COVID cases rise; officials urge diligence

Sep 16, 2020 by

Published September 16, 2020

By DAN TOMASELLO

LYNNFIELD — Local officials are urging residents to be vigilant in the wake of the spike in COVID-19 cases in town over the last several weeks.

Town Administrator Rob Dolan said during a Sept. 10 press conference that the Massachusetts COVID-19 Command Center designated the town as a “red” community due to 18 cases of the novel coronavirus being diagnosed from Aug. 23 to Sept. 5.

“This is not a positive thing,” said Dolan. “The state has assessed COVID cases in the town for a period of time, and that has shown an extreme increase. We have had 18 cases over the last 14 days, which marks a significant increase over past weeks in which Lynnfield was designated as a ‘green’ community and before that a ‘gray’ community, which are the safest communities.”

Fire Chief/Emergency Management Director Glenn Davis said, “The red status is the highest risk status there is.” He said the town’s current COVID-19 positivity rate is 2.35 percent.

“That is high,” said Davis. “We were at 1 percent the week before. It’s a pretty dramatic increase of positive test cases. Statewide, the number remains very low and as of (Sept. 9), it was 0.8 percent for us as a state. Red is the highest risk category and indicates an increased prevalence in community spread of COVID-19.”

Davis said the recent coronavirus spike in town is “a Lynnfield issue.” He said there haven’t been any major events in Lynnfield that triggered the increase in COVID-19 cases.

“During our conference call with the command center, they said in several other communities they were able to attribute their entire spike to a single gathering or event,” said Davis. “We don’t currently see that in Lynnfield. It is generalized community spread of COVID-19 that we can attribute this to.”

Dolan said the reason why local officials are concerned about the spike is because the dramatic increase occurred over a short period of time.

“We had a run a few weeks back of 18 straight days with zero cases,” said Dolan. “When you see a spike that is negative in a short period of time, we all have to step back and say time out, we have a problem and let’s address it now.”

Davis agreed.

“Since the beginning of this, the Emergency Management Team has looked at factual data,” said Davis. “Every decision we have made since the beginning of COVID has all been based on the data. We had a great summer and people worked really hard in town at doing the right things such awearing face coverings and limiting gatherings. Something changed, but we don’t know exactly why. We tracked this for about a week-and-a-half prior to the state numbers coming out, so we weren’t surprised by it. Our Board of Health notifies us every time we have a positive case. We have to go back to what we have done so well all summer long.”

Dolan said it’s important for the community to “move forward in a pragmatic manner” in order to get out of the “red” category.

“We are not urging people to panic and stay in their homes,” said Dolan. “We are not telling people to stop going to a church or a synagogue, and don’t stop shopping or going out to eat or having children participate in sports. We asked the state director what to do, and his answer was the governor has us in Phase 3. There are rules that go with that status for all things such as public libraries, restaurants to sporting events. If we follow those rules, this number is going to go down.”

Dolan recalled that the increase in COVID-19 cases forced the School Committee to hit pause on the hybrid reopening plan and implement remote learning for at least the first two weeks of school during an early morning meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 9. In the wake of the school board’s vote, he said it’s important for residents to “reassess where we are” as a community.

“Once we are out of the red, the goal of the superintendent and the School Committee is to begin this hybrid plan,” said Dolan. “I believe we are going to get there, but we all have to work together to get there.”

Dolan encouraged residents to support local businesses and restaurants, including MarketStreet Lynnfield. However, he said residents have to follow the state’s guidelines while going out and about in order to stay safe.

Davis noted the Emergency Management Team speaks with MarketStreet’s leadership team weekly. He said the mall is looking into the possibility of using heated tents for outdoor dining this fall.

“They have increased security patrols around the area,” Davis added. “They are monitoring compliance with the governor’s orders. I walk my dog up there almost every single day. I generally see good compliance, but there are a handful of older kids who feel invincible and are not doing the right thing. These are the things that we need to look at to make sure we as parents are instilling they are doing the right thing by always following the guidelines.”

Dolan said local officials have no plans to “limit access” to Town Hall, the Lynnfield Public Library, parks, playgrounds and golf courses.

“We are going to continue on the course of a safe reopening by providing all of those services for all of our citizens,” said Dolan.

Davis said residents need to continue wearing face masks while out in public, practice social distancing, limit public gatherings and wash their hands frequently. He also recommended that people stay home if they are sick as well as get tested.

“Maybe we have slipped a little bit on these basics, but we need to get back to the basics,” said Davis.

While the Lynnfield High fall sports season has been delayed, Dolan said Phase 3 still allows certain youth sports to be played as along as regulations are followed.

“We are meeting with all of the youth groups’ presidents and representatives to talk about a renewed commitment to these regulations,” said Dolan. “We know that if regulations are not followed, permits will be withdrawn. We are hiring some monitors for our fields to help our Board of Health.”

Dolan said the state’s decision to classify Lynnfield as a “red” community is completely different than if the state went back to a different phase under Gov. Charlie Baker’s reopening plan.

“Red is a snap shot of a period of time where there is an issue,” said Dolan. “And that is very different than a wholesale change of leveling across the state. We don’t want to roll back the progress we have made. We want to stop and reanalyze how all of us are living our lives under COVID. We are going to be looking over the next two weeks to see where those numbers are headed. This is a Lynnfield issue and when a family has an issue, we all need to chip in and solve that problem.”

Board of Selectmen Chairman Chris Barrett echoed Dolan and Davis’ sentiments in a letter posted on his Facebook page.

“The significant uptick in positive COVID cases in Lynnfield is of great concern and we all must act now,” Barrett wrote. “Please continue to do your part to social distance, wear a mask when distance cannot be achieved, avoid large gatherings and follow all of the guidelines set by Gov. Charlie Baker and the CDC. Getting our students back to school and maintaining the public health and safety of our community is the responsibility of all of us. Please continue to do your part to keep Lynnfield safe and moving forward in the right direction.”

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