By Juanita Carnes FNP, Board of Health chair and Joe Rouse, health director
WESTFIELD – Back to the numbers……..Presently there are 31,231,869 cases in the US and 561,356 deaths. Cases have been steadily increasing over the last 30 days while deaths have been decreasing. 198 million vaccines have been administered. See Peter Currier’s front page article in yesterday’s paper for recent local numbers.
There is yet another bump in the road for COVID. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been paused to investigate reports while the race to vaccinate continues. Unfortunately when something like this happens, misinformation and assumptions spread like wild fire. Vaccine safety is top priority. All reports are taken very seriously. The CDC reports that over seven million doses have been administered of the J&J vaccine. A small number of cases of blood clots have been reported in women between the ages of 18-48 occurring 6-13 days after the vaccination. It is not known if theses cases are related to the vaccine. Until this is discovered, this vaccine will not be given in the US. The data is being reviewed and it will be decided if recommendations need to be changed. If seven million people ate apples and six of them had a heart attack, it isn’t necessarily the apple that caused the heart attack. But any life threatening condition possibly related to the vaccine must be investigated by scientists. If you received this vaccine within the last 3 weeks your risk is very low, however, seek medical care if you experience headache, shortness of breath, leg swelling, petechiae(rash), new bruising or swelling, severe abdominal or back pain.
Finding a vaccine has been difficult for Westfield citizens. This is improving. If you haven’t received your vaccine yet, https://vaxfinder.mass.gov/ is updated regularly. It is reported that in Westfield, CVS, Stop & Shop, Arrow, Walgreens and Walmart are all booking appointments. The Big E site is still moving forward. For Veterans, today, Saturday 4/17, there is a clinic at WHS. Preregistration is required. The Westfield Senior Center continues to be available to help access appointments.
We have been receiving phone calls from many with questions about when to get tested, so we will review and update. You may be required to be tested even after vaccination. Unfortunately, there are documented cases of illness after vaccine (not due to vaccine). It is important to know that prior vaccination will not affect results of testing. Antibody tests only test for prior infection. They do not test for active infection, assess immunity or need for vaccination. Rapid antigen tests have limited use and are less accurate. They are helpful for quick identification of someone symptomatic. The PCR test is most accurate and used to test someone with or without symptoms. It is used in situations of known or suspected exposure, screening of workplaces, universities, large gathering and before and after travel.
When to get tested:
Exposure: Immediately after identified. If negative, 5-7 after last exposure or development of symptoms
Domestic travel: If you have been fully vaccinated, no testing or quarantine is necessary. You still need to mask, maintain 6 ft distances and sanitize hands frequently.
Unvaccinated travel: Test 1-3 days before trip. Test 3-5 days after. Self quarantine for 7 days even if test is negative. If no testing, quarantine for 10 days and avoid high risk people for 14 days.
International travel: Requires all air passengers coming into the US to have a negative COVID-19 test or documentation of recovery from COVID-19. You must understand and follow all airline guidelines and destination requirements. Make sure you know where you can get test at your destination. Same testing guidelines as domestic are required. If you do not follow all guidelines, you run the risk of not being allowed entry to plane, your destination and back into the US. You are also threatening the further spread of COVID.
After illness: You do not need to be tested after illness. This is determined by a symptom-based strategy. Our nurse tracers will help you with this.
Please don’t hesitate to call 572-6210 or visit our website cityofwestfield.org if you have any questions regarding anything COVID-19. Take care of yourself and someone else.
Dedicated health department members who have been working tirelessly throughout the pandemic are: Debra Mulvenna RN, Assistant Director Evelyn Bristol RN, Steve Cipriani, Health Inspector Thomas Hibert, Health Inspector Cheryl McMordie, Office Manager Crystal Dugay, Kathi Cotugno, CORE coordinator
Other Board Members: Margaret Doody, Stan Strzempko MD
WE KEEP WORKING TO KEEP YOU SAFE Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Avoid gatherings. Stay home. Save lives.
Look for us in next Saturday’s edition.