Westfield, Southwick schools both planning vaccine clinics

WESTFIELD — Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski said Thursday that Westfield Public Schools will host a COVID-19 vaccine clinic Tuesday, Nov. 23 at Westfield Middle School, as coronavirus cases continue to rise.

Czaporowski said that the clinic will be split into two parts of the school’s parking lot. One area will carry the normal Pfizer vaccine for people 12 and older, and the other will carry the Pfizer vaccine meant for children from 5 to 11 years old, who get a smaller dosage. The clinic will be available not just to students and faculty, but to all members of the public. Children who get the vaccine will need a parent or legal guardian to accompany them.

Those who attend the clinic will need to return three weeks later to receive their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

Czaporowski said that Westfield Public Schools recorded 34 new COVID-19 cases the previous week, about one-third of all cases in Westfield the week of Nov. 4-10, which totaled 99 cases. The superintendent said that there isn’t one school or age group that is being disproportionately affected by the spike in cases within Westfield schools. He said in any given week, a different school will have more cases than all of the others.

He cited test-and-stay, a program being used by Westfield and Southwick schools, as being very helpful in minimizing the impact of COVID-19 on learning. Rather than having all close contacts isolate and await the results of a test taken outside of school, which can take days, the program allows students to get multiple rapid tests several days in a row at school, allowing them to remain in school unless they test positive.

He said that the program will be expanded somewhat after Thanksgiving.

“After Thanksgiving we will offer a before-school test-and-stay, 6:30 to 8:30, behind City Hall,” said Czaporowski.

The new morning test site will allow students who find out after school that they are a close contact to get tested before school the following day without needing to enter the building and risk continuing the spread of COVID-19.

Though test-and-stay has been helpful, Czaporowski said that the rise in cases as the cold weather sets in has had an impact already on some school activities and events. Any evening events within the next two weeks, he said, will be postponed, including the Homecoming dance that had been planned for Tuesday evening at Westfield High School. Holiday concerts for grades K-5 will become online-only events, at the recommendation of the Board of Health.

“We don’t want to cause a super-spreader,” said Czaporowski.

Part of the reasoning is also the relatively low local vaccination rate. In Westfield the vaccination rate for 12- to 15-year-olds is 47 percent, and the rate for 16- to 19-year-olds is just 36 percent. Westfield’s overall vaccination rate is 55 percent, which is far below the state average. The vaccination rate for ages 5-11 is low, as well, though that age range only recently became eligible to receive vaccines.

Southwick-Tolland-Granville Superintendent Jennifer Willard told the School Committee Tuesday evening that the district is hoping to host its own vaccine clinic in the coming weeks, though an exact date has not been set. Southwick’s overall vaccine rate nearly mirrors that of Westfield, at 54.8 percent. Like Westfield’s, Willard said that Southwick’s vaccine clinic will be open to anyone ages 5 and up, not just students and teachers.

She said a survey that the district sent out to the school community got responses from 80 people who said that they would be interested in receiving the vaccine. The clinic will likely be run by Curative, a company that has been offering mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics.

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