Health director: Managing return of college students ‘keeping me up at night right now’

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Hopkinton health director Shaun McAuliffe, during an appearance on HCAM’s Hopkinton Hangout Hour on Thursday, said there are two active cases of COVID-19 in town, both individuals under the age of 23 who were not as responsible as they should have been.

“Both of them likely picked it up at parties where they weren’t wearing face coverings,” McAuliffe said.

McAuliffe said young adults who are returning from college are a major concern.

“That’s what’s keeping me up at night right now,” he said. “How are we going to get all of our [college] kids back for the holidays, knowing that they’re in a higher-risk environment. We want to make sure that we have a good, solid plan in place to help the parents think through this.”

McAuliffe described recent cases as people feeling like they had a “hard flu, where they’re sleeping all day.” He noted that even if someone only has mild symptoms they are inconveniencing others and putting people close to them at risk.

“The ones that are home, that just puts an added strain on their parents and the rest of the family members,” he said, adding: “Maybe you only have a light illness for a week. But if you’re living at home, your parents can’t go to work, your siblings now are home. You’ve got to remember that your activities may impact a lot more people.”

Overall McAuliffe said he’s been pleased to see more people in town wearing masks.

“Yesterday was probably the first day that I was out and every child I saw on the street had a mask on. And it made my day,” he said. “When I left town it was a different story. But it seems that the parents and the children are having those conversations and everybody’s kind of getting it now.”

Gov. Charlie Baker announced Wednesday that restaurants now can sit 10 people at an indoor table, one of the restrictions that he has eased as he’s tried to encourage reopening in a responsible manner. And while bars remain closed, restaurants are allowed to use the bar seating area for diners.

McAuliffe said he doesn’t agree with the expansion to 10 people at a table, but restaurants have other restrictions, including placing tables at least 6 feet apart unless they are separated by protective barriers, and having employees wear masks.

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