By The Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD (AP) — Leaders at a Massachusetts hospital group swamped by a new wave of COVID-19 patients are appealing to the public to help handle the latest outbreak.

Springfield-based Baystate Health has 18% of the state’s cases but just 5.5% of the state’s hospital beds, leadership said Thursday.

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There were just four patients with the coronavirus in Baystate’s four hospitals on July 4, but that had surged to more than 100 at one point this week, President and CEO Dr. Mark Keroack said. It had dropped to 89 as of Thursday.

Baystate operates hospitals in Springfield, Greenfield, Westfield and Palmer.

“We are appealing to the community to help us,” he said. “Everyone in the community has a role to mitigate the effects of this crisis and to help us be there for everybody who needs us.”

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Baystate officials are speaking with local governments, boards of health, employers and venues, including the The Big E, about mask and vaccine mandates.

Hampden County, where Springfield is located, has just a 52% vaccination rate, compared to 66% for the state as a whole. Three-quarters of Baystate’s hospitalized COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated, he said.

The surge in coronavirus patients is straining the entire system, which like many hospitals, is understaffed, he said.

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