WOBURN - City leaders continue to concentrate on COVID-19 vaccination efforts as public health officials across the region struggle to contain the latest winter surge in viral transmissions.

This afternoon, Mayor Scott Galvin and the Board of Health are hosting a COVID-19 booster clinic at Woburn’s Senior Center at 144 School St. for any local resident aged 18 and older. The clinic, scheduled to take place between 4 and 6 p.m., did require pre-registration from participating individuals.

According to the mayor, who in recent weeks has assured local residents that local officials are closely monitoring citywide caseloads and other pandemic indicators, municipal leaders will continue to host the booster clinics at the Senior Center on a weekly basis for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, Schools’ Superintendent Dr. Matthew Crowley, who earlier this week delayed the resumption of classes by two hours to ensure all returning staff members could be tested for COVID-19, is urging parents to keep children out of class if they are experiencing any symptoms commonly associated with the infection.

In a message sent prior to the post holiday season resumption of classes, the superintendent also notified parents about potential staffing and transportation issues over the coming days and weeks, as well as a number of last-minute changes to state and federal quarantine and isolation guidelines.

According to the superintendent, with the state missing a Friday delivery date for a large batch of rapid COVID-19 antigen tests for use by returning educators, he called for the two-hour delay on Monday in order to ensure all schools were appropriately staffed.

“Given the number of anticipated absences, we want to ensure that we can open all schools safely on Monday. The delay will allow time to appropriately staff our buildings,” the superintendent explained in his New Years’ weekend message to parents.

“Our experience has taught us that COVID-19 has greatly impacted student transportation services here in Woburn, and across our state and country. At this moment, we do not know of any projected transportation schedule changes, cancellations, or delays,” Crowley added. “We will inform you of any projected disruptions to this service as soon as it is possible.”

According to new federal isolation and quarantine guidelines, those who test positive for COVID-19 will now be subject to a minimum five-day home confinement order - as opposed to the 8-to-12 day threshold that has been standard since the early days of the pandemic.

In another major change, citizens who are symptom free will also no longer be asked to take a COVID-10 test before ending those isolation and quarantine periods.

As explained by public health officials, the new isolation rules (which apply to persons who test positive for COVID-19) apply uniformly to both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals and are as follows:

• All must stay home for at least five days and if symptom free, will be released from the mandatory confinement on the sixth day;

• Upon exiting the isolation phase, all who recently tested positive for the viral infection must wear a mask around others for five additional days;

• and those with a fever or a persistent cough must remain in isolation until symptoms clear.

Quarantine guidelines, which apply to persons who were recently in close contact with a person who tested positive for the virus, have also been dropped down to a five-day period. The confinement order will end after five days for all “close contacts”, so long as those individuals are not experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms.

The latest round of COVID-19 guideline changes comes as Woburn’s public health officials are monitoring hundreds of newly confirmed cases each week.

According to a Mass. Department of Public Health (DPH) report released late last week, nearly 370 residents tested positive for COVID-19 during the latest seven-day surveillance period that ended on Dec. 25.

Based on the data, between Dec. 12 and Christmas Day, at least 502 Woburnites learned that had contracted the virus, leading to a near record high case positivity rate of 9.2 percent.

Between DPH’s Dec. 23 report on Woburn’s outbreak trends and last Thursday, the city’s case positivity rate climbed by more than two percentage points. Meanwhile, the community’s 14-day case incidence rate, which contrasts newly confirmed cases to population size, jumped by 25 points to 86.1.

The highest case incidence rate ever recorded in Woburn was reached last January, when DPH pegged the indicator at 91.9.

Since Woburn recorded its first COVID-19 case in March of 2020, at least 6,330 residents have tested positive for the virus.

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