Health director: Frustrated residents should ‘take a civil tone’ when dealing with COVID team

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Hopkinton Health Director Shaun McAuliffe, in his update to the Select Board on Tuesday night, praised his COVID-19 response team and said the staffers do not deserve to have residents treat them rudely while they are doing their jobs.

“Right now they are recognized widely throughout the commonwealth as being one the top COVID response teams out there,” a weary-sounding McAuliffe said, adding that two visiting nurse associations (VNA) recently called to ask for assistance. “We know what we’re doing. We’ve got different agencies that are coning to us for advice on how to handle cases. So, my hats off to those guys. They’re really a well-oiled machine.

“With that said, we’re almost two years into COVID. I know people are frustrated. I know that they’re inconvenienced. I know that they’re tired. But I’m just asking people — and there’s a small minority — but I’m just asking them to be a little civil when they are dealing with that team, because they have a job to do, they have regulatory responsibilities that they need to fulfill. We had several instances last week where residents were swearing at them and just really being uncivil. If someone has an issue they can come to me as the department head. But I’m just asking that people take a civil tone when they are dealing with the nurses.”

McAuliffe said the town’s vaccination rates continue to be “outstanding,” ranking as one of the best in the state. He is looking forward to getting approval to start vaccinating the under-12 age group.

“In just about every metric, we’ve seen our vaccination percentages exceed 95 percent [of population segments],” he said. “Right now we’ve got roughly 2,100 kids that we’re just waiting authorization to get vaccinated in preschool and elementary, up to middle school. … We hope to be able to hit the ground running as soon as we get authorization from the state to start vaccinating that group. With that, my expectation is that we will remain as one of the communities with a population over 10,000 with the highest vaccination rate in the state. I think we’re No. 3 right now.

“There’s a lot to be said about how the town has come and rallied around this issue and really worked to actually provide us the opportunity to have Polyarts and Blooms, Brews and [BBQs] last [weekend].”

Since the start of August, when cases began to rise, McAuliffe said the town has been averaging about 16-17 cases a week, or 2 1/2 per day. There are 14 current cases, and there have been 127 since Aug. 1.

“The majority of it is being driven by travel,” he said. “Where earlier on in September it was being driven by people returning from holiday, returning from Labor Day weekend travel, now it’s more business-related travel — a parent coming home asymptomatic, exposing a child. Most all of our cases in the preschools are travel-related. A little less so in the school system. But we’re doing well, and we’re figuring out ways to do better each day.”

McAuliffe said it’s been consistent that 50 percent of the cases are breakthrough (in vaccinated people), 25 percent are unvaccinated but eligible adults, and the remaining 25 percent are unvaccinated and ineligible children.

He expressed optimism that once the younger children start getting vaccinated, some of the unvaccinated parents will become less resistant to it for themselves.

He added that his group is awaiting approval to proceed with boosters as well.

“We’re kind of in a waiting mode, where we’ve got the equipment and we’ve got the manpower,” he said. “It’s just, we’re just waiting on authorization to proceed.”

McAuliffe also cautioned that there has been a “significant number” of RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) cases, and the symptoms are similar to COVID. “It is hitting day cares and people in the school system fairly hard,” he said.

Overall, McAuliffe encouraged residents to continue to keep up their guard.

“It’s not too late to get vaccinated,” he said. “We need to continue to avoid high-risk, indoor events. Face covering and distancing when possible. And then if we’re traveling, try to reduce the traveling with unvaccinated children, until at least we can get a dose into them.”