Natick Public Health Director Michael Boudreau ticked off a list of COVID-19 numbers at the Board of Health meeting on Wednesday that confirmed what many of us know personally or anecdotally: The virus is making yet another comeback.
Natick’s rate of new cases per 100,00 people over 14 days is up to 40.7, above the state’s rate of 32.5, and positivity percentage rate for PCR tests in Natick is up to 7.96%, also well above the state average.
At the Natick Public Schools, COVID numbers are up as much as 50% at some schools, and not at all in others, Supt. Dr. Anna Nolin told the Board of Health. There has been no confirmed school-based transmission of late, according to a slide presented by Boudreau.
Fortunately, rising case counts and positivity rates aren’t translating into troubling hospitalization or death data in town.
But rising numbers will result in Natick Public Schools turning to its flex mask policy and strongly encouraging its community to return to masks until the current surge subsides, Nolin said. “I think people are waiting to hear from us on that, and so we would like to recommend that again,” she said, noting that home tests are still being sent home with kids and are being used.
Nolin said she feared things might actually be worse by now with COVID in the schools. “There’s a fatigue with the isolation and people are fully committing back to social events,” she said.
The personal responsibility of school community members will be tested, Nolin said, as students will be forced to make decisions to attend important events like prom based on their health. The school system is coaching its community on what personal responsibility means in this context, from monitoring systems to following protocols if infected.
As for the town, Boudreau’s plan is to refresh messaging within the community to ensure people don’t dismiss posters and other materials that they might assume has been up there for months. The town will work with its own departments as well as local businesses to spread the message, and pledges to reach out to those who need the latest information on protocols to follow if sick.
Boudreau started the meeting by pointing to relatively low vaccine booster levels in town (57%) vs. fully vaccinated residents (87%). His department is exploring possibly hosting or co-hosting clinics to encourage more residents to get boosted, though acknowledged intelligence from nearby communities that have done booster clinics is that participation has been low. With those age 12 and up now eligible for boosters, though, Boudreau said he’s optimistic booster numbers will rise.
The community needs to face the fact that “COVID is not going to be eradicated…It’s going to be here, we’re still going to see mutations,” he said.
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