What the CDC’s “Substantial Risk” COVID designation means for Hampden County

Coronavirus Local Impact

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The CDC has classified Hampden County as being at “substantial risk” for COVID-19 transmission. Walking around Springfield Monday morning, you could see a mix of people wearing masks outside.

Baystate Infectious Disease Dr. Esteban Delpilar-Morales compared mask wearing to a dam, “You have your wall to hold off the water, and the mask is like the stirrups. You have behind the wall to keep the wall there, so it’s an extra layer of protection.”

Now as the CDC designates Hampden County as an area of “substantial risk” for COVID transmission, they’re recommending guidelines to help clear up the confusion. According to the CDC, everyone, regardless of vaccination status, should wear a mask inside in areas of “substantial risk.”

“It’s a combination of, ‘we don’t have as many vaccinated people as we might want,’ and we are seeing an increase in cases. So when you put those two together it’s like, it’s time to be cautious,” he continued.

Hampden County is one of seven Massachusetts counties listed on the CDC’s website with substantial risk of COVID-19 transmission, but it’s the only one in western Massachusetts with that designation. To qualify for “substantial risk” of spread, a county must have more than 50 new cases per 100,000 residents over seven days or a positive test rating above 8 percent. Hampden County reported 302 cases in the last seven days, translated to about 64-per-100,000 people.

“If you look specifically at Hampden County, we are the least vaccinated county of all Massachusetts,” DelPilar-Morales explained.

The guidelines are just that, recommendations, and nothing has been implemented so far in Massachusetts in terms of mandatory mask wearing.

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