Rouse blames public complacency
WESTFIELD – The COVID-19 infection rate in Westfield remained steady this week, with 75 new confirmed cases.
Health Director Joseph Rouse again warned that the spike in the number of infections in recent weeks can be at least partially blamed on complacency among members of the public. Rouse said that the number of new infections is less important than the fact that there is a spike in cases at all in a time when he thinks the numbers should be going down.
“We ask ourselves what control measures are failing that are allowing this to happen,” said Rouse, “Nothing has changed on the public health side. It’s obvious that all of our reactions are based on the reactions of the residents.”
Rouse pointed to the beginning of the pandemic last spring, when the phrase, “flatten the curve” was being used in the push to control the earliest surges of the pandemic.
“When we were flattening the curve and people listened, we flattened it literally down to zero,” said Rouse. “That wasn’t contact tracing, or a vaccine, it was 100 percent people listening to public health recommendations.”
The bulk of the new infections are among residents under the age of 30. Rouse said that most of those people have been college-aged, and that the spike of cases could be attributed to gatherings.
What is even more concerning to Rouse is the number of COVID-19 related deaths. Four city residents died last week from complications relating to COVID-19, bringing the pandemic total for deaths to 113.
“People will get sick, there isn’t a lot you can do about that,” said Rouse, “we are not here trying to keep people from getting sick, we are here to stop transmission to keep people from dying. When you see that number not be zero, it is an alarming statistic.”
Though Rouse could not disclose the exact ages of those who passed away from COVID-19, he did say that they were either elderly or at-risk in general.
Because of the rise in cases, the planned reopening of City Hall was pushed from April 1 to a tentative date of April 20. Rouse said that he wants to see a two-week sample size of case counts to see if the numbers will go back down before city hall can be reopened.
The latest numbers bring the city’s pandemic total to 2,813. As of March 31, 101 Westfield residents were in isolation with COVID-19.