WESTFIELD- For the first time in nearly a year, the Health Department has reported a single-digit weekly COVID-19 case count with just six cases reported this week.
There were just 10 active COVID-19 cases in Westfield as of May 26. No COVID-19 related deaths have been reported in Westfield in more than two months.
Health Director Joseph Rouse expressed confidence that Westfield could be close to reporting zero cases in a single week. He said the majority of the six cases this week were reported May 21-May 23. In the days since, then, according to Rouse, there has been just one new case.
Rouse said he participated in a meeting with city department heads, where he was asked where these six people got infected. He said he theorized that they could have been infected via travel or through their places of work, but that he has no way of knowing for sure.
Each of the six new cases were in people aged 40 to 60.
Looking to the future, with the May 29 reopening date approaching, Rouse said that we may never truly be done with COVID-19, but that it will not be the same problem that it has been for more than a year.
“I don’t think we will ever be done with COVID. I think it will linger like the flu,” said Rouse.
He noted that the COVID-19 vaccines are not a cure, but a preemptive treatment for the disease. He said he expects that people will need to receive additional doses of the vaccine in the future, much like how the flu vaccines are updated each year to reflect the dominant strains.
While the severity of the pandemic is quickly subsiding locally, statewide, and nationally, the disease continues to exact a heavy toll on other parts of the world.
“It started as a global pandemic, and it is still there globally. A lot of that has to do with vaccination percentages,” said Rouse, “But right here, right now, we are really good.”
While the infection rates remain as low as they are, Rouse said people can begin to relax after May 29.
“People should take the opportunity to enjoy their summers. I won’t say to throw caution to the wind. I will say you can relax,” said Rouse, “That is not my opinion, it is the science.”
Rouse addressed the probability of so-called breakthrough cases, which are cases of COVID-19 in which the infected person is fully vaccinated. Rouse said that, by his observation, only about one out of every 10,000 vaccinated persons will become infected with COVID-19, and the majority of those who do may never know it because they won’t develop symptoms.
Now that the coronavirus has greatly subsided in Westfield, Rouse said that the Health Department can finally get back to their normal duties that they didn’t prioritize during the pandemic.
He said the Health Department will return to conducting routine inspections for restaurants and residences.
“Before COVID we were actually working on a lot of promotions within the community, programs aimed at keeping people healthy in general,” said Rouse.
He said those would include a childhood wellness program, a radon awareness program, and continued work with opioid awareness and the Coalition for Outreach, Recovery, and Education (CORE) of Greater Westfield.