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Health director predicts Hopkinton is near COVID peak: ‘We’re seeing unprecedented numbers’

by | Jan 24, 2022 | Featured: News, News

Speaking at the Board of Health’s meeting on Monday, Health Director Shaun McAuliffe said Hopkinton’s COVID numbers continue to climb as the omicron surge rages on, but he expects the number to start dropping by the end of the week.

McAuliffe said as of Monday morning there have been 867 local cases in the state’s reporting system since Jan. 1, up 46 from Friday — and almost exclusively the omicron variant — but the actual total likely is much higher.

“We’re seeing unprecedented numbers,” McAuliffe said. “The guidance that we’re getting depending on the hospitals vs. the DPH [Department of Public Health] is you take that number published by the DPH and you either add another 60 percent or you just double it and that’s what the real number of illness in the community has been, because we know that there’s a significant number of in-home testing that’s not getting communicated to the department or the school nurses.”

McAuliffe said school gatherings and work-related exposures remain the leading sources of illness, but hospitalizations have been low and he predicts the town is near its peak surge.

“Our percent positivity has skyrocketed over the month of January, but I expect to see a significant decrease in the percent positivity this week,” he said. “The bulk of our cases are in that 0-29-year-old group. We’re seeing it transmit in that younger group and then moving into the household and getting the parents and maybe older siblings sick.”

The Health Department, following state and federal guidance, has been moving away from contact tracing and to a “personal responsibility model” while assisting the schools monitor their cases.

“The most important thing that we’re doing right now is that we are — we had a conversation with the head school nurse today, and we’re going to be working with them to help them kind of navigate this next policy change,” McAuliffe said. “And we’ll be working with them to help develop communications for the residents so that we can stay on top of illness and just help the residents navigate the illness that might occur in their families.”

The department has been running vaccination clinics at Town Hall on Mondays and Thursdays and is planning some regional clinics in the near future, although with Hopkinton’s high success rate, the number of people attending the clinics has been declining.

“Right now I would argue that we’re probably at 95, 96 percent fully vaccinated for the 5-11-year-olds,” McAuliffe said. “Now our mission is to increase the percentage of individuals who are boosted, and then once the younger children are eligible to be boosted we turn our efforts there.”

Public Health Nurse Simone Carter noted that many people aren’t sure when they are eligible for boosters.

“The change in messaging that has come down from the feds all the way down to us, people are confused about when that time is and when they can actually get a booster,” she said. “So that’s part of our effort as well, and I feel like we’re doing well with that. Because in this town, based on what you guys have already set up that I just walked into, folks feel really empowered to call their Health Department, and they do. And so they’re able to get information accurately, quickly and we can change it on the ground. But that’s part of what we’re fighting.”

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