No deaths, but COVID infections hit highs not seen since last winter

WESTFIELD — The local infection rate for COVID-19 has increased sharply in recent weeks, as both Westfield and Southwick report weekly case counts reminiscent of last winter’s surge in cases.

Westfield reported 170 new COVID-19 cases between Nov. 25 and Dec. 1, bringing the pandemic case total to 4,549. Though the infection rate is worse than this time last year, the pace of COVID-19 related deaths has slowed dramatically. In the last several weeks, Westfield has reported zero COVID-19 related deaths, the pandemic total for which remains at 120.

The 170 cases is a slight increase from the previous week’s count of 161. The highest weekly case count in Westfield to date was nearly 250 cases in a week back in January.

Ever since the city Health Department began reporting the vaccination rate of those who tested positive for COVID-19 in a given week, it has found that those who become infected are consistently more likely to have been unvaccinated. Of the 170 cases last week, 110 of them, or 65 percent, were unvaccinated. In the previous week, that rate was 75 percent.

Health Director Joseph Rouse said in his weekly notes on the state of the pandemic in Westfield that 31 percent of the new cases were among school-aged children, a number that has remained consistent since the beginning of November. Children aged 5-11 only recently became eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, and their vaccination rate in Westfield remains remarkably low in comparison to older age groups in the city, with just 42 children in that age group, or 1 percent, being fully vaccinated as of Dec. 2. Five hundred fifty-four children, or 19 percent, have received at least their first dose of the vaccine.

“Vaccination of these individuals is strongly encouraged to prevent them from continuing to be disproportionately affected,” said Rouse in his note.

Westfield as a whole only just reached a full vaccination rate of 56 percent, and has consistently lagged behind the rest of the state in that statistic.

In Southwick, the COVID-19 data for Nov. 26 to Dec. 2 was not published in time for print, as the Health Department there copes with staffing shortages. The previous week, however, showed one of Southwick’s highest weekly case counts to date. Southwick reported 35 new COVID-19 cases between Nov. 18 and Nov. 25. The town’s pandemic case total now stands at  886.

Southwick’s vaccination rate, like Westfield’s, continues to lag behind the rest of the state, with 57 percent of residents being fully vaccinated.

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