Solar array proposed in Southwick off Hudson Drive. The Conservation Commission heard a proposal from a developer seeking to construct a ground-mounted array of solar panels on a parcel on Hudson Drive.
Tom Saunders, a project manager for Energy Development Partners, said that the array would be installed in a 24-acre parcel at the southeast end of Hudson Drive. The solar panels themselves would take up 15 acres, according to the submitted plan.
Saunders said that the Southwick Solar Project would have an AC output of 4.6 megawatts and a DC output of 9 megawatts, and will have a battery storage system on the site.
Police continue to investigate a Monday night shooting that occurred in the Chicopee Falls area.
The shooting took place about 11 p.m. on East Street. The street was closed between 41 East St., near Teddy Bear Pools, to the intersection of Southwick Street for about three hours while detectives investigated, said Detective Danusia Liszka.
She could not say if anyone was injured in the shooting, referring all questions to Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni’s office. Gulluni’s office has not released any information about the incident.
COVID hospitalizations in Massachusetts are close to surpassing last year’s post-holiday peak at the same time the state reported another large wave of positive cases on Tuesday.
Massachusetts reported 16,621 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, continuing high numbers that spiked last week in the days following Christmas. The state also reported 73,343 new COVID molecular tests.
The age group with the highest rate of infection continues to be those in the 30 to 39 range, with the average age of infected individuals being 35.
Data by test date from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health shows the highest number of new cases on record in the state occurred four days after Christmas, on Dec. 29, when the state saw 22,638 new positive cases. That number could continue to tick up as more cases from that date make it through the state’s reporting system.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, symptoms from COVID-19 can occur two to 14 days after exposure.
The state reported 45,029 new breakthrough cases of the virus in the last seven-day period ending Jan. 1. During that same period, the state reported a total of 79,908 new cases. The new breakthrough cases represent about 56% of the total number of new cases reported in that period, an uptick from the 44% the previous week.
About 3.5% of all vaccinated people in the state have tested positive for the virus, the state’s data shows. Yet percentages drop significantly with hospitalizations and deaths with the state reporting that only 3,909 of all hospitalizations have been among the fully vaccinated — or 0.08% of all vaccinated people.
The state also reported another 94 confirmed COVID deaths. Tuesday’s report of new deaths is from a three-day period starting Saturday. A total of 942 vaccinated people have died since the start of the pandemic, or 0.02% of vaccinated individuals. The average age of those who have died from the virus in the past 14 days is 75.
COVID hospitalizations continue to be a concern as they jumped another 151 patients across the state to 2,372 on Monday — just 56 patients short of where they peaked on Jan. 4 of last year. The gap between last year’s post-holiday hospitalizations and this year was fairly wide after Thanksgiving but has been narrowing in recent weeks as the omicron variant of the coronavirus has dominated.
Of those hospitalizations, 441 were in intensive care and 262 were intubated.
Despite concerns about the ability of the vaccines to fight omicron as effectively as previous variants, data from the Department of Public Health Tuesday shows that about 63% of COVID hospitalizations are among those who are either unvaccinated or had not completed a two-dose vaccination. That percentage is down, however, from a high of around 70% a month ago.
New vaccinations continued this week with the state reporting a total of 5,097,188 people now fully vaccinated and 2,162,522 booster shots given.
Despite concerns about how omicron is spreading among both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, health officials continue to say they see a difference in terms of severity of illness or even whether people exhibit symptoms when they are vaccinated.
Speaking Monday on a conference call with reporters from Massachusetts and Connecticut, Dr. Syed Hussain, chief clinical officer for Trinity Health Of New England, said he wanted to debunk the idea that vaccines don’t work because some vaccinated people still test positive for COVID and some do get ill.
Hussain said clinical data says two vaccine doses provide 35% effectiveness against omicron, which is less effective than they were against earlier variants. However, that third booster dose means 75% effectiveness.
”So it’s really, really important that folks get the booster dose,” Hussain said. It’s also important to wear a mask and socially distance indoors, especially now that many have curtailed outdoor activities for the winter.”
Hampshire College in Amherst has received a generous donation of $5 million in honor of one of the college’s most famous graduates, Ken Burns.
The college will use the $5 million gift to support the ongoing implementation of a new curricular model called, Change in the Making.
Change in the Making organizes undergraduate education around the most urgent challenges of our time, instead of the traditional structures of majors and disciplines. According to the college, the initiative will accelerate the development of innovative approaches to inquiry-driven, project-based education that enables students to master the entrepreneurial skills needed for today and for tomorrow.
