By Juanita Carnes FNP, Board of Health chair and Joe Rouse, health director
In May of 1945 this nation celebrated Victory in Europe Day rejoicing the defeat of the Nazis in World War 2. In May of 2021 the CDC announced guidelines declaring that vaccinated individuals could do away with their masks in most situations. The nation rejoiced again. While most areas of this country can declare a cautious victory over COVID-19, the virus is still raging in many areas of the world. Just as hostilities ended in Europe, war still raged a hemisphere away. In India, the combination of a more transmissible variant spreading, increasing social mixing and lack of vaccines has caused a record high number (4,529) of deaths in one day for any country in the world during this pandemic (previous record high was in the US). Unfortunately it has spread to over 50 other countries. This variant is classified as a variant of concern. It is important to monitor these variants to see if they change enough that our public health measures and medical treatment don’t work anymore. Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove of the World Health Organization stated regarding world COVID statistics, “The last few weeks, we’ve had the highest recorded number of cases to date. Seventeen months into a pandemic that is really, really worrying.”
CDC guidelines are just that — guidelines. Mandates are created by state and local governments based on these guidelines. The new guidelines say fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks indoors or outdoors regardless of gathering size. The new CDC guidelines STILL recommend:
*Universal mask wearing in high risk settings, health care facilities, homeless shelters, public and private transit, correctional facilities, schools and child care facilities.
*Mask wearing and social distancing for unvaccinated individuals indoors.
*Immunocompromised individuals should take additional protective measures.
*International travel guidelines still in place
*Fully vaccinated individuals with COVID-19 symptoms should still self isolate and get tested. There is still a risk of getting COVID after vaccination. It is part of ongoing research to keep track of this.
These changes in the US are based on statistics of COVID-19 deaths and cases declining as vaccination rates are increasing. The state of Massachusetts mandates will follow CDC guidance as of May 29th. Governor Baker will end the State of Emergency on June 15th. The Commonwealth leads the nation in vaccination rates. One still needs to respect and follow guidance of other states, local government, workplaces and local businesses.
This is all good news and gives us hope that we are all safe and life may return to normalcy. Van Kerkhove stated, “We are all at risk as the pandemic continues. And until all of us are safe, no one is safe.” There is a world beyond Westfield that is not as fortunate as we are. We do not want to harm where we are now with complacency. We all remember last March when we felt we would not be affected by this virus. It was far away in China and inconceivable that our lives would drastically change for 17 months because of it. We were not safe then and we are not out of the woods now. We are eventually, directly affected by what is happening in the rest of the world.
Despite the declaration of the end of WW2, the despair and effects of the war persisted. We still have work to do and this war is not over yet. Cautious hope. Respect. Common sense. Educate. Vaccinate. 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.