COVID numbers, complaints ticking upward has board concerned
With COVID-19 case numbers beginning to trend the wrong way, Abington Health Agent Marty Golightly has an unpopular message heading into graduation weekend.
“Please don’t have parties,” he said during Monday night’s board of health meeting. “They are known to be super-spreader events. Please don’t do that.”
Abington High School’s Class of 2020 is scheduled to finally receive their diplomas Saturday morning. The original ceremony, scheduled for early June, was delayed due to coronavirus concerns.
School administrators have put a number of guidelines in place they hope will reduce the risk of the virus spreading at the graduation ceremony, which will take place on the lawn in front of the middle/high school. Seniors can only bring two guests and will be seated in between them. Their diplomas will already be on their seats. When their name is called they can bring their diploma up for a photo. Everyone must wear a mask at all times. The ceremony will be closed to the public, but can be viewed live on Abington Community Access & Media’s Education Channel (Comcast – Ch. 14; Verizon – Ch. 26).
Traditionally, the backyards of graduates would be filled post-ceremony with friends and families celebrating this big life milestone.
However, evidence continues to emerge that parties — even those held outdoor — can be a “super-spreader event” where a person infected with COVID-19 can spread it to multiple other people. The virus is spread through respiratory droplets expressed when a person breathes, coughs, and sneezes. Talking loudly, laughing, and singing can also transmit the respiratory droplets.
“Look no further than the Cape,” Golightly said in a separate interview with Abington News.
In Falmouth, 10 town lifeguards have tested positive for COVID-19; town health officials believe the virus spread at an after-hours party. Thirteen people tested positive for COVID-19 following a party in Chatham.
“I know that’s a hard ask, but now is not the time to have large parties or celebrations,” Golightly said. “I’m asking people to please be cautious and be smart and consider their neighbors and families when doing those things.”
State health guidelines currently do not place limits on the number of people allowed at an outdoor gathering. But they do insist people remain six feet apart, and wear masks when they cannot observe social distancing.
Massachusetts COVID-19 numbers have been starting to tick back up, with the percentage of people testing positive increasing from 1.7 percent to 2 percent in recent days. The state Department of Public Health reported 438 new positive cases on Tuesday — the highest single day number in more than two months. The number of active cases in Abington has increased from two to five.
Gov. Charlie Baker said on Tuesday that if numbers continue to move in the wrong direction, he’ll consider limiting the size of gatherings.
“[We’ll] be forced to adjust our plans if the data warrants it,” he said, according to media reports. “That could mean gathering sizes could be reduced, or we could make some of our business regulations more strict. Reopening and staying open is a big part of the goal, but obviously we can’t do that if we don’t have everybody’s help to continue to move forward.”
Golightly and Abington Board of Health Chairman Chris Schultz both said Monday night they have received an uptick in complaints about employees and customers in town stores not wearing masks.
“Im worried we’re not making some good decisions around town,” Golightly said.
Schultz said they will be looking to step up enforcement of the townwide order requiring face coverings while in stores.
The board on Tuesday posted a link on its Facebook page to an online form people can use to report concerns about safe practices.