Franklin County COVID-19 cases dip as summer begins

  • Franklin County and the North Quabbin region’s latest two-week COVID-19 case counts from June 18, according to state Department of Public Health (DPH) data released June 23. Towns in blue registered five or fewer positive cases over the past two weeks. (Note: Case numbers reflected in the article may be more up-to-date than figures kept by DPH.) STAFF GRAPHIC/CHRIS LARABEE

  • COVID-19 cases in Franklin County are on the decline again after seeing a minor increase in May, according to data from the state Department of Public Health. The red line represents virus cases while the black line (using the axis on the right side) represents the number of deaths. (Note: Case numbers reflected in the article may be more up-to-date than figures kept by DPH.) STAFF GRAPHIC/CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer
Published: 6/30/2022 12:19:52 PM
Modified: 6/30/2022 12:19:51 PM

Franklin County’s 166 confirmed COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks continues a downward trend that sees the region’s lowest rate of positivity since the end of March, according to data from the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts.

“Numbers are coming down significantly right now, as best as we could tell,” Montague Board of Health Chair Melanie Ames Zamojski said at the town’s Selectboard meeting Monday.

County data was presented at a Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG) Local Public Health Roundtable on Monday afternoon. Director of Community Services Phoebe Walker, who narrated a slide show during the Zoom meeting, recognized that the past two weeks’ case numbers are “slightly down” from the previous window’s 209 positive cases. The last time fewer than 166 cases were recorded across the county over a two-week period was on March 31, at which time 143 cases were documented, according to Public Health Institute data.

The data shows 4,087 tests were administered in Franklin County over this most recent two-week period, down slightly from the 4,160 tests recorded over the previous two-week period. Average daily cases dropped from 21 to 16.7, which is lower than the state average of 20.7 cases. Three deaths were confirmed over the most recent period. Additionally, the average percentage of positive tests dropped from 5.58% to 4.43%, which is lower than the state average of 5.66%.

Ames Zamojski noted, however, that recorded data is “not an accurate reflection” of how many positive cases exist.

“The numbers are accurate for what we get numbers for,” she explained. “The problem is that we’re not getting people reporting that they have COVID because the vast majority of people are doing home testing.”

FRCOG Health Educator and Epidemiologist Maureen O’Reilly confirmed this.

“As public health officials, we’re not receiving the public tests that we did before the home testing happened,” O’Reilly said.

In spite of this, local officials have recognized wastewater testing as providing helpful data. On its website, Biobot Analytics, which is monitoring wastewater data, states its chart illustrates the level of virus detected in wastewater samples weekly. Data from June 22 showed 715 COVID-19 copies per milliliter of sewage in Franklin County, the lowest count since data started being recorded on May 11.

O’Reilly said the decline in COVID-19 cases coheres with seasonal trends previously observed. As summer begins, she said, people are spending more time outdoors and less time clustered indoors.

“Having a downward trend in the summer is really consistent in northern North America,” O’Reilly said.

She added that there is “a certain expectation” for case counts to stay low throughout summer for this reason. She advised people should, however, remain responsible as they look to curb the spread and test appropriately.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com.


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