COVID-19 infections appear to level off after latest surge

WESTFIELD — Weekly COVID-19 infections in the area appear to be leveling off or decreasing altogether as local boards of health now contend with the prospect of booster shots for some at-risk citizens.

The Westfield Health Department reported 55 new COVID-19 cases between Sept. 16 and 22, a slight decrease from 61 cases the previous week. The pandemic case total for Westfield is now 3,633.

Of the 55 new cases, 44 were among unvaccinated people, a rate of 80 percent. The previous week had seen a rate of 60 percent, the closest ratio Westfield has reported since vaccination status was added to the weekly report.

No Westfield residents were reported to have died from COVID-19 in that reporting period, though three residents had passed away the previous week, bringing the total for pandemic deaths to 117. It was the highest number of deaths reported in Westfield in a week since the end of the winter surge.

In his notes in the weekly report, Health Director Joseph Rouse said that eight of the new cases were in children as old as 11, a population for which there is still no approved vaccine. There was one pediatric case between the ages of 12 and 17.

In Southwick, five new cases were reported between Sept. 16 and 23, bringing the town’s pandemic case total to 729, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. During the Sept. 23 Board of Health meeting, Southwick Health Director Tammy Spencer said that 16 people were in isolation with active cases, of whom five were vaccinated, and three were pediatric cases. That number is down from two weeks prior, when 25 Southwick residents were in isolation with active cases.

Spencer pointed out that most of the recent pediatric COVID-19 cases in Southwick were reported before the school year began, and that there has been a noticeable drop in pediatric cases since then. All students and staff in the Southwick-Tolland-Granville Regional School District are required to wear a mask indoors.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced last week that a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine had been approved for Americans aged 65 and older, and people over the age of 50 with underlying health conditions at least six months after receiving their second dose. This news came shortly after reports that the Pfizer vaccine’s efficacy had waned over time compared to the similarly designed Moderna vaccine.

Spencer said that the Board of Health and Council on Aging would begin the process of administering Pfizer booster shots next month, likely with another mobile vaccine clinic. She said that she had not yet been given guidance on whether people who received the Moderna or single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine could receive the Pfizer booster.

Both companies are in the process of seeking approval for an additional dose of their shots, but they have yet to receive the green light.

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