First responders ready for COVID vaccine

Jan 13, 2021 by

Published January 13, 2021

By DAN TOMASELLO

LYNNFIELD — Local first responders will be receiving the first injection of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday.

Fire Chief/Emergency Management Director Glenn Davis informed the Villager that first responders are part of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Phase One vaccine distribution plan.

“A plan for Region 3B communities, which Lynnfield is a part of, was submitted by Andover’s Health Department,” said Davis. “The communities in Region 3B are Andover, Lynnfield, Lawrence, Methuen, North Andover, North Reading, Reading and Wilmington.”

Davis said firefighters, police officers, dispatchers and school nurses will be receiving the first injection of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14 at Lynnfield High School.

“All firefighters, police officers and dispatchers in town will be vaccinated,” said Davis. “School nurses will also be vaccinated because they are health care providers.”

The Moderna vaccine requires two injections.

“We are getting the first injection on Thursday and the follow up injection will be a couple of weeks later,” said Davis.

Davis has been looking forward to Thursday’s clinic for quite some time.

“As the fire chief, I am very excited to get my first responders vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus,” said Davis. “We continue to see many positive cases in town and interact daily with positive cases. Being able to protect my members and their families is extremely important to me.”

Police Chief David Breen concurred with Davis’ viewpoint.

“Many of our officers will be inoculated for COVID-19 on Thursday,” said Breen. “It is not mandatory. We hope that this year will be safer for everyone so that we can get closer to normal as the months progress.”

Superintendent Kristen Vogel said during the School Committee’s Jan. 5 meeting it’s “terrific” that the district’s nurses will be receiving the first vaccine injection on Thursday.

“We are hopeful that February or March will be the timeframe for vaccinations for K-12 educators in Massachusetts,” said Vogel. “They are in the second group of Phase Two. They are moving through Phase One right now. We are anticipating that when it becomes available, it is going to come fast and we will be ready to implement it. It’s much more involved than a flu vaccine. There is more paperwork involved and there are health screenings that need to take place before the vaccine gets administered. We need to stagger the staff in terms of the vaccinations. The vaccine will be given most likely in conjunction with a pharmacy, our school nurses and town EMTs who are eligible to distribute the vaccine. There will be a lot coming out in the next few weeks.”

Davis noted that residents who are age 75 and older will start being vaccinated under Phase Two of Gov. Charlie Baker’s vaccine distribution plan.

“We are hoping to do that as soon as possible,” said Davis.

Town remains “red”

Similar to the last several weeks, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health classified Lynnfield as a “red” community on its COVID-19 Community Level Data Map on Thursday, Jan. 7. Davis said there are currently 102 active cases of the novel coronavirus in town as of Wednesday, Jan. 13. He noted there have been 761 total cases since the start of the pandemic and 636 people have recovered from the virus. Tragically, the town has lost 23 residents to COVID-19.

“The town’s designation remains at ‘red,’ indicating a high-risk of spread in the community,” Davis stated on the Office of Emergency Management’s website. “Residents are strongly encouraged to avoid high-risk activities, especially indoor social gatherings. All Massachusetts residents are under orders from the governor to wear masks at all times while in public. Additionally, Gov. Charlie Baker announced that temporary capacity and gathering limits put in place on Dec. 26 will be extended to Jan. 24. This includes restaurants, office spaces, retail businesses, places of worship, and fitness and health clubs.”

Vogel said the School Department has created a new COVID-19 dashboard on the district’s website that lists the number of cases in the schools. As of Wednesday, Jan. 13, there were 12 cases in all four schools, which includes both students and staff.

“It gets updated every day,” said Vogel.

Davis told the Villager he is very concerned about the rising number of positive cases in Essex County.

“Essex County has been extremely hard hit with positive cases,” said Davis. “Our biggest concern is hospital capacity limits being reached. North Shore Medical Center in Salem and Beverly Hospital have been in contact with local officials and we are staying on top of available beds.”

School Committee Vice Chairman Rich Sjoberg said getting COVID-19 is “not a scarlet letter.”

“It’s like carbon monoxide,” said Sjoberg. “You can’t smell it, you can’t see it and you can’t taste it, but it can happen to you even if you are doing all of the right things. And if you get it, we care. We are ready to help you.”

Registered nurse Toni Rebelo said her goal as the school system’s COVID-19 liaison is “trying to help families get through” their positive diagnosis.

“They are scared,” said Rebelo. “They are worried about their health because they don’t know how the virus is going to affect them or if it is going to run through their whole family. They are also worried about the social piece because there is a stigma around it. These families are going through a lot. We want to help in any way we can.”

Vogel agreed.

“We don’t want anyone to get this illness,” said Vogel. “It’s out there and it can be deadly. I think one of the challenges with it being this invisible virus is we tend to get lax and believe it’s not going to get us. We don’t only want our schools to be open and want everyone coming to school; we want everyone to be healthy. We want this to go away.”

Vogel said LHS student-athletes are being required to complete a daily attestation program via a smartphone app that is designed to check a student’s symptoms before they play games and participate in practices. She said coaches will be checking the list every day.

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