Health director says vaccine rollout has been chaotic
WESTFIELD- The Health Department reported 62 new confirmed COVID-19 cases this week to bring Westfield’s pandemic total to 2,409.
The Department also reported one death, bringing the cities confirmed pandemic total to 96 deaths. Ninety-six Westfield residents were in isolation with active COVID-19 cases as of Wednesday, Feb. 10.
Health Director Joseph Rouse said Wednesday during the remote Board of Health meeting that he is pleased to see people being more careful after the peak in case counts at the beginning of the year.
“Kudos to the people of Westfield,” said Rouse, “We have gone to a number higher than I ever thought we would see about a month ago, to being down to 62.”
Westfield’s weekly pandemic peak was 247 cases in the immediate wake of Christmas and New Year’s. This week marks the fourth straight week of falling case counts, raising hopes that the pandemic could be relatively close to the end.
Rouse said that he had been seeing large amounts of “COVID complacency” that lead to people being less careful than they had been at the beginning of the pandemic.
Rouse said that schools are doing well compared to the community at large. There are still cases that pop up in schools, but Rouse said he is in constant contact with the school department every day. Westfield High School moved to remote learning Thursday and Friday because of a single positive case that was detected within the school.
Rouse echoed recent complaints by local health officials and the Council on Aging Executive Director Tina Gorman that the vaccine rollout in the state has been chaotic and frustrating. He said there was also a sense that eastern Massachusetts has been receiving more doses and attention than western Massachusetts. He said state officials denied this by saying that western Massachusetts has received more doses per capita than eastern Massachusetts.
He said the Health Department has been receiving complaints from residents and local officials because Westfield has not yet received vaccine doses on the municipal level. Rouse has ordered doses from the state, but Westfield has yet to be approved. At most, the Health Department will receive 100 doses of the vaccine per week while supplies are still limited.
He said the Health Department is working on securing a site for a vaccine clinic in Westfield to be used after they are approved and receive the doses.
Rouse pointed to the ability of pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens to receive and administer vaccine doses as a cause for some of the confusion around Westfield’s lack of doses on the municipal level.
“What they did is make it look like certain communities are giving their people the vaccine when they are not,” said Rouse, “So people ask: ‘Why are other places getting it but Westfield is not’.”
The Eastfield Mall in Springfield is the largest mass vaccination site in western Massachusetts, and likely the easiest site in the area for one to get an appointment if they are eligible.
Rouse said he expects that those 75 and older will remain as the latest eligible group for some time, based on how inundated the Eastfield Mall site has become.