COVID numbers drop, but Abington still in the red

Youth hockey on hold statewide for two weeks

The number of Abington residents with known cases of coronavirus has dropped significantly, but the town is still considered “in the red” by the state Department of Public Health.

Town Health Agent Marty Golightly said his office is tracking eight residents with active cases of COVID -19, which is down from 37 at one point last week. Another 51 residents are in quarantine for having come in close contact with someone with the virus.

In calculating a community’s “risk” status, the state department of public health looks at statistics from the previous 14 days, which is why Abington retained its “red” designation this week.

Currently, 77 Massachusetts communities are considered a “high-risk” community, up from 63 last week. The state announced 986 new cases on Thursday, the highest single-day total since May.

The sharp spike and quick decline in Abington was due to “a very specific burst of positive tests,” said Golightly, and not caused by a larger community spread. Some of the positives were related to the cluster that emerged following a youth hockey tournament earlier this month.

On Thursday, the state ordered all ice rinks to close through Nov. 7. State health officials said they’ve traced 30 outbreak clusters to organized hockey practices and games. Those outbreaks have resulted in 108 confirmed cases in 60 cities and towns across the state.

Massachusetts Hockey said in a statement that many players, families, and facilities had been following state guidance, “there have been situations and areas where the Commonwealth feels compliance with the guidance has not been followed.”

“Until the rinks are allowed to reopen, we hope that everyone takes a moment to think about why we play this great game and how our actions can impact others,” the statement continued. “For better or worse the hockey community is viewed as one collective group and, unfortunately, the actions of a few can impact the season for the 50,000 Massachusetts players and coaches.”

Golightly said another segment of spread was caused by people who broke quarantine early after receiving a negative test result, and later testing positive.

Although some of the people who have tested positive were part of the school community, Golightly said there’s been no evidence to-date of any cases being transmitted in Abington schools.

“If there is school spread, it’s not here,” he said.

Town health officials are waiting for more clarification after the CDC updated its definition of close contact. Previously it was someone who had been within six feet of an infected person for 15 consecutive minutes. The new guidelines changed that criteria to being within six feet of an infected person for 15 minutes within a 24-hour period.

“It’s going to mean a lot more people being considered as close contacts,” Golightly said.

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