Health director: Residents traveling out of state put Hopkinton at risk

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Hopkinton Health Department director Shaun McAuliffe and public health nurse Kasey Mauro, during an appearance on Thursday’s Hopkinton Hangout Hour on HCAM, said there has been an increase in travel by residents and it is putting the entire community at risk.

“Stop traveling,” McAuliffe stated bluntly. “I think that’s the key. … What we’ve seen over the last 14 days, or more specifically over the last week, is those that have not been following the governor’s guidelines and have been traveling out of state or out of country have been coming back with COVID.”

Under the recently released town-by-town analysis provided by the state, communities are categorized as gray (lowest risk level), green (low), yellow (moderate) and red (high). Towns with a red rating — which means more than eight cases per 100,000 people — are restricted in their ability to reopen schools and extracurricular activities.

Hopkinton was gray when the map debuted last week, but on the current map the town has dropped to green.

McAuliffe said it could have been worse had two families had “different outcomes.” And if that happened and the town dropped to yellow or red, “That has serious implications on our [school] reentry and has potential implications on the ability to hold fall sports or winter sports,” he said. “It’s time for everybody to get serious and acknowledge that we’re in a pandemic. Going to a foreign country and traveling on one or two airplanes, as my 5-year-old would say, is really a bad decision.”

McAuliffe compared the uptick in travel to the behavior at the outdoor basketball courts earlier this summer, which led to the courts being closed.

“I hate reverting back to the basketball courts, but it’s the same thing,” he said. “You have high-risk activities, people were not following the governor’s orders or just any of the recommended safety protocols. And we were lucky [not to have an outbreak].”

Added McAuliffe: “We saw that it wasn’t just Hopkinton children, Hopkinton college kids and Hopkinton adults. They were from everywhere. You’re just increasing the risk. It would have been different if everybody was wearing masks and they were making some modifications to the way they were playing. But they weren’t.”

Sports has been a frequent topic of discussion. Some youth sports have returned but with modifications. High schools are planning on most sports returning in the fall.

“We’re working with all of our different athletics,” McAuliffe said. “I’ve already had multiple meetings with Parks & Rec about what we’re going to be able to introduce for fall programming. We have coaches evaluating how they can modify their play to accommodate the EEA [Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs] regulations. They need to become well-versed so that they can self-certify that they can provide this athletic opportunity in a safe and controlled manner.

“Then some of it is educating the parents that are spectating to do the right thing, or the kids that are spectating to do the right thing,” McAuliffe added. “But we’re having multiple conversations at the end of the day to make sure that we can bring back some level of athletics, but those that we bring back we’re going to do so safely.”

Said Mauro: “As soon as you start to see community transmission — like if one player gets it and gives it to another player, that’s a time to press the pause button. If it transmits from a student to another classroom that’s a time to stop. If there was just a single case that was on the team but then no one [else] on that team got it, that’s not a reason to stop, as long as we can trace back where that person got it from. Like if they brought it from home and then brought into the school but did not transmit it to anybody, that’s a very different situation vs. having two people test positive on a team.”

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