Town officials gave a big “shout out” to the members of the Watertown Health Department for all the work they have done during the pandemic, including the recent free COVID-19 testing and vaccinations.
This week, the first members of the general public, age 75 and older, got the vaccine from the Health Department, and Town Manager Michael Driscoll said more vaccinations will be done next week. The Town will also continue to offer free COVID-19 testing through the end of February.
Town Council President Mark Sideris took time during Tuesday’s Town Council meeting to thank the Health Department.
“I wanted to give a shout out to our Health Department, which has gone above and beyond for just about a year to make this community as safe as possible during the pandemic,” Sideris said. “I can’t say enough for everyone who works in that department — and there are so many in the community helping and I appreciate the work they have put in — but the Health Department is the one that gets all the phone calls, the good ones the bad ones, and they are still doing it. I want to take this opportunity to shout out to them and thank them for their efforts on behalf of our citizens.”
The Town has only been able to get a small amount of the COVID-19 vaccine, Driscoll said.
“The Commonwealth is guiding all eligible individuals to the Commonwealth’s mass vaccination sites, thus the supplies available at the local level is extremely limited,” Driscoll said.
The Town requested vaccine, however, to help seniors who might struggle to access the State’s vaccination sites, Health Director Larry Ramdin wrote in a letter to Driscoll.
“We chose to accept the vaccine and do what we can do with what we have to help our seniors, because there are challenges to accessing the sites, aside from the availability of the appointments,” Ramdin wrote.
The Town was able to get 200 doses of vaccine to give to residents age 75 and older, Driscoll said. According to Ramdin, that covers 12.3 percent of Watertown’s 1,625 residents over age 75.
On Tuesday, the Health Department learned that Watertown would receive an additional 100 doses. Driscoll said another clinic for people 75+ will be scheduled next week.
The MassDPH vaccination program relies largely on computer registration for those seeking to get vaccinated. The Council on Aging has been helping seniors who have no computer access or who struggle to use technology, Driscoll said.
Along with the elderly population, the Health Department vaccinated Watertown police officers and firefighters in mid-January, and recently helped students at Perkins School for the Blind. Last Friday and Saturday, the Health Department worked with the school to vaccinate 563 students and staff at Perkins.
Ramdin received an email from Jana Ferguson, assistant commissioner at MassDPH, thanking the Health Department for its work. She wrote: “I want to give you the great feedback we have heard. I got off the phone with the head of Perkins School for the Blind. … She could not stop raving about what a great partner they were.”
The Health Department will also be partnering with the Watertown Housing Authority to vaccinate residents when their allocation arrives, Ramdin said.
The Town began offering free testing for Watertown residents in December, and Driscoll said the program has proven popular.
“Last week we received 30-40 requests to continue the testing,” Driscoll said. “We have times and slots available this week and the next two weeks, which would bring us to the end of February.”
Watertown residents can get testing without a medical referral and do not need to be showing COVID-19 symptoms, Driscoll said. The Town is requesting that each resident receive only one free test to allow others to be tested, Driscoll said.
Driscoll thanked Town Auditor Tom Tracy and others in the Town staff for organizing the testing.
Find out more about the Town’s COVID-19 vaccination and testing programs by clicking here: https://www.watertown-ma.gov/978/Coronavirus