Health Officials Discuss Uptick In Local Covid Cases

By MICHAEL BONACCORSO
Specially Written for The Leader/Times

WESTFIELD — COVID-19 cases have risen 250 percent amongst Westfield residents, stated Westfield Regional Health Department Director Megan Avallone. The reported rise in positive cases was from June to July. The uptick in cases is considered “localized at this time,” stated Ms. Avallone, who said the most common factor among Westfield residents who tested positive was that they are young adults.

Thirty-six percent of positive cases occurred from primary or secondary contact with other infected individuals through social activities, stated Ms. Avallone. Numerous positive individuals had reported going to graduation parties or small gatherings before showing positive symptoms, stated Ms. Avallone.

“Younger adults are showing symptoms for shorter time periods over a 24-hour span,” said Ms. Avallone.

Only 11 percent of the most recent positive Westfield cases involved people who traveled to high-risk areas before showing symptoms, stated Ms. Avallone. Four percent of the most recent positive cases involved healthcare workers or first responders, she said.

Board of Health President Dr. Lawrence Budnick stated that anyone showing symptoms or who may have been exposed to the virus should remain quarantined and vigilant until their results are returned.

Dr. Budnick stated that those who have showed symptoms or who have been confirmed positive should remain in isolation for 10 days. The 10 days can be calculated from when the individual shows he or she is fever free for 24 to 48 hours, stated Dr. Budnick.

Often, individuals showing symptoms will have to wait a week or longer for official results to come back, stated Ms. Avallone.

“The problem is three main labs, U.S. Bioreference, Core, and Quest, do all the testing. The backlogs at these sites are substantial, which causes massive delay,” said Ms. Avallone.

The board of health unanimously agreed it is best for individuals to always err on the side of caution when displaying symptoms or having experienced possible exposure to positive individuals, stated Ms. Avallone.

“Young adults who are briefly sick for 24 to 48 hours should complete the entire isolation period,” stated Ms. Avallone.

The Department of Education and Department of Health have still not released descriptive, specific, or set guidelines for the regional health departments to follow to assist with the reopening of schools, stated Ms. Avallone. Yet the Westfield schools are set to reopen in “just 4 weeks,” she said.

“We are still very much in crisis mode,” said Ms. Avallone, describing the Westfield Regional Health Department’s workload since New Jersey has begun reopening.

“The real basic questions should have been answered. How do you bus students? Is six feet really six feet?”, said Ms. Avallone, discussing the immense amount of unknowns for which the state departments have to provide guidance.

Ms. Avallone stated that the Westfield Regional Health Department takes into consideration both educator and student safety when providing advice on how to maintain aCOVID-19-mitigated shared space.

Board of health member and Westfield school district nurse Sharon Dorry stated that the district has several plans in place for different scenarios based on what information has been provided by both the state departments and the regional health department.

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