By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD — The town is in “incredibly good shape” in terms of COVID vaccination rates, Health Director Anthony Chui told the Town Council last night. The council had asked Chui to provide a status update heading into the holiday season.
Chui said that 74 percent of 12-15 year-olds are vaccinated as are 85 percent of 16-19 year-olds. In the 20-29 age group, 68 percent are vaccinated. Among those 30 and older, the vaccination rate is over 80 percent, Chui said.
He did note a slight rise in cases locally, with an average of nine new cases a day and a 4.1 percent positivity rate. Chui said that the increase is not unexpected as the weather gets colder and people move indoors. More people being tested may also influence those numbers, Chui said. He encouraged anyone who thinks he might be positive to get tested.
Chui said that a priority goal is breaking through some of the lingering vaccination resistance and persuading more people to at least get the first shot.
He noted that the first local clinic for children 5 to 11 years old was held this past weekend at the Galvin Middle School. He said that getting that age group vaccinated would be “a big step toward addressing school spread.” He noted that 515 kids from Wakefield and Melrose were vaccinated at the clinic.
In response to a question from the Town Council, Chui said that general community spread is the main driver of increasing cases, with specific activities, like sporting events, playing a lesser role.
He was asked if he had any policy recommendations at this point.
Chui said that while there has been some discussion of lifting the mask mandate, he would not recommend doing that until at least after the holidays.
“Masks are one very simple way of keeping this down,” Chui maintained.
Asked where people can get tested, Chui mentioned places like CVS and Walgreen’s as well as the home test kits that are available.
Councilor Edward Dombroski added that the drive-up testing site at the Square One Mall in Saugus is still operating and there are usually no lines.
Dombroski also observed that the 4.1 percent positivity rate likely includes younger children who typically have very mild symptoms, as opposed to early in the pandemic when positive cases tended to be much more severe and required hospitalization in many instances.
According to the COVID Dashboard on the town’s web site, there are 108 active cases in town currently. A total of 3,002 local residents have had the illness and recovered. Eighty-five have died.
The November case count for the local schools includes 43 students and six staff members.
Comparing data reported as of Nov. 18 for Wakefield and surrounding towns, Wakefield reported 128 positive tests in the previous 14 days for the aforementioned 4.1 percent positivity rate. Lynnfield reported 147 positive tests for a 7.99 percent positivity rate. Melrose has 116 positive tests and a 2.79 percent positivity rate. For Reading, it was 100 positive tests and a 3.81 percent positivity rate. Saugus reported 155 positive tests and a positivity rate of 4.38. Stoneham reported 88 positive tests and a 3.02 positivity rate.