Health director: Town sees ‘significant increase’ in COVID cases

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Town health director Shaun McAuliffe, in his COVID-19 update to the Select Board on Tuesday, warned that there has been a “significant increase in the number of cases in town over the last two weeks,” and with seven active cases Hopkinton is expected to shift to the yellow risk category when the state’s updated COVID map is released later this week.

Hopkinton currently is designated as a green community, meaning it has a low number of cases. After yellow, the level for the communities with the most active cases is red, and that would lead to restrictions on activities.

“Fall brings the start of cold and flu season, so we expected to see an uptick in respiratory illnesses, COVID being a similar disease,” McAuliffe said, adding: “If we can buckle down a little bit we’ll get back to green or unshaded [minimal cases] the following week.”

McAuliffe stressed that people need to refocus on social distancing, wearing face coverings, displaying proper hygiene, staying home when they’re sick, and avoiding large gatherings.

“If we do this I’m confident we can drive our numbers back down,” he said.

McAuliffe noted that the average age of infected individuals in town has dropped sharply since the start of the pandemic.

“Back in March and April the average age was in the 60s, then during the summer it dropped into the 40s, now the average age of residents falling ill is about 27,” he said. “These results are consistent with what we’re seeing both state-wide and nationally. Our trends are no different.”

Halloween is fast approaching, and the town remains OK with trick-or-treating, but, “We just want it to be done intelligently,” McAuliffe said. “We just need families to be distanced, wearing face coverings, we need the kids to wash their hands prior to going out, they should have sanitizer on them.”

Residents interested in giving out treats are asked to illuminate their driveways and/or porches. McAuliffe also suggested residents try to social distance while being “creative, like using a PVC pipe down the railing to deliver candy.”

As for indoor gatherings, “We want to discourage any Halloween parties, especially those that would be in violation of the governor’s gathering order [more than 25 people],” he said.

Touching on athletics, McAuliffe said indoor sports have been the most problematic throughout the state, and he said the state is supposed to have an announcement soon about sports in general.

Travel is another touchy subject.

“We just want people to be smart about travel right now,” McAuliffe said, noting that one resident is under quarantine now because of an airplane exposure.

McAuliffe encouraged residents to start planning for Thanksgiving and the winter holidays now, especially if it involved interaction with individuals from out of state. He encouraged people coming in from another state to get tested first, and added that more information about holiday planning will be presented in the coming weeks.

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