Watertown moved into the Red, or high-risk, category in the most recent Mass. Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 reporting. The Watertown Health Director fears that people are suffering from “COVID fatigue” and have become lax about taking measures to stop the spread of the virus.
In the latest data from the MassDPH, Watertown has an average of 55.8 cases per 100,000 residents over the past 14 days, which was up from 51 per 100,000 the previous week. The number that moved the Town from “yellow” to “red” was the positivity percentage of tests, which was 5.14 percent (up from 4.7 percent the previous report).
Watertown’s Director of Health Larry Ramdin said the increase in cases has been going on for some time, and as the pandemic drags into its 10th month people are having trouble remaining vigilant.
“We started seeing the numbers climbing in the post Halloween period, and our numbers mirror what is happening across the state,” Ramdin said. “I think there are a number of factors, one of them is COVID fatigue. Because of that people are becoming a little lax in what they are doing.”
The number of total cases in Watertown close to tripled from the end of October to the beginning of the New Year. On Oct. 29, the DPH reported the total number of cases in Town was 514, while the total was 1,402 in the DPH’s report that came out on Jan. 7.
The Health Department tracks cases, and officials found that family gatherings during the holidays and children and teens gathering during the winter break contributed to the increase.
Ramdin said he still tells people to remember to keep their distance, avoid gatherings (especially with people not in their household), wear face coverings, wash their hands, and maintain 6 feet of distance from others.
“If people just remember we are not past it, we are still in the midst of it,” Ramdin said. “Because of what is happening we are seeing the increase in cases, so this is not the time to let down your guard. Be extremely vigilant.”
In terms of COVID restrictions, the Town will continue to follow the guidance from the state, Ramdin said. This week, Gov. Charlie Baker extended the step back in the state’s reopening plan through Jan. 24. That includes reduced capacity at businesses and restaurants and limits to the size of gatherings. (Click here for more details).
The end of the pandemic is on the horizon, Ramdin said, with vaccines beginning to arrive.
“There is a light at the end of the tunnel. We have two vaccines. In the near future there may be two more,” Ramdin said. “Availability to that, I do not have now. We have the ability to (vaccinate people) when it becomes available.”
The vaccine is now going out to front line healthcare workers, and first responders will soon be vaccinated. Those groups are in Phase 1 of the State’s vaccination plan. Watertown has joined a coalition to vaccinate first responders being led by Arlington, which also includes Belmont and Lexington.
However, when seniors or the general public will get vaccinated is not clear.
“I have received some inquiries from our senior population, whom the governor is saying is in the next round, but have no guidelines in terms of when we will get it,” Ramdin said.
When the Town gets access to vaccines, Ramdin anticipates that the Health Department will run clinics similar to the ones for the flu vaccine. In Phase 2 of the State’s vaccination plan priority will be people at risk, such as people age 65 and over, K-12 and preschool teachers, grocery workers, and people with health conditions that put them at more risk from COVID-19. State officials estimate Phase 2 will run from February to April. The general public will be in Phase 3, which could begin in April.
To keep up with the latest information from the Health Department, Ramdin recommends people go to the Town’s COVID-19 Information page, www.watertown-ma.gov/978/Coronavirus. The Health Department also puts out information on Facebook (facebook.com/WatertownMAHealthDepartment), Twitter (twitter.com/watertownhealth) and Instagram (instagram.com/watertownhealth).