By Juanita Carnes FNP, Board of Health chair and Joe Rouse, health director
We had three straight days of nationwide cases under 100,000. Hospitalizations fell below 80, 000 for the first time since November. Yet there is still much to be concerned about. 4,805 deaths on February fourth – most in a single day in the US. The number of reported new corona variants jumped 73% to 944 last week. The majority is the B.1.1.7 (UK).
Careless behavior and Super Bowl gatherings along with these variants present the makings of another surge. Yes, the vaccine is offering hope. Yes, a new federal administration is offering hope. But everyone must continue to be vigilant with all the recommended precautions.
Please see Peter Currier’s article in yesterdays paper for local information.
Getting a vaccine is a common topic. We are ready and waiting to offer vaccine from our health department. We have successfully run flu vaccine clinics. This year we adapted to an efficient drive through flu clinic. We have applied and ordered vaccines for our community but are dependent on the state to supply them. Pharmaceutical companies release their product to the Federal Government. The Federal Government in turn divides this to the states. The federal government has also implemented the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program for COVID-19 VACCINATION to expand access to vaccines.
Pharmacists are trained and educated to counsel patients, administer vaccines and provide education. Pharmacies are readily accessible in communities. Most Americans live within 5 miles of a pharmacy. The program is starting in increments based on available supply. Ultimately the program will include 40,000 pharmacies. Presently, many pharmacies may not have the vaccine or have a limited supply. The state distributed their allotment to hospitals to complete Phase 1.
As with everything COVID-19 as we learn more, plans and processes are subject to change. Massachusetts has just suspended the allotments to hospitals in order to supply super vaccination sites, local clinics, community health centers, health department and providers. This will not interfere with administration of second doses for those that received their first dose at a hospital. The state will remain in Phase 2, Group 1 until most in this group are immunized.
The goal is equitable distribution to all. For access to vaccine, please go to www.mass.gov/COVIDVaccine. Seniors over 75 years of age may call 211 for easier access. Please see our website for updated information: http://www.cityofwestfield.org/covid19.
Westfield and most other municipalities in our region are still waiting for the vaccine to arrive locally. Orders were placed appropriately and now we anxiously await approval and delivery. The Health Department will begin scheduling clinics for our residents as soon as we have the vaccine in hand.
Thankfully there are no major holiday or gathering events such as the Super Bowl coming up on the calendar to cause another surge. School vacation is next week. Please use this time for activities with your children and grandchildren that do not include gatherings. The vaccine, hope and continued caution will help bring us out of this pandemic.
Please drive by the green this Sunday, Feb. 14 between 5-8 p.m. to pay tribute to those we have lost in our community to COVID-19. This is not a gathering event. A candle will be lit for each life lost. Our deepest sympathies go out to their families and friends.
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.