Area health officials get update on vaccination, COVID-19 numbers

  • WALKER

Staff Writer
Published: 12/22/2021 1:14:45 PM
Modified: 12/22/2021 1:14:29 PM

Health board members from across Franklin County came together Monday afternoon for a virtual roundtable discussion to learn the latest vaccination rates and COVID-19 case report.

Phoebe Walker, director of community services at the Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG), facilitated the discussion, held on the online video conferencing platform Zoom, and shared statistics from the state government and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Approximately 15 people participated in the roundtable.

“We’re a small but mighty crew during the pre-holiday week here,” she said, referring to the number of attendees.

Walker said Franklin County’s coronavirus infection rate is the highest it has been, though it remains better than most counties and the state as a whole. According to statistics she shared, Greenfield has 151 new cases, making for 62.9 daily cases per 100,000 people. This equals a 5.3 percent positivity rate. Walker noted that some towns’ (Rowe, Monroe, Hawley, etc.) low population densities can result in deceivingly high average daily cases per 100,000.

According to Walker, 72 percent of eligible county residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and 83 percent have received at least one vaccine dose. She acknowledged that many vaccinated people are contracting COVID-19 and this is causing some to believe the vaccine and booster shots are ineffective. However, she said data shows vaccination is still beneficial. Walker reported that last week, unvaccinated people were 31 times more likely to become infected with the novel coronavirus.

Walker shared statistics that show that, since December 2020, 88,968 vaccinated Massachusetts residents were infected with COVID-19, comprising 2 percent of the state’s vaccinated population.

The state Department of Public Health’s “Vax Bus” is continuing to administer COVID-19 vaccines at public elementary schools throughout Franklin County. The bus was at Dexter Park School in Orange on Wednesday, Dec. 22, and will be at Buckland-Shelburne Elementary School on Thursday, Dec. 23. To register, visit bit.ly/3sqx8FR.

Some health board members spoke of the free rapid at-home COVID-19 test kits they received from the state. Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration sent 2.1 million kits to the state’s 102 municipalities with the highest percentage of families below the poverty level. These Franklin County municipalities are Greenfield, Wendell, Buckland, Charlemont, Hawley, Heath, Colrain, Bernardston, Montague, Erving, Monroe and Leyden. Northampton, Winchendon and Athol also received kits. There are two tests per kit.

On the roundtable’s agenda, Walker also shared information on new research regarding the effectiveness of masks. According to the CDC, the coronavirus is transmitted predominantly by “inhalation of respiratory droplets generated when people cough, sneeze, sing, talk or breathe.” The CDC explains masks are intended “to reduce the emission of virus-laden droplets by the wearer ... which is especially relevant for asymptomatic or presymptomatic infected wearers who feel well and may be unaware of their infectiousness to others.”

According to the CDC, masks also help reduce inhalation of these droplets by the wearer.

“Studies demonstrate that cloth mask materials can also reduce wearers’ exposure to infectious droplets through filtration, including filtration of fine droplets and particles less than 10 microns,” the CDC reports. “The relative filtration effectiveness of various masks has varied widely across studies, in large part due to variation in experimental design and particle sizes analyzed.”

Walker also advocated for MassNotify, a smartphone app that alerts users when they may have been exposed to COVID-19.

Doug Telling, of the Charlemont Board of Health, openly wondered if Gov. Baker plans to reinstate a mask mandate because “everybody in the world is recommending that he do it.”

“He’s not running again,” Telling said. “He’s got nothing to lose.”

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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