The number of people hospitalized with COVID continues to climb with another 113 added to the state’s report Friday. COVID hospitalizations are now at 2,637 patients as of Friday’s report, which often lags a few days behind actual numbers. That’s 209 patients more than peak hospitalizations during last year’s post-holiday surge. The state nearly hit 4,000 during the first surge in April 2020, however.

Of those hospitalizations, 421 were in intensive care and 245 were intubated. Intubations have ticked back downward the past few days.

As the omicron variant has spread and more people are vaccinated the percentage of fully vaccinated individuals in the hospital has ticked up in recent weeks with about 42% of COVID patients fully vaccinated while the other 58% are either unvaccinated or had not completed a two-dose vaccination.

Health officials still say, and data support, that vaccinated individuals are less likely to get severely ill and if they do, are more likely to recover quickly.

The state reported another 26,187 cases on Friday. A few weeks ago that number would have been a record-breaker, but cases have routinely been above 20,000 a day since a few days after Christmas. Last year, high case numbers persisted several days after New Year’s Day before plummeting for two months. A look at positive tests by test date — which is different from the daily new cases reported — shows Jan. 3 was the highest COVID case day on record with 32,931 positive tests that day. And that number could continue to grow as more tests from that date are reported.

Springfield is among the top five communities with the highest COVID-19 infection rates.

The Western Massachusetts city had an average daily rate of 245 cases per 100,000 and a percent positivity of 21%, according to information released by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health this week. It ranked fourth in the state with Lawrence ranking the highest with a case rate of 295.

The state reported another 55 confirmed COVID deaths on Friday with the average age of those who died being 73.

There were 116,244 more molecular tests reported and the seven-day percent positivity has swelled to 23.02%.

SPRINGFIELD — Following a judge’s finding last month that the city has failed to enforce its own employee residency requirement for more than 25 years, Mayor Domenic Sarno on Friday announced several appointments to an oversight committee that has been dormant since the mid-1990s.

The move by Sarno to fill the Residency Compliance Commission, a body required under city ordinance, comes three days before the City Council was to consider a vote calling for him to do exactly that.

A motion on Monday’s agenda, proposed by Councilors Justin Hurst, Tracye Whitfield and Michael Fenton, seeks council approval to formally order Sarno to comply with city ordinances that stipulate residency enforcement.

NEW YORK (AP) — Sidney Poitier, the groundbreaking actor and enduring inspiration who transformed how Black people were portrayed on screen, and became the first Black actor to win an Academy Award for best lead performance and the first to be a top box-office draw, has died. He was 94.

Poitier, winner of the best actor Oscar in 1964 for “Lilies of the Field,” died Thursday at his home in Los Angeles, according to Latrae Rahming, the director of communications for the Prime Minister of Bahamas. His close friend and great contemporary Harry Belafonte issued a statement Friday, remembering their extraordinary times together.

“For over 80 years, Sidney and I laughed, cried and made as much mischief as we could,” he wrote. “He was truly my brother and partner in trying to make this world a little better. He certainly made mine a whole lot better.”

Few movie stars, Black or white, had such an influence both on and off the screen. Before Poitier, the son of Bahamian tomato farmers, no Black actor had a sustained career as a lead performer or could get a film produced based on his own star power. Before Poitier, few Black actors were permitted a break from the stereotypes of bug-eyed servants and grinning entertainers. Before Poitier, Hollywood filmmakers rarely even attempted to tell a Black person’s story.

Messages honoring and mourning Poitier flooded social media, with Oscar winner Morgan Freeman calling him “my inspiration, my guiding light, my friend” and Oprah Winfrey praising him as a “Friend. Brother. Confidant. Wisdom teacher.” Former President Barack Obama cited his achievements and how he revealed “the power of movies to bring us closer together.”

Poitier’s rise mirrored profound changes in the country in the 1950s and 1960s. As racial attitudes evolved during the civil rights era and segregation laws were challenged and fell, Poitier was the performer to whom a cautious industry turned for stories of progress.

He was the escaped Black convict who befriends a racist white prisoner (Tony Curtis) in “The Defiant Ones.” He was the courtly office worker who falls in love with a blind white girl in “A Patch of Blue.” He was the handyman in “Lilies of the Field” who builds a church for a group of nuns. In one of the great roles of the stage and screen, he was the ambitious young father whose dreams clashed with those of other family members in Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun.”

Debates about diversity in Hollywood inevitably turn to the story of Poitier. With his handsome, flawless face; intense stare and disciplined style, he was for years not just the most popular Black movie star, but the only one.

“I made films when the only other Black on the lot was the shoeshine boy,” he recalled in a 1988 Newsweek interview. “I was kind of the lone guy in town.”

Poitier peaked in 1967 with three of the year’s most notable movies: “To Sir, With Love,” in which he starred as a school teacher who wins over his unruly students at a London secondary school; “In the Heat of the Night,” as the determined police detective Virgil Tibbs; and in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” as the prominent doctor who wishes to marry a young white woman he only recently met, her parents played by Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn in their final film together.

All those who see unworthiness when they look at me and are given thereby to denying me value — to you I say, ‘I’m not talking about being as good as you. I hereby declare myself better than you,’” he wrote in his memoir, “The Measure of a Man,” published in 2000.

But even in his prime he was criticized for being out of touch. He was called an Uncle Tom and a “million-dollar shoeshine boy.” In 1967, The New York Times published Black playwright Clifford Mason’s essay, “Why Does White America Love Sidney Poitier So?” Mason dismissed Poitier’s films as “a schizophrenic flight from historical fact” and the actor as a pawn for the “white man’s sense of what’s wrong with the world.”

Stardom didn’t shield Poitier from racism and condescension. He had a hard time finding housing in Los Angeles and was followed by the Ku Klux Klan when he visited Mississippi in 1964, not long after three civil rights workers had been murdered there. In interviews, journalists often ignored his work and asked him instead about race and current events.

“I am an artist, man, American, contemporary,” he snapped during a 1967 press conference. “I am an awful lot of things, so I wish you would pay me the respect due.”

Poitier was not as engaged politically as Belafonte, leading to occasional conflicts between them. But he was active in the 1963 March on Washington and other civil rights events, and as an actor defended himself and risked his career. He refused to sign loyalty oaths during the 1950s, when Hollywood was barring suspected Communists, and turned down roles he found offensive.

“Almost all the job opportunities were reflective of the stereotypical perception of Blacks that had infected the whole consciousness of the country,” he recalled. “I came with an inability to do those things. It just wasn’t in me. I had chosen to use my work as a reflection of my values.

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