Wakefield in the ‘red’ for COVID

Oct 15, 2020 by

Published in the October 15, 2020 edition.

By MARK SARDELLA

WAKEFIELD — The Wakefield Health Department was informed last night that the town has been moved from the lower risk “green” category on the state’s COVID-19 Metrics Map to the higher risk “red” designation.

At a meeting of the Board of Health last night, Health Director Ruth Clay said that the reason for the jump to the red designation was due to a cluster of 16 cases in one location in town.

Contract tracing has been performed with respect to all cases, and individuals are taking measures to quarantine, Clay said. She added that she was prohibited from revealing the location of the cluster, but said that it would not result in increased spread to the community.

The cluster reportedly is not in the schools.

Clay said that even without this cluster, Wakefield’s status would have changed from “green” to “yellow” due to an increase in community cases.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 Community Level Data Map uses color codes to designate the number of COVID cases in each community at a given time.

A designation of “gray” means fewer than five reported cases in a community. A “green designation means fewer than four cases per 100,000 of population. “Yellow” means 4-8 cases and “red” indicates more than eight cases based on a population of 100,000.

Since the pandemic began to take hold in the U.S., Wakefield has seen a total of 395 positive cases, according to this week’s report from the state DPH. That number is up 24 positive cases from last week’s report. Each week the state updates data from the last 14 days. 

The town saw a total of 40 positive COVID tests over the past two weeks, according to the DPH.

Clay noted that the state’s COVID map does not differentiate between the kinds of cases or the type of spread. For example, she said, Middleton is in the red due to a cluster in a jail located there. North Andover has been designated red because of a cluster at Merrimack College.

Currently, Wakefield is in Phase 3, Step 2 of the governor’s re-opening plan. If the town remains in the red category for three consecutive weeks, it will move back to Phase 3 Step1, Clay said, but added that she did not expect that to happen.

It was noted that the state has a list of COVID-19 testing sites at mass.gov/info-details/stop-the-spread. The closest one to Wakefield is a drive-through testing site in the parking lot of the Square One Mall in Saugus, which is open Monday through Saturday, 2-7 p.m.

Clay stressed that Wakefield’s change in designation from green to red serves as an important reminder to continue to take all measures to slow the spread of the virus, especially since individuals can have the coronavirus yet be asymptomatic. It’s critical for people to be vigilant about adhering to the CDC’s best practices each day, including the following:

• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds

• Avoid close contact; maintain six feet of distance between you and others

• Cover your mouth and nose with a mask when around others

• Cover coughs and sneezes

• Clean and disinfect

• Monitor your health daily.

Clay said that she had spoken to School Superintendent Doug Lyons and advised him that she was not recommending any changes or additions to school policies. She said that the schools are doing a good job following COVID prevention guidelines.

At last night’s School Committee Meeting, Superintendent Lyons confirmed that the local COVID cluster was not in the schools.

He said that to date, only one student in Wakefield has tested positive for COVID. That was a student at the Galvin Middle School who was not in school at the time but was doing remote learning.

Lyons said that when a student comes in contact with a COVID-positive person, that student will quarantine as directed by the Health Department in collaboration with school nurses. Currently, eight Wakefield students are under quarantine, Lyons said.

Work assignments are provided to quarantined students and school staff will check in with them, he added, but quarantined students cannot simply join an existing remote-learning class because those class sizes are fixed.

Assistant superintendent Kara Mauro said that quarantined students will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine a level of live and asynchronous learning that is appropriate for each student.

The Wakefield Board of Health recommends the following resources to learn more about COVID-19:

• Information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: cdc.gov/coronavirus

• Stop the Spread testing centers: mass.gov/info-details/stop-the-spread

• Massachusetts COVID-19 updates: mass.gov/covid

Any resident with questions or concerns about Wakefield’s response to COVID-19 may contact the Health Department at 781-246-6375.

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