Town COVID numbers up as fall activities near

Abington’s Health Agent says a “run of bad luck” is being blamed for a recent spike in COVID-19 cases in town. 

“By next week I think we’ll see another decline,” the health agent, Marty Golightly, said. 

Currently there are 11 Abington residents who have tested positive for the virus, according to the state Department of Public Health. That’s up from 3 on August 24. 

The recent spike means the town has slipped from “green” status — which means fewer than 4 cases per 100,000 residents over the past 14 days — to “yellow” status — indicating there’s been 4 to 8 cases per 100,000 residents over the past 14 days. State health officials use the color coding system to assess community risk levels. 

There are 48 other Massachusetts communities currently classified similarly to Abington, and eight communities with the higher risk “red” status.

The state average as of Sept. 2 is 4.2 positive cases per 100,000. Abington currently has 6 positive cases per 100,000.

Marty Golightly, Abington’s Health Agent, said the town had largely navigated the summer cookout season, including the high school graduation ceremony and subsequent parties, well.  

“I think the school department, students, and their families did a pretty decent job, if you ask me,” he said.

A Little League player tested positive in early August resulting in two teams of players being quarantined for two weeks. But no additional positive tests were reported from that potential exposure.

Over the weekend, the owner of the Abington Dairy Queen said they had closed the shop for a couple days as a precaution after an employee had developed some minor symptoms. The employee subsequently tested negative and the popular business has reopened.

However, one cluster of positive tests is tied to an Abington restaurant. Golightly said the restaurant had followed all the proper precautions before and after the outbreak, including screening employees, immediately closing the restaurant, bringing in a professional cleaning staff to sanitize the facility, and passing a reopening inspection. 

Abington News is aware of the restaurant where the cluster occurred but is choosing not to publish the name as it properly followed all guidelines and precautions, and does not face a fine or any other penalties. A source told Abington News on condition of anonymity discussing public health matters that the cluster originated with a customer, not a restaurant employee.

“The restaurant in question did everything right,” Golightly said. He declined to say how many people tested positive or whether the initial person was an employee or customer.

Golightly also confirmed that a number of other Abington businesses had employees test positive recently, causing the town’s numbers to more than triple in a week. He said overall Abington businesses continue to be responsible and follow state and local health guidelines.

“When [a cluster] happens, it happens quick,” said Golightly. “This business didn’t let its guard down. Imagine if it had.” 

The spike is happening days just as the town is readying to take its biggest steps back towards a sense of normalcy. 

Teachers are already back at work preparing for the first day of classes, which will start Sept. 16. The town has adopted a hybrid model, which means one cohort of students will attend classes in-person Monday and Tuesday and another cohort will attend Thursday and Friday. 

In addition, Abington Youth Soccer, the town’s largest youth sports league, starts practices and games next week. Abington Little League’s fall season also starts next week. 

Golightly urged parents, students, and athletes to continue following “the three Ws”: wash your hands, wear a mask, and watch your distance. 

“My biggest ask is that if your child is not feeling well, keep them home,” said Golightly, pointing out that people who are asymptomatic shed less virus than those with symptoms.

Parents should start preparing their kids for school by “normalizing” the use of face coverings outside of the house, and reminding them to avoid touching the outside of their masks, Golightly said. 

Masks don’t have to be washed everyday, but Golightly suggested parents have multiple masks they can rotate through as needed, as well as backups in backpacks for school. 

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