Westfield Newsroom


By Juanita A. Carnes FNP, Board of Health Chair and Joseph Rouse, Health Department Director


Chair, Westfield Board of Health

One year from the beginning of this overwhelming pandemic our numbers don’t reflect a resolution but a continued vulnerability. We learned last year that early action saves lives. Presently there are 29,052,862 COVID-19 cases and 527,726 deaths nationwide. On a positive note, 95.7 million vaccines have been administered out of 127.9 million distributed. Total numbers dropping is deceptive.
Thank you to Peter Currier for his article following our monthly meeting. The closing paragraph regarding variants contributing to increase in cases is a perfect segue to this week’s bulletin. The highly contagious UK variant has been detected in 47 states, Puerto Rico and DC. In Massachusetts we have 106 cases of B.1.1.7 and 5 cases of B.1.351 and 0 P.1. Studies have shown the variants (UK, South African, Brazilian and home grown California strain B.1.426) to be a very real threat of another surge. Florida in inundated with the UK strain. Travel will cause it to spread into the rest of the country. The true number of people infected by variants is thought to be much higher because testing for variants (sequencing) is not widespread.
A variant means a special mutated combination different from the original. It is a mutant with more than one mutation. The cluster of mutations gives it three dangerous powers. ( just like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: regular turtles who mutated into large human-like, pizza eating crime fighters). One, it becomes more contagious as it binds to human receptors and replicates faster and survives better. Second, it has a higher viral load that causes more severe illness. Third, the variant becomes more evasive against prior antibodies and vaccines, meaning vaccines and antibody therapies may not be as effective. The strength of these variants allows them to replace the old strain with faster transmission and more contagiousness leading us directly into a new surge. The UK strain is more contagious by 40-60% and more severe by 30-70% and is likely to become the dominant strain, more deadly and transmissible. This leads to a higher severe illness and death toll further straining taxed health care systems and health departments.

Westfield Health Director

The predictions by scientists and public health officials are that we are headed for a surge or long plateau before a steady decline. Our less than optimal vaccine administration rate plus the poorly advised trend to decrease precautions and these variants equal more sickness and deaths. States are prematurely relaxing restrictions then closing up again when the numbers fall and rise. This relaxing and tightening creates more and stronger variants. All the evidence is pointing in the same direction.
Guidelines against wearing a mask in the beginning of this pandemic has been called the single, biggest mistake made. One year later, let’s not make the same mistake again. We are threatened with a surge, which may be worse. Stay on course with all the guidelines no matter if you are told differently by government officials. This is public health, your health, not politics. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky warns, “ We stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained.” Masking, social distancing, vaccination, ventilation, hand hygiene, isolation and quarantine offer the best chance of avoiding another deadly surge. Our job is to be the voice of clarity in our community. Please stay the course. Double down on public health measures consistently. It is not forever. It must be determined by scientists and public health officials that it is truly safe to roll back on precautions.
Take care of yourself and someone else.

Dedicated health department members who have been working tirelessly throughout the
Debra Mulvenna, Assistant Director
Evelyn Bristol, RN
Steve Cipriani, Health Inspector
Thomas Hibert, Health Inspector
Cheryl McMordie, Office Manager
Crystal Dugay
Kathi Cotugno, CORE Coordinator
Margaret Doody
Stan Strzempko, MD
Wear you mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Avoid gatherings. Stay home. Save lives.
Look for us in next Saturday’s edition

To Top