Covid cases skyrocket amid post-holiday surge
Cases of Covid-19 in Dartmouth have hit another all-time high as the town experiences a record surge following the holidays.
In the past two weeks, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health confirmed 620 cases in town — an increase of 239 from the state’s previous report.
According to state data, Dartmouth had a daily average incidence rate of 119.4 per 100,000 people and a 14.93% positivity rate — the highest totals since the beginning of 2021, before vaccines were made more widely available.
Roughly half the cases in that two week period, which consisted of holiday break, were reported from staff and students within Dartmouth’s public schools.
Between Dec. 23 and Jan. 5, the state noted that the school district had 313 confirmed cases of the — 269 students and 44 staff members.
With the spike, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bonny Gifford is urging parents to keep their children home if they are feeling symptomatic.
“Unfortunately we are finding that some students are still being sent to school with symptoms and immediately heading to the nurses office to ask for testing,” she said. “The system is being taxed beyond what it should be.”
Due to the rise in cases, Dartmouth High School’s athletics were put on pause until Jan. 10. On that date, the school district will re-evaluate the pause with the intention of implementing a return-to-play timeline that school officials feel is “safe and appropriate.”
To mitigate the spread, Gov. Charlie Baker recommended that all residents, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in indoor public spaces.
Opportunities to get vaccinated
With the latest surge, local and state public health experts continue to encourage people to get vaccinated against the virus as soon as possible.
People aged 5 or older who live, work or study in Massachusetts are eligible to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Those over the age of 18 can sign up to receive any vaccine, but those ages 5 to 17 can only get the Pfizer vaccine.
Those eligible for the vaccine can find appointments at providers around the state using the state’s website vaxfinder.mass.gov.
Vaccinations also continue at the clinic being operated by Southcoast Health at the VF Outlet. Clinics will be operated Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Thursday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Patients can book their shots by signing up through their MyChart account or by visiting www.southcoast.org/covid-19-vaccine-scheduling.
To mitigate the spread and symptoms of the virus, state officials recommend all Massachusetts residents 16 and up get their booster as soon as possible. At UMass Dartmouth, getting a booster will be required for all students and staff returning to campus by Jan. 18.
Students who were granted vaccination exemptions for the fall semester will remain exempt from this requirement.
Residents are eligible to get a booster five months after receiving the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or two months after receiving the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Centers for Disease Control recommendations allow for mixing and matching of different booster doses.
According to Southcoast Health, only 3% of hospitalized Covid-positive patients in its hospitals are fully vaccinated and boosted and that unvaccinated residents are 31 times more likely to become infected than fully vaccinated residents who have gotten a booster shot.
As of Jan.5, 2022, the healthcare provider noted it had 154 Covid-positive patients at Charlton Memorial, St. Luke’s and Tobey Hospitals — with nearly three-quarters of patients being unvaccinated.
The Covid-19 vaccine is free, and individuals do not need insurance or an ID to get the vaccine.
As of Jan. 6, 64% of Dartmouth residents have received at least a first vaccination dose. That amounts to 23,868 people. More than half of all residents — 57% — are fully vaccinated against the virus.