Health Agent: Success means staying home

More can be done in COVID-19 battle, says Golightly

Lowe’s has erected plastic partitions at checkout counters to keep a barrier between store employees and customers. But Abington Health Agent Marty Golightly says people need to avoid busy stories to prevent possibly spreading the COVID-19 virus.

The town’s Health Agent is warning residents against getting lax in their social distancing practices, saying the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic is still to come. 

“We have not hit our peak yet,” said Marty Golightly. “The numbers are expected to rise over the next two weeks still. The only way to slow it down is by doing our best to stay inside and stay away from groups. Social distancing is the word of the day still.”

Board of Health Chairman Christopher Schultz agreed that residents need to keep following public health recommendations. “Right now it is most critical that people practice social distancing at all times and keep from spreading the virus,” he said.

According to the Department of Public Health, more than 10,400 Massachusetts residents have tested positive for COVID-19, including 745 in Plymouth County. Gov. Charlie Baker recently said public health officials estimate somewhere between 47,000 and 172,000 Massachusetts residents will contract the virus, with the pandemic peaking between April 10th and April 20th. Symptoms of the virus can range anywhere from no symptoms to respiratory failure and death. 

Golightly and the Board of Health announced last week that four Abington residents had been diagnosed with COVID-19. However, the town along with many other communities, has since stopped publicly disclosing town-specific numbers based on Department of Public Health guidance. One reason given was that the town-by-town disclosures were resulting in public speculation over identities and bullying in local social media groups.   

Some communities in recent days have again started publishing the number of local positive tests; Abington has not.

Aside from privacy issues, Golightly said he’s also concerned that if people feel the town’s number is too high, people could panic. And if the number is low, it could lead to a false sense of confidence.  

“There are good arguments on either side of publishing or not,” he said. “So we’re following the DPH recommendations because they made the call. But I could understand why people would want to know how many cases are in town.”

Based on reports of crowded retail stores and lines at take-out windows — especially on good weather days — Golightly said he’s concerned that too many people still aren’t taking the social distancing rules seriously.  

“I know we’re all doing the best we can, but people need to understand that this isn’t a snow day. It’s best if they just stay at home and save the projects for later,” he said, asking residents to leave stores that are crowded, and return at a later time if it’s something they truly need.

Businesses that are allowed by the Commonwealth to remain open have all received state and local public health guidelines about ways to protect the health of employees and customers. Some retail shops have erected clear, plastic partitions at check-out counters to keep a physical border between cashiers and the public. A number of businesses have also put down temporary markings to help customers remain six feet apart while waiting in line.

Golightly said his office is trying to do spot checks when it can, but is also trusting that businesses will comply. “Our businesses in town are good people who want to do the right thing,” he said.