Wareham once again categorized ‘red’ in state covid-19 report 

Dec 3, 2020

The state has once again classified Wareham ‘red’ in its covid-19 weekly public health report, following another increase in new positive cases and an increase in the percentage of covid tests conducted that come back positive.

In the last week, Wareham has seen at least 41 new cases of covid-19, according to the state’s report. Also per the report, Wareham’s percent positivity rate — or the percentage of covid-19 tests performed that come back positive — increased to 5.19 percent in the past 14 days.

The Board of Health painted a grim outlook for Wareham in the coming weeks, as Thanksgiving travel and indoor dinners will no doubt result in more covid-19 cases, exposures and quarantines.

“Even at the highest points back in the spring, we’ve never had this many (cases) all in the same day like this,” said public health nurse Julie Silva, mentioning 16 new cases on Dec. 2 and 17 new cases on Dec. 1. “We’re not even seeing the result from Thanksgiving yet.”

For Wareham’s Board of Health, the persistent increase in cases means growing concern for the community.

“We’ve had almost three times the amount of cases from October to November,” Silva said during a Dec. 2 Board of Health meeting. “We had 55 confirmed cases in October for the whole month and for November — and I still have results coming in to MAVEN from November, so this isn’t a final number — but we’ve had 147 confirmed cases.”

According to the state’s weekly report released Thursday, Dec. 3, Wareham had an average daily incidence rate of 19.8 cases per 100,000 people in the past 14 days. Given Wareham’s population, this means there were about 4.55 new cases each day over the past two weeks.

About a week ago, the state’s weekly public health report indicated Wareham was seeing roughly 3.93 new cases each day and had a percent positivity rate of about 4.22 percent.

Wareham was most recently categorized as red in the Oct. 29 state report, but by the next weekly report on Nov. 5 changes to the state’s data analysis put Wareham back in the green for a week. Cases continued to rise and by the Nov. 12 state report Wareham was categorized yellow, where it remained until this week’s report.

What’s increasing the case count?

Exposures at small indoor gatherings, people failing to quarantine appropriately and people going out in public while awaiting test results are a few of the factors increasing the number of covid-19 cases in Wareham, according to public health officials.

Exposures from small get-togethers are frequent in Wareham, Silva said, especially indoor gatherings where masks are not worn.

She also said once a person has been exposed, proper quarantine is critically important. That means staying home for the full 14-day quarantine period even if an individual is tested. “Even if they test negative, that doesn’t mean they’re home free and they can go out and do what they want,” she said.

This is important because the virus has an incubation period of two to 14 days, meaning  someone who initially tests negative for covid-19 could develop the disease at any time for up to 14 days after an exposure.

Director of Public Health Robert Ethier said some people in town misunderstand when it is safe for them to resume normal activities after they’ve been exposed or when they are showing symptoms. Those waiting on test results often go back to work too early, he said. “They’ll go to work waiting for a test (result) and then the test comes in and they’re sick. And now everybody that works there is quarantined.”

He said a parent once sent a child who was waiting for a test result to school. The test then came back positive, sending more people into quarantine. Dr. Amy Wiegandt, chairman of the board, encouraged people to stay home while they wait for results. 

“If you had a test done, there’s a reason you had a test done,” Wiegandt said. “You should not be working while you’re waiting for that test to come back.”

She also emphasized being asymptomatic doesn’t mean you can go out in public or invite others over if you’ve been exposed to the virus. “You’re actually more infectious 24 to 48 hours before you have symptoms,” Wiegandt said.

After months of working to educate the public about the virus and necessary safety measures, Silva said she worried even additional focus on education wouldn’t be enough.

“Sometimes I feel though that no matter what we tell people, they’re still not going to change their ways,” she said. “I see that pretty much on a daily basis.”