First the bad news: Yes, the COVID situation is trending in the wrong direction, and that includes in Hopkinton.
Now the good news: As of late July, about 92 percent of eligible individuals in town had been vaccinated — ranking Hopkinton among the highest statewide — and that’s limited the local problems caused by this new wave.
“We’re starting to see cases,” Health Director Shaun McAuliffe acknowledged July 27. “Since our last board meeting on [July 21] we’ve had 14 cases come in. But because most of the people were vaccinated, they had very mild symptoms and the residents dismissed them as allergies or a cold — anything but COVID. So by the time we were alerted to their illness they were in their final days [of being monitored/quarantined].”
McAuliffe said three family members appear to have contracted the disease during a trip.
“One of the siblings presented [symptoms] almost a week before the others,” McAuliffe said. “The family was smart and careful enough to have tested their children multiple times so that the two kids who just tested positive [July 27] were negative over the last week that they’ve been home. So that was good.”
Meanwhile, a senior appeared to have contracted COVID while visiting someone in the hospital, and two other cases were linked to the Provincetown cluster, McAuliffe said.
“At the end of the day it appears that many of the illnesses are related to exposures to high-risk environments,” he said. “It’s travel, it’s being in a hospital or rehab facility, it’s being in bars without a mask or face covering, and there were a couple of family gatherings where people were unmasked and there was at least one if not more positive people at the party without a face covering on.”
Added McAuliffe: “Six of the 14 cases were unvaccinated children, and I believe everybody else was vaccinated.”
McAuliffe said it appears that the large majority of cases were standard COVID, while two likely were the Delta variant. Tests were being conducted in late July to confirm.
“With the exception of one of the adults, they all had very minor symptoms, so the vaccines were working,” McAuliffe said. “In one case [originating from Provincetown] I expect them to have had the Delta variant. They were suffering from bad headaches, sore throat, a cough and severe chest tightness. But they’ve recovered. We also have a senior with what we believe is Delta.”
The Hopkinton Board of Health has been discussing what emergency measures might be needed if the positivity rate continues to climb in August.
“At our board meeting [July 26] we started that discussion, and at our next meeting we’re going to discuss what that positivity rate or condition would look like,” McAuliffe said. “And while we’re discussing this and researching it, if something happens over the next couple of weeks, we’re prepared to put together an emergency meeting. It likely would be to enact an indoor mask requirement similar to what we have in Provincetown and Cambridge.
“We’re just trying to do whatever we can to prevent the spread in the unvaccinated community in town. Luckily we don’t have a very large unvaccinated population.”
Regarding schools, McAuliffe said he is waiting for guidance from the state before making a recommendation for the fall. The Centers for Disease Control recently released a statement encouraging people — including those who are vaccinated — to wear face coverings indoors in high-risk areas.
“We have our unvaccinated population [children under 12] attending school. The expectation is they’re going to have to wear face coverings,” McAuliffe said. “Is everybody going to have to wear a face covering? We just don’t have a lot of guidance from the state on that.”
Meanwhile, the Health Department has a replacement ready to take over for Kasey Mauro, who stepped down as public health nurse in June. Simone Carter, who most recently has been serving as a VNA (Visiting Nurse Association) nurse and has experience with the state’s COVID system, is scheduled to go before the Select Board at its Aug. 3 meeting for final approval.