Health director urges residents to get vaccinated

COVID infection rates remain low

WESTFIELD- The local COVID-19 infection has remained effectively plateaued in the month since Massachusetts lifted most COVID-19 restrictions on May 29. 

In Westfield,  two COVID-19 cases were reported between June 24 and June 30, bringing the pandemic total to 3,103. There has not been a reported COVID-19 related death in Westfield in months. 

The vaccination rates in Westfield and Southwick have slowed down significantly, but more than 50 percent of the populations of both communities have received at least one dose of any of the vaccines. 

As of July 1, 21,697 Westfield residents, or 51 percent of the city’s population have received at least one dose of any of the COVID-19 vaccines. 19,798, or 47 percent of the city’s population are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. In Southwick, 5,116 people, or 52 percent of the population has received at least one dose, while 4,647 people, or 47 percent of the population are fully vaccinated. 

Westfield Health Director Joseph Rouse said that he did not have a definitive answer as to why Westfield and Hampden County as a whole have a lower vaccination rate than the rest of Massachusetts. Regardless, the infection rate remains about as low as it can be without the weekly case count being zero. 

Rouse said that the infection rate in Westfield right now is very similar to what it was at this time last year. 

“One would like to believe it is because of the vaccines, but on the other hand it is not unlike it was a year ago,” said Rouse. 

The COVID-19 infection rate remained low throughout the summer of 2020, only to surge significantly in the fall and winter, when the weather got colder and social distancing became more difficult. Rouse said he is cautiously optimistic that there may not be that kind of spike again this fall and winter, but he said people need to get vaccinated to definitively avoid that happening. 

“Everybody is low, but still, we saw the same thing last year, but we didn’t make a declaration of COVID wrapping up because we knew it wasn’t,” said Rouse. 

When asked about how the Delta Variant of COVID-19 may affect Westfield, Rouse said he was not concerned about it at this time. 

“The Delta Variant has already shown to not be a serious condition if you are vaccinated,” said Rouse, “Given the current circumstances, I am not overly concerned about Delta.”

He said that while the Delta Variant has been “hyped up” in the national media, it should not be considered a concern in New England where the vaccination rate outpaces that of the rest of the U.S.. 

“That doesn’t mean it’s not here, but when you have a state with a population and vaccination rate as it is, it is not as concerning as a place with a poor vaccination rate,” said Rouse. 

The Delta Variant was originally detected in India, and is considered by researchers to be far more infections and possibly more dangerous than other variants of COVID-19. As of now, the vaccines available in the U.S. are considered effective against the variant.

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