Health director says COVID-19 clusters coming under control

WESTFIELD- The Westfield Health Department reported 76 new confirmed COVID-19 cases in the city this week along with three additional deaths due to the virus.

The pandemic total of confirmed cases in Westfield now stands at 754 with 64 deaths. There were 50 people in active isolation as of Wednesday afternoon. 

Despite the elevated number of new cases, Health Director Joseph Rouse said Wednesday that the cluster at the Westfield Gardens nursing home is resolving itself, though there were new cases associated with the home this week. The only other cluster in the city is at Westfield State University, which publishes their test results separately and went into a shelter-in-place mode Thursday morning after new cases were discovered. 

Rouse did not have an exact number for the amount of new cases at the nursing home, but he did say that it was certainly lower than what was reported last week, when there were 20 to 30 cases in the home. 

“When those clusters started to come under control, the numbers for the last couple of days started to go down,” said Rouse.

He said when the Health Department staff left the office on Friday there was a steady number of new cases, but nothing out of line or unexpected. When they returned Monday, they found a staggering 47 cases had been confirmed in the city over the weekend. Those 47 cases were mostly from the nursing home and from Westfield State students who were tested with the city and not the school. 

Rouse said that he is cautiously optimistic that as long as the existing clusters do not significantly worsen and no new clusters are formed, Westfield could see a lower number of new infections next week. He said, however, that Westfield is at a precarious point at this stage in the pandemic as the city is at a preliminary point of community spread. 

“If that number goes up next week I will be very discouraged,” said Rouse. 

The remaining cases that are not associated with the two clusters are largely spread out throughout the city. 

Rouse did say that as of now, public schools have avoided much COVID-19 spread after students returned to in-person learning. 

“Looking at the models from months ago, we had a high level of concern about public schools,” said Rouse, “But now we are finding that those environments are not being impacted the same as everywhere else. It’s a cohort in and of itself.”

He described public schools as one of the safest environments one can be in right now outside of their own home. 

He also praised the handlinf of the Westfield State outbreak, nothing that university officials acknowledged that spread within the campus was impacting the city as a whole. He said that the decision to pause in-person learning and go into a campus bubble was not based on the total number of cases, but on the community impact. 

“They did the right thing. They are being good community partners who know that it isn’t all about them,” said Rouse.

He said that part of the problem was students who were going out to local shops and businesses and inadvertently infecting members of the community. There have also been some house parties that were broken up by police in recent weeks as those in attendance were not following COVID-19 guidelines set by the state. 


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