Springfield hospital sees jump, Gov. Baker urges people not to let their guards down

Springfield hospital sees jump, Gov. Baker urges people not to let their guards down

BOSTON — Positive tests for COVID-19 remain low, but there are warning signs the virus is ready for a rebound, said Governor Charlie Baker, if residents let their guard down.

“On Sunday there were 273 new positive cases reported, which brings the statewide total to just over 108,000,” Baker said at a mid-day press conference. “The seven-day average for the positive test rate is 1.9%.”

That average has ticked up in recent days -- something not altogether unexpected, the Governor said, given more people are moving around and interacting.

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What’s more troubling, he said, are clusters of infections that have shown up in recent weeks, including 13 testing positive after a party in Chatham and a more recent outbreak at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, caused when an employee traveled to a ‘hot spot’ state -- then returned to work, infected.

"There are now a number of people who work at Baystate and a couple of patients there as well who tested positive," Baker said.

Actually, Baystate Medical tells Boston 25 News that, so far, 23 employees have tested positive, as well as 13 patients -- all seen on a non-COVID floor between July 15 - 23. Contact tracing continues to potentially identify more victims.

Baystate administrators believe mask carelessness among staff contributed to the outbreak.

”We know staff convened in break rooms and removed their masks without observing social distancing protocols,” a press release read. “This event reinforces that COVID-19 is highly contagious and requires vigilance in order to contain its spread.”

The hospital is in touch with employees who spent even 15 minutes on the unit in question -- a testament to the possibility, recently endorsed by the World Health Organization, the virus is spread in tiny particles exhaled during speech and even breathing.

“If people do the right things we should continue to be successful in containing this,” Baker said. “So far, most of the data we’ve seen about where the clusters have come from have had a lot more to do with just people sort of letting down their guard a bit than anything else.”

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