An upturn in the new COVID-19 cases concerns Watertown Health Director Larry Ramdin, who worries that the state may go back into more strict shutdown rules if the trend gets worse.
During the first week of August, Watertown had its first COVID fatality reported since the second week of May, bringing the total to 24. For the first time in several weeks, the number of new positive COVID-19 cases is into the double digits in Watertown, and the state numbers are growing by around 2,000 a week.
“People are going on vacation, it is summer, there is a little complacency,” Ramdin said. “People are going to social gatherings, they are not social distancing, not wearing face coverings, expose themselves.”
People have been returning to life as normal, which sometimes includes activities not allowed by the COVID-19 restrictions. Ramdin said he has seen people playing basketball without face masks. They are allowed to shoot hoops, but not play full games, he said. In other communities, the nets have been removed to stop people from playing, Ramdin said.
Ramdin reminded people that they may not know they have the virus, but could be spreading it.
“It is 72 hours before the onset of symptoms that you are infected, which means you can not have symptoms but you can pass the virus on,” Ramdin said.
Watertown had 14 positive tests reported during the second week of August, for a total of 463. This was the most since the third week of June, when there were 20 new positive cases. Besides that the new positive tests in Watertown had been in the single digits each week. The most new cases seen in Town over a week was 80 in the fourth week of April.
Middlesex County saw more than 400 new cases each of the past three weeks, with 409 last week, 539 two weeks ago and 494 three weeks ago. The biggest weekly jump during the surge saw 3,518 new cases in the third week of April.
Ramdin said a sharp increase in cases could mean going backward in the state’s reopening plan.
“If the trends continues, you can have the state being pushed backward, so instead of moving forward — we are in phase 3 — we can go back into phase 2,” Ramdin said. “It comes down to personal responsibility.”
Over the past couple weeks, Gov. Charlie Baker has stressed the importance of wearing masks, including starting the #MaskUpMA campaign, instituted travel rules requiring people coming into the Bay State from another state or country to quarantine for 14 days (even state residents), and he reduced the allowable size of gatherings from 100 to 50. The new limit applies to both gatherings in both public and private places. Also, masks are required for gatherings of more than 10 people where people from multiple households are mixing.
The past two weeks, the number of cases in Massachusetts has risen by around 2,000 a week (1,984 last week, and 2,133 the week before). The last week of April saw the biggest number of new cases statewide, with 16,582. Statewide, there were 98 COVID-19 related deaths last week, up slightly from 95 the week before, but down from two weeks ago, when there were 110 fatalities. The second week of May was the worst for deaths, statewide, when 1,040 were reported.
While Ramdin and other health officials can emphasize the rules, he said it is up to people to do their part.
“I cannot be in everyone’s homes or backyards. People need to be responsible,” Ramdin said. “People need to take ownership of this. If we as community come together and do what’s right, we will beat this.”