Dear Community Members,
Another week has gone by and the situation in Massachusetts and nationally continues to take a turn for the worst. The U.S. reported more than 500,000 cases in the past week.
Please don’t fall for the “more testing = more cases” argument. Correlation does not imply causation. Holyoke has had two test sites since the last week of August and their capacity for testing has not changed. Since the beginning of October there has been a clear and substantial increase in case counts. If you followed the “more testing = more case counts” logic, the increase in case counts should have been immediate, beginning in August (when the test sites opened). That was not the case. The reason case counts are higher is because more people are sick.
Case counts and percent positivity are two major factors in the decision making process. Without that information, you cannot make informed decisions about a community as it pertains to COVID-19. Without testing, you don’t have that information.
Closing your eyes does not make a problem disappear, it just makes you unprepared.
Moving on… I typically reference the State’s COVID-19 metrics map in these emails but do not provide a link. Here is the document to which I am referring:
On the metrics map you will see a noticeable increase in the number of communities in the Red. Last week, it was 77 communities. We are now at 121 communities in the Red. More than 50 of those communities have been in the Red for at least 3 consecutive weeks and have stepped back to Phase 3, Step 1. Holyoke entered Phase 3, Step 1 as of 10/26/2020.
You will see that Hampden County is slowly turning Red, and a cluster of 8 bordering communities are at the center. This is a great visual of what is becoming a vicious cycle. Many people live in one community and work in another. As you can see, COVID risks and exposures travel across community lines. It’s no longer practical to view this spike as an issue isolated in individual communities.
A simple example is a parent who lives in Holyoke, works in Chicopee and drops their kids off at their grandparent’s house in South Hadley for babysitting. If either the child, parent or grandparents tests positive for COVID, 3 communities are now possibly affected. Situations such as this is why you are seeing neighboring cities and owns go Red in groups.
As of this week, the Incidence Rate per 100,000 in Holyoke is 17.9. Percent Positivity is at 3.2%. These are both significant jumps. We are averaging more than 10 new cases a day in Holyoke.
As you can see on the map, Holyoke does not have an asterisk (indicating a significant, isolated, cluster). The incident at Holyoke Medical Center was largely non-Holyoke residents. As such, it did not significantly contribute to our case counts.
In Massachusetts the average Incidence Rate per 100,000 is 11.8 and the Percent Positivity is at 1.55%. Due to this, Massachusetts has been or will be added to travel restriction lists in other States such as CT, NJ and NY.
We continue to see an increase in cases involving children. Please do not allow yourself to be convinced that children have some form of immunity. The test sites in Holyoke will test any one over 1 month old. The test is a simple swab in the lower part of the nose. It will not traumatize a child, as some have been led to believe.
A few requests on behalf of the Board of Health:
– If you are sick or symptomatic, please do not go to work or school. Get tested and stay home until you receive a negative test result.
– If a member of your household is sick, please do not go to work or school. Get tested and stay home until you and your family receive negative test results.
– If your children are sick or symptomatic, please do not send them to school or daycare. You and your child should be tested and stay home until you receive your test results.
– If a member of your household is sick, please do not send your children to school or daycare. You should all be tested and stay home until you get your test results.
– If you have been exposed to a person who has been confirmed positive for COVID-19, please get tested and stay home until you get a negative test result.
***CARES act funds have been allocated to allow your employer to pay you for any time that you are out of work due to being symptomatic, confirmed positive or a “close contact”. There should be no reason for your employer to pressure you to return to work if you or a member of your household is sick or symptomatic.
The CARES act is in place to make sure that you do not have to choose between health and money. You do not need to lose income and your employer is compensated for the wages you receive while out of work. Often, all that is required is a note from your doctor or the Board of Health.
This virus continues to spread because people are going to work, school, gatherings, stores, etc while sick, or while someone in their home is sick. Please don’t use the rationale that you feel “fine” if you know have been exposed. That is a large part of the reason this virus persists.
As always, if you have any questions, please contact me directly.
PLEASE BE SAFE ON HALLOWEEN. Don’t make a decision you might regret (for two weeks of isolation or quarantine) for a couple hours of fun.
Sean Gonsalves, RS
Director of Health
Holyoke Board of Health