Teachers now eligible for the vaccine
WESTFIELD- The Westfield Health Department reported 49 new COVID-19 cases this week to bring the city’s pandemic total to 2,549.
The new weekly total shows a stabilization of infection rates after they had plummeted from a pandemic high in January. The previous two weeks had reports of 44 and 47 confirmed cases in Westfield.
There are 55 people in isolation with COVID-19 in Westfield as of March 3. There were two additional COVID-19 related deaths, bringing the cities total to 103 deaths.
Health officials are concerned about the leveling out of new case numbers. Health Director Joseph Rouse said Thursday morning that the leveling off of the infection rate could be attributed to the recent February break for schools, though he said that there was no significant rise in cases among students. One education program in Westfield had to be shut down in one school, but not because of COVID-19 transmission among students, according to Rouse.
Westfield Public Schools Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski said during the School Committee meeting March 1 that there had been 12 positive cases in the school community the previous week.
On Monday, Rouse and the School Committee discussed the state’s plan to bring elementary school students back for in-person learning on April 5, and for all other students to return at a later date in April.
“I said Monday night that my feeling was that if they will make an announcement to open schools for April 5, it would be my opinion that the state should make teachers eligible [for the COVID-19 vaccine],” said Rouse.
On Wednesday Gov. Charlie D. Baker announced just that; teachers in Massachusetts were added to the list of eligible persons to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, a big step in the direction of reopening schools for in-person learning.
Rouse said that right now, with infection rates as they are, he is torn about whether the April 5 plan will work. Czaporowski applied for a waiver to remain in the hybrid model past April 5, but it is not clear if that will be accepted.
“That’s five weeks away. In the world of public health that’s light years away,” said Rouse, “We’ve all seen how quickly things can change.”