WOBURN - The city lost yet another local citizen in recent days to the COVID-19 pandemic, but for the first time since the outset of the outbreak in early March, Woburn's new cases plummeted to single-digit totals over a four-day period.
According to the Board of Health, since last Sunday, the city's COVID-19 totals increased by a mere 1.6 percent or eight cases to 482 confirmed infections, based upon data released on Thursday evening.
For weeks now, Woburn's public health officials have been tracking a painfully slow, but nonetheless steady drop in the rate of new infections across the community. However, optimism around that postive trend has at times been marred by news about sudden single-day spikes in new cases and tragic announcements about the contagion's latest casualties.
For example, last Sunday, after new rounds of COVID-19 testing were conducted in various area nursing homes, local leaders confirmed the largest single-day increase in new cases after 43 Woburnites were confirmed as having contracted the viral disease. Woburn also learned about a local resident who died from novel coronavirus complications.
Yesterday, the Board of Health revealed another person had succumbed to the pathogen, bringing the community's death toll to 23 fatalities.
However, in the best indication yet that Woburn's battle with COVID-19 has finally turned a corner, the city recorded just eight new COVID-19 infections since registering Sunday's record figures. The drop to single-digit totals over such a long span of time is a feat the city hasn't managed since March 24, when two new cases were registered over a consecutive four-day period.
In fact, the last time Woburn was able to say it had recorded fewer than 10 new cases over a four-day period, the local COVID-19 outbreak in its infancy — with just three overall cases. At the time, the city was still days away from recording its first pair of COVID-19 deaths.
The latest victory in the novel coronavirus saga comes as Mayor Scott Galvin and Woburn's health department staffers reassured the general public that the community is making great strides towards containing and preventing the further spread of the virus.
In a message posted to the City of Woburn's website earlier this week, Board of Health member Meghan Doherty again reminded residents that as the state expands its testing capabilities, public health officials are confirming suspicions that the virus has spread further across the population than initially thought.
However, as the city gains insight into how and where the disease is spreading, public health officials are able to conduct important contract tracing, resulting in the quarantine of individuals who have been in close contact with those newly confirmed cases.
"We're here to help 100 percent. We're open seven days a week and there's always someone in the office," said Doherty. "There is a lot of testing being done, so three's been a pretty steady amount of cases. But we're also seeing a lot of good recoveries…It is going to get better. It's just going to take time."
Much like Woburn, news about the COVID-19 response across the nation and beyond has similarly been a roller-coaster experience with positive developments often being marred by disastrous setbacks and the release of glum statistics.
According to Mary Heater, who is laboring as a nurse leader for the city during the pandemic, such ups and downs can prove exhausting, especially for those who have spent weeks isolating at-home and missing routines and encounters with friends, non-household relatives, and co-workers.
"It's hard not to get distracted by what's happening on the global front. But I can't control what's happening in China or Paris. I can't even control what's happening in Massachusetts. But I can control what' s happening in my personal environment," said Heater during the recent Board of Health message to residents
Stressing the importance of those social distancing behaviors, even when they feel pointless in the near-term, Heater pointed out confirmed cases of asymptomatic and pre symptomatic spread of COVID-19.
Given that the pathogen can be spread both before someone gets sick and by someone who will never know they were infected to begin with, those complying with social distancing, hand-washing, and newer facial covering orders just may have prevented the local outbreak from growing even larger.
"The CDC has determined that people are contagious 48-hours before you even had symptoms. So now we're tracing what you wee doing two days before you were sick. Were you at home? Were you at work? What do you do for work? We then determine from there how sick a person is and what [kind of help they'll need]," the nurse leader explained.
According to the mayor, thanks to the hard work of both residents and the dedicated staff of nurses in Woburn's public health department, Woburn is making progress towards an eventual resumption of economic activity and other pre-pandemic routines.
"It's important work they're doing. They're containing the spread of the virus, which is going to help us get back to normal," said Galvin. "They're helping us get to the point where we can confidently open safely, and we're on the right track."