Westfield Health Director

Chair, Westfield Board of Health

By Juanita Carnes FNP, Board of Health chair and Joe Rouse, health director

We have spent two days a week of this pandemic teaching third grade to our grandson. This week’s lessons are fractions and civic responsibility. Both of these can, in broader terms, be applied to this pandemic.

The fraction of our society still coping with infections and death is still too high. The fraction of our nation vaccinated is too low. On December 15, the National Cathedral bells in Washington DC tolled 300 times, once for every 1,000 American who died in this pandemic. On a dreary evening last week, those bells rang 600 times. Just over one half of all Americans have had one dose of the vaccine. Four tenths of all Americans are fully vaccinated. The daily death toll is one tenth less, down to 431 a day from a peak of 4,500 day in January.

Dr Wolensky of the CDC said the impact of the vaccine in moving us out of the pandemic is evident in our decreasing infections and deaths but daily vaccine rates are falling also. US researchers are concerned that vaccines are not enough and the removal of precautions are going to lead us to another surge. A recent study cited in the Journal of American Medicine suggests that millions of infections and thousands of deaths could be avoided with more vaccinations and continued distancing and masks. Dr. Fauci is concerned that the variants are a threat. The Delta variant that is highly transmissible is rising in the US and is responsible for 60% of the infections with concerns for a third surge in the UK. Vaccines are effective against this variant.

Unfamiliar with the Delta variant? Here’s why. Recently the WHO has changed the names of the variants to letters of the Greek alphabet. The variants previously have been referred to by their countries of origin and their scientific name.

B.1.1.7=United Kingdom=Alpha

B.1.351=South Africa=Beta



The new system applies to variants of concern (most potentially dangerous) and variants of interest. There are 24 letters in the Greek alphabet. We have used almost half of them. Four variants of concern and six variants of interest. These names do not replace their scientific nomenclature but hope to avoid and reduce fueling stigma and discrimination against people and their nation where variants arise. This was started early in the pandemic with the president calling it the Chinese flu or the Wuhan virus. That type of rhetoric has lead to violence; another tragedy of the pandemic. One report documented 7,000 hate incidents related to this ignorance. The World Health Organization states that, “No country should be stigmatized for detecting and reporting variants.”

Once again our message is clear and the same. Get vaccinated, wear your mask, distance when it is appropriate and treat everyone with respect and care. We are not out of the woods yet. It is all of our civic responsibility to do what we can to make sure we don’t allow more variants to arise and use up every letter of the Greek alphabet. As beautiful as the music of our National Cathedral bells are, we don’ t want to hear 900 tolls this December.

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.


Wear your mask when appropriate or requested. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Avoid large gatherings. Save lives. Look for us in next Saturday’s edition.



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