“This is yet another historic moment for Hampshire College,” said President Ed Wingenbach, who joined the College in 2019 and is leading its transformation. “We’re reinventing the liberal arts by placing globally relevant questions at the center of our curriculum and challenging students to become agents of momentous change. This donor, who has no previous affiliation with the College, recognizes that higher education requires radical change and that Hampshire is best suited to lead that disruption. We are enormously grateful.”
This is the second gift made to the college at $5 million. The first was from James S. Crown, chairman and CEO of Henry Crown and Company and wife Paula H. Crown in 2020.
“I’m humbled that such a generous philanthropist chose to make this extraordinary gift to my alma mater in my honor,” said Burns. “I know Hampshire is transformative because I experienced it firsthand. I saw how the originality of practices implemented at the college reverberated through higher education. Fifty years later, our nation needs fresh thinking in higher education, and Hampshire is poised to deliver on that opportunity.”
Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1953, Burns graduated from Hampshire College in 1975 and went on to receive 16 Emmy Awards and two Oscar nominations for his documentaries covering everything from the Vietnam War to Ernest Hemingway.
Burns, who lives in New Hampshire, is a regular visitor to the wooded campus in South Amherst.COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness came under scrutiny at last week’s Board of Health meeting where it was decided that mandating shots to enter businesses be put on hold.
The board on Dec. 30 also required surgical masks be required for anyone entering Town Hall.
Health board chair Nancy Gilbert noted that although Amherst Cinema requires proof of vaccination to patronize that theater, “at this point, I don’t see us moving rapidly forward in mandatory vaccination to get into restaurants and other public venues.”
Residents and those frequenting Amherst businesses and those running establishments told the board to avoid issuing mandatory vaccination policies as a condition of being able to enter local businesses, during 45 minutes of public comment.
The general manager of Bistro 63 told the board to stay “as far away from the mandated proof thing as possible.”
Board member Stephen George said it “would be a massive unfunded mandate on local businesses. If it’s an emergency, and we have to do it, then might have to do it.”
“To make restaurant owners do this, policing, is a huge step in my opinion and we should only do it in a real, serious, emergency,” he said.
Amherst health director Jennifer Brown said cloth masks are not adequate to protect individuals from the virus.
“Everyone is going to be required to wear a surgical mask” such as the KN95 or KF94 respirators, to access Amherst Town Hall, she said.
Brown said the town’s proportionate incidence rate of COVID-19 cases is about one-third that of the state average that currently showing 83 per 100,000 people.
The Amherst rate is 28.6, the most recent DPH data indicates, from week ending Dec. 25. This represents the lowest rate in the state, stratifying for communities with at least 10,000 residents. Concord, with nearly 19,000 inhabitants, is next lowest in this group, at 43.5. Amherst’s population is 40,259.
Lawmakers listened to hours of testimony from community members threatening to remove their children from schools in Massachusetts if a bill is passed requiring all children older than 2 years of age to wear a mask.
Amid the anger toward the bill, the president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association supported the bill.
The discussion during the Joint Committee on Education revolved around Senate Bill 2516 that would implement a mask requirement at all K-12 schools and childcare for everyone ages 2 and up. The bill follows recommendations of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
However, the World Health Organization does not require children under the age of 5 to wear masks. The European CDC doesn’t require masks in school for anyone under the age of 13.
“It’s most urgent that you reply out favorably Senate Bill 2516 and do it as soon as possible,” MTA President Merrie Najimy said. “The handful of remedies in this bill are exactly what’s called for to keep school communities safe and open for in-person learning.”
An indoor mask requirement for students and teachers at Massachusetts public schools is already in place but expires Jan. 15. The bill would make it permanent for the remainder of the year.
The bill would expire on June 30 and includes protection against attendance penalties for students getting vaccinated during school hours and paid time off for parents taking children to those vaccination appointments.
“Although it is the executive branch that should take this action, given the Governor’s persistent failure to put science into policy, we must act now to safely keep kids in schools, protect families, and help businesses stay open,” State Rep. Rebecca Rausch said during the hearing. “We do so by, among other things, advancing this bill.”
While most people who participated in the virtual hearing strongly disagreed with the bill referring to it as child abuse, a needless measure and pointed to other nations that don’t have mask mandates for children, Dr. Julia Raifman of Boston University School of Public Health and Department of Health Law, Policy and Management, supported the bill.