Westfield reports 29 COVID cases for 2nd week in a row

WESTFIELD — The COVID-19 infection rate in Westfield remained steady this week as the weekly case count matched last week’s count of 29 new cases. 

Health Director Joseph Rouse said during the Aug. 11 Board of Health meeting that there were no new deaths, and 44 people were in isolation with active COVID-19 cases, nearly identical numbers from the previous week’s report. 

Westfield’s pandemic case total now stands at 3,154, with 113 deaths. No COVID-19 related deaths have been reported in Westfield in several months. 

Rouse said that he does not yet think Westfield is seeing significant community spread of COVID-19. Rather, he still thinks that the cases are mostly related to travel, as many of those who have recently tested positive admitted to contact tracers that they had recently traveled. In some cases, all members of entire households have tested positive, which Rouse said inflates the case count, but also indicates that there is little spread among the community at large.

Rouse recently began adding the vaccination status of those who tested positive to the weekly COVID-19 reports. This week’s data had not been updated as of Thursday morning, but only six of the 29 cases from last week were vaccinated people. 

Rouse said that when he includes that data, it will probably be taken one of two ways. He said people will either see that the majority of the new cases are among the unvaccinated, and give credit to the vaccines, or they will see that six people who tested positive were vaccinated, and use that information to discredit the vaccines. 

Board of Health member Dr. Stan Strzempko said that, in his experience, getting the vaccine is still the right decision.

“Just ask me who is getting admitted at Baystate Noble,” said Strzempko, who works at the Westfield hospital. “Nobody who is vaccinated.”

Board of Health Chair Juanita Carnes works at an urgent care facility in the Hartford area. She said that in a 12-hour shift in the last week she saw 75 patients, three-quarters of whom were there for COVID-19. She said later that most of those patients were unvaccinated.

Rouse has said he intends to include hospitalization data in future COVID-19 reports, but he is not sure how to approach it, because of the nature of COVID-19. He said that when contact tracers speak with people who have tested positive, they likely have not yet been hospitalized, if they will be at all. There will be a “lag” in the hospitalization data, because those who are hospitalized will be the same people who were included in the weekly case count report a week or two before.

Rouse also worried that vaccines may not be as readily available as they were just a month ago. Shortly after all adults in Massachusetts became eligible for the vaccine, one could walk in to most pharmacies and get the shot without an appointment. Now, Rouse said, it looks like it may not be that easy. 

“I know this firsthand from going to CVS to get somebody vaccinated, and they had the ‘walk-in’ signs everywhere, but they couldn’t do it,” said Rouse, “I don’t know if that was just the snapshot in time, or if they just prefer appointments, but they are sticking with it because corporate wants a walk-in sign out there.”

He said he will get in touch with all of Westfield’s pharmacies to make sure that the public can be informed of the actual availability of vaccines.

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