Town officials encourage virus safety measures as holidays approach and cases rise

Nov 18, 2020

In the past six days, Wareham has seen 23 new confirmed cases of covid-19 along with two probable cases that have not yet been confirmed, Town Administrator Derek Sullivan said at the Nov. 17 Board of Selectmen meeting.

Sullivan and the Selectmen had serious words of caution for Wareham residents as the number of coronavirus cases in town continues to rise.

He emphasized that people need to understand what is required of them if they’re exposed to the virus by way of close contact — defined by the CDC as someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.

“Even if a close contact gets tested — which, you know, that’s strongly recommended — they still must complete the 14 full days of quarantine,” Sullivan said. “So if they get tested and come back negative, they still must stay in quarantine.”

Someone who initially tests negative for covid-19 could develop the disease at any time for up to 14 days after their exposure, because the virus has an incubation period of two to 14 days. Sullivan said many people in town still don’t seem to understand that guidance. 

When the most recent weekly report was released by the state on Nov. 12, Wareham had an average daily incidence rate of 11.2 cases per 100,000 people, in the last 14 days. Given Wareham’s population, this means there were about 2.6 new cases each day over the last two weeks.

One week ago, there were only about 2 new cases daily. The increased average daily incidence rate means the state has gone from classifying Wareham as green last week, to yellow this week.

Sullivan said the spike was expected as the seasons changed, but strongly encouraged safety measures.

“The best thing we can do is wear our masks, try and be safe and limit our contact,” he said. “We’re getting into the time of year where it’s really difficult. It’s the biggest time for families, and we need to really consider how we’re going to handle it.”

As of noon on Tuesday, Nov. 17, Tobey Hospital in Wareham had six patients hospitalized who had tested positive for covid-19, while another 13 patients were considered “under investigation” for covid-19, according to Shawn Badgley, SouthCoast’s public information officer. Patients are considered “under investigation” if they are symptomatic, awaiting test results and in enough medical distress to warrant hospitalization, even if they have not officially tested positive yet.

Tobey Hospital also put out a call for registered nurses and certified nursing assistants in Wareham Facebook groups on Tuesday morning. Badgley said this was part of Southcoast Health’s ongoing preparations.

“We’re hiring throughout the organization ... as our courageous and dedicated frontline staff continue to respond to this public health crisis,” he said. “We anticipate increasing patient volume and are in a constant state of preparation and reinforcement.”

According to data released by the state on November 16, there are no current coronavirus cases at Tremont Healthcare, Wareham Healthcare, or All American Assisted Living.

Selectman Peter Teitelbaum said with two of the biggest holidays of the year on the horizon, people need to recognize that any person could bring the virus home or with them to a holiday celebration. 

“It’s not worth it to risk large gatherings right now,” he said. “So please, take heed. I know it’s difficult … when people ask you to not get together with family, but it’s really the safest advice anybody can give you.”