WESTFIELD- Health officials displayed optimism this week after the number of confirmed weekly COVID-19 cases continued to fall.
The Westfield Health Department reported 134 new confirmed cases this week, bringing the pandemic total for the city to 2,246. The number of new cases is a notable drop from the all-time-high of 247 cases two weeks ago, and the second week in a row with a significant drop in the number of new cases. As of Jan. 27 there were 185 people in isolation with COVID-19.
Though the number of confirmed cases is dropping, Westfield reported five confirmed COVID-19 related deaths, the highest number in weeks. Health Director Joseph Rouse said that the deaths are related to cases that were detected about two weeks ago in the immediate wake of the holiday gathering surge.
The pandemic total for deaths in Westfield now stands at 92.
“Because we had such a record number of cases, these COVID deaths are manifesting themselves now,” said Rouse, “You don’t get COVID and die in two days.”
Rouse said that the second consecutive week of lowering case numbers leads him to believe that the city did not have an abnormality, but that cases are actually trending downward.
“We are over the holiday gathering hump and now we’re back into normal community spread,” said Rouse, “If it had been just an abnormality and things went back up, we may have needed to pull the plug on the hybrid model for schools.”
He urged continued patience as the slow vaccine rollout continues. He thinks that the opening of regional mass vaccination sites like the Eastfield Mall in Springfield will improve the overall vaccination rate.
Rouse also praised the move to begin vaccinating those aged 75 and up on Feb. 1, which is much earlier than what was originally anticipated.
“Regardless of whether you are the one getting the vaccine, you should be happy that we are getting it out three or four weeks ahead of schedule for our seniors,” said Rouse.
He said that when Massachusetts begins vaccinating those aged 65 and up we will begin to see more doses at pharmacies and doctors offices. The Health Department itself is expecting to receive doses to distribute to its citizens, but that will be consistent with when other communities do the same.
“In other communities it has turned into a political issue and a contest to see who can get the vaccine quicker than other communities,” said Rouse, “People who say that are doing a disservice to their residents. The doses they have are only for eligible residents, but they are bragging that they got the vaccine for their community.”
Rouse said he gets messages from Westfield city councilors who seemingly don’t understand the vaccine protocol and are trying to get more vaccine doses to Westfield.
“I could order 100 doses right now but I could only give it to first responders and front line healthcare workers,” said Rouse.
Most of Westfield’s first responders have already received their first dose of the Moderna vaccine.
In some cases, congregate care facilities for seniors have begun their vaccine clinics. The Arbors Assisted Living at Westfield will have a vaccine clinic for their seniors on Friday.