Published in the October 27, 2020 edition.
By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD — Wakefield is likely to remain in the “red” zone for COVID-19 when this week’s numbers are released on Thursday, and due to that continuing status, the town will be required to go from Phase 3, Step 2 back to Phase 3, Step 1 starting next Monday.
That was the message that Health Director Ruth Clay delivered to the Town Council at last night’s meeting. She acknowledged that a cluster at one long-term care facility is a significant part of the reason for the red designation, but is not the whole reason.
She noted that there has also been some increase in community spread observed, with multiple cases in some households pushing the town’s numbers upward. She said that based on a preliminary look at those numbers, the town should be prepared for being designated “red” for the third consecutive week, which triggers a step backward in the re-opening process as set forth by the state.
Having said that, Clay stressed that the move from Step 2 back to Step 1 will not affect Wakefield very much.
“The impact should be minimal,” Clay said, adding that one thing that would happen is that limits on outdoor gatherings in public spaces would drop from 100 to 50.
Clay also stressed that the schools are not contributing to any community spread of COVID in Wakefield. Schools have not been shown to be a significant source of spread in national and international studies, Clay added.
“Nothing has been attributed to the schools,” Clay reiterated, adding that she has recommended that local schools should not change anything as a result of the town’s red designation.
Clay pointed to Wakefield’s new COVID-19 Dashboard on the town’s web site and discussed some of the numbers shown on the dashboard.
The dashboard shows 37 confirmed active cases along with 368 recovered cases and 40 deaths in Wakefield since the beginning of the pandemic. The total number of cases in Wakefield since counting started is 445.
In response to a question from Town Councilor Edward Dombroski, Clay acknowledged that all 40 COVID-19 deaths in Wakefield have been among elderly residents over age 65.
She also noted that of the 73 cases that have been reported in the last 14 days, half have been due to the cluster on one long-term care facility. Clay said that the Health Department is in contact with that facility daily and the facility is currently in lockdown.
It was generally agreed at last night’s meeting that while the impact of the town’s moving back a step in the re-opening plan may be minimal, it should serve as an opportunity to remind people to continue to remain vigilant.
Maio said that the town will begin a series of new TV spots in conjunction with WCAT. The local informational kiosks will also be used and members of the Town Council spoke of the importance of using all available means of getting the word out, including newspapers, signage, social media and web sites.
In response to a question from Councilor Mehreen Butt, Clay noted that the Health Department does have a stockpile of face masks for anyone who may need them. Butt urged an advertising campaign to make the public aware of the mask availability.
It was noted that the town has already called a halt to a lot of public activities and has not been permitting any organized events on the Common or around the Lake. Maio said that the town would take steps to discourage unauthorized events like a recent Halloween party at the dog park.
Councilor Julie Smith-Galvin asked about using the reverse 911 system to urge residents to continue to be vigilant. But Maio said that the town often gets more negative feedback for using the reverse 911 system in certain circumstances, but said that the idea would be considered.
Maio noted that the town still has a confidential emergency fund available to residents that find themselves in difficult straits. One-time assistance in amounts up to $1,000 are available and people can apply online from the town’s web site.