Haverhill officials held an emergency meeting Thursday afternoon as coronavirus cases rise in the city, earning a high-risk designation for transmission from the state.
Haverhill is among 23 Massachusetts communities considered high-risk for transmitting COVID-19 in the state's latest data on the pandemic, putting the city in the red-zone on its community-level risk assessment map. The city's health department has reported 129 cases and 146 positive tests in the past two weeks.
Mayor James Fiorentini called an emergency meeting with the Haverhill Board of Health to discuss the rise in cases and new protocols.
While no city-wide Halloween celebrations will be held this year, anyone who wants to trick-or-treat can do so in their neighborhoods as long as they take proper precautions, the mayor said.
Homeowners should also consider leaving candy out on a table to limit interactions, Fiorentini said.
There were 22 new COVID-19 cases reported Thursday in the city with at least 11 tied to a nursing home outbreak, the mayor said.
"We've been a totally green community up until now. All of a sudden we've seen a big jump in cases," Fiorentini said. "We've saw some of it connected with a house of worship, and some of it connected with a nursing home, and unfortunately some of those that began to spread into the community."
Due to the rising cases, all medium and high-risk youth sports are on hold for at least three weeks. Schools, for now, will remain on a hybrid model using a mix of remote and in-person learning, the mayor said.
All Haverhill restaurants are now being asked to start taking customer information for contact tracing, Fiorentini said. In addition, a mask-mandate is in place for the city's business district.
Plans are in place to step up testing efforts with help from the state. A free testing site will open at the corner of Winter and Locke Streets Thursday through Saturday from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.