk list. Granby, Palmer and Pittsfield are now on the state’s COVID-19 high risk community list.

Now Pittsfield is taking measures to ensure residents know their case status including even more aggressive contact tracing.

“It’s disconcerting. We are also going to be benefitted from a better testing platform next week. And we’re going to get a more rapid return in test results,” Pittsfield Board of Health chair, Dr. Alan Kluberg told 22News.

They’ll start now sending their samples from their main testing site, Berkshire Medical Center, to The Broad Institute in Cambridge. Dr. Kluberg says it should take now 18 to 36 hours for residents to get their test results back, whereas before it was taking much longer.

He attributes the spread in Pittsfield to gatherings and a chunk of cases related to Hillcrest Commons nursing center.

In good news, East Longmeadow has been downgraded to a moderate risk COVID-19 community from being high risk, making some town business owners very happy.

“Everybody out there is fighting for their lives today in business, it’s a scary time, an unknown for all of us. It’s a huge challenge but you know every day we’re trying to follow the rules. Sanitize as much as we can sanitize,” Center Square Grill owner, William Collins told 22News. “So I’m really happy to see that some of the measures that the local businesses here in East Longmeadow are taking are working,” he continued.

But some East Longmeadow officials are skeptical if the new numbers truly reflect community spread.

“It doesn’t really feel much different from being in the red to be perfectly honest. We’re kind of thinking that the designation into yellow was because there were fewer testing sites available and those that were open had shorter hours due to the holidays,” East Longmeadow Town Manager, Mary McNally told 22News.

McNally says the numbers are still not good. Leading her to believe that next week they may be back to a high risk designation during the state’s next community risk assessment report.

“It’s a false sense of happiness I suppose. I mean yes we’re happy to be in the yellow but we’re not taking that as any sort of indication that we would change our strategy or policies,” McNally continued.

And Despite Granby’s new COVID-19 high risk designation, the public school system said in a press release that they will be bringing Kindergarten, first grade, 7th grade and high needs students back to in-person learning.

The state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has said that schools in high risk zones should continue in-person learning until there is evidence of COVID spread in school buildings.

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