Health Director says Westfield is now in a state of community spread of COVID-19
WESTFIELD- The Health Department reported a 148 percent increase in new COVID-19 cases this week with 72 new cases in Westfield.
The new cases brings Westfield’s pandemic case total to 3,268. Ninety-four people were in isolation with active cases of COVID-19.
Of the 72 new cases, 61 were unvaccinated people. No new deaths were reported this week. There has not been a reported COVID-19 death in Westfield in several months.
In the report’s notes, written by Health Director Joseph Rouse, it said that the last time Westfield had a similar number of new cases in a week was October, 2020, after which the infection rate continued to climb, with Westfield peaking at 247 in the week leading up to Jan. 13. Rouse estimated that this percentage increase in cases may be the largest of the pandemic thus far.
Rouse pointed out this is the third consecutive week that unvaccinated people represented the vast majority of new cases. He urged residents to consider getting themselves and other eligible individuals vaccinated if they have not done so.
On Aug. 19, Rouse said that Westfield is now in a state of community spread, meaning that COVID-19 is spreading from person to person within Westfield. Previously, Rouse had attributed most of the new cases to travel, where people got infected outside of Westfield and later tested positive.
“This week shows that we are very clearly back in a crisis situation,” said Rouse, “It may have started with travel introducing this [delta] variant back into Westfield, but now it has manifested itself and cases have grown exponentially.”
Rouse said that next week’s infection rate likely will not be any better. He said 14 cases had already been reported by Thursday morning.
He said the infection rate likely will not go down or remain down until more people get vaccinated. As of Aug. 12, only 49 percent of Westfield residents were fully vaccinated. Hampden County as a whole has a full vaccination rate of 51 percent, while Massachusetts as a whole has a full vaccination rate of approximately 65 percent.
Rouse drew parallels to the pandemic in October, 2020, when Westfield saw a similar infection rate as what was reported this week. The October spike led directly into the winter surge, the worst period of the pandemic so far in terms of infection rate and the number of deaths.
“We’re still in the summer, and we have seen already that the numbers will continue to increase as we move into close quarters,” said Rouse.
Rouse and the Health Department did not have the full hospitalization data for the past week, but he said he knows that there were COVID-19 related hospitalizations, and that they were all unvaccinated.
In recent School Committee and Board of Health meetings in Westfield and neighboring Southwick, residents who are opposed to mask mandates in schools have cited an unsubstantiated claim that masks can cause one to become sick with bacterial infections, and that they do not work to protect one’s self from COVID-19.
Rouse noted some boxes of masks will say that they will not protect one’s self from contracting COVID-19, which is at least partially true, but does not tell the full story. He said that masks are still an effective control measure to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.
“Nobody is saying that masks will protect you from COVID,” said Rouse, noting that the purpose of masks is not to prevent one from catching COVID-19, but to reduce the chance of transmission if the person wearing the mask is infected with COVID-19.
He referred to complaints about mask’s relative ineffectiveness at preventing the wearer from contacting COVID-19 as “a very self-centered approach.”
He did say that masks do offer some personal protection, but that the main purpose is to prevent the wearer from spreading the virus. In an effort to combat misinformation about COVID-19, Rouse said the weekly reports will soon include scientific resources about the disease itself, the vaccines, and how to effectively reduce the chance of transmission.
“Anybody can go on the internet and find whatever they want. You have to focus on trusted sources that are proven to be accurate,” said Rouse.