City to include vaccination, hospitalization data in COVID reports

WESTFIELD — Health Director Joseph Rouse said July 29 that Westfield’s weekly COVID-19 reporting page will soon include more information to give people a better sense of the state of the pandemic locally. 

Rouse said that the COVID-19 reporting page will soon include information on how many new positive cases were vaccinated or unvaccinated, whether any Westfield residents have been hospitalized due to COVID-19, and how many different households have had at least one person test positive for COVID-19. 

“A lot of the cases we have right now are tied to the same households,” said Rouse.

Rouse said that the current system of only reporting new cases, active cases, and deaths is helpful, but it does not paint a full enough picture. Reporting the number of individual households with new infections, for example, will give people a better idea of whether there is true community spread in Westfield, or if full families are getting infected, raising the number of new cases but not causing additional risk of spread. 

“The infection rate isn’t the one that is most important, but it is the one people pay attention to,” said Rouse. 

On July 28, the Health Department reported 16 new COVID-19 cases, zero deaths, and 24 active cases for the prior seven days. In addition to household, vaccination and hospitalization data, Rouse said that they will also try to include any data on how many of the new cases were related to recent travel, which he suspects may be the cause for many of the recent cases reported in Westfield. Though the infection rate is climbing, Rouse said he has not been told of any recent hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in Westfield. 

He noted that the rise in cases is not unexpected, especially in the wake of the full reopening of the economy and a stalled vaccination effort.

In addition to the raw data, the city’s Health Department will include a weekly statement breaking down the numbers and updating residents on the state of the pandemic response locally. 

These numbers will paint a more clear picture of the COVID-19 situation in Westfield, an effort made more important as cases slowly rise locally and nationally. Rouse said that the Health Department’s contact tracers will ask the people they contact about their vaccination status and recent travel history, noting that it will be the responsibility of the residents who are being called to be honest in their answers. 

He said he already checked with Westfield’s legal department, which cleared the contact tracers to ask those questions and report that information. 

“It’s not going to be a confidentiality breach, we won’t be reporting any addresses or names,” said Rouse. 

Rouse was unsure of when the new reporting system would be fully rolled out, but that it could be as soon as within the next two weeks. 

Rouse said that state health officials have instructed local health departments to report any cases tied to the town of Provincetown, on Cape Cod, so that they may be reported as part of that cluster. On July 28, Provincetown officials reported that 833 COVID-19 cases had been tied to a July 4 gathering that took place there. Many of those who have tested positive were not Provincetown residents, and traveled from across the state for the event. 

Early reports on the Provincetown cluster indicated that many of those who tested positive were vaccinated against COVID-19, a fact that Rouse said should not discourage anybody from getting the shot if they have not already done so. 

He said that there are going to be vaccinated people who may test positive, but would have otherwise never known that they were infected because they remain asymptomatic. He pointed to the fact that the effectiveness ratings for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are roughly 95 percent, but not 100 percent. 

“You may get COVID after being vaccinated, but it is most likely that you do not die,” said Rouse, noting also that a vaccinated person who is infected with COVID-19 is less likely to transmit the virus to somebody else than if they had been unvaccinated and become infected.

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