WOBURN - After the city experienced its first double-digit jump in new COVID-19 cases since June 1, the Board of Health tracked two additional novel coronavirus infections heading into the weekend.
According to the latest data released by the Board of Health on Friday, a total of 628 Woburnites have now tested positive for the virus since the outbreak began in the comity on March 14.
The latest numbers, which include 11 confirmed positive test results from last Tuesday, reveal new clusters of COVID-19 cases for the second consecutive week. However, its still very difficult to gauge whether the pockets of new positive testing results are indicative of a more troubling resurgence in the outbreak, as the phenomenon is occurring as Woburn is also seeing a handful of very encouraging data trends.
For example, the double-digit increase last Tuesday, which marked just the second time more than 10 individuals have tested positive for the pathogen over the past two months, surprisingly came after Woburn went five consecutive days without recording a single new case.
That hopeful zero-case trend, the longest since the Mass. Department of Public Health (DPH) detected Woburn's first pair of COVID-19 cases in March, occurred between July 2 and July 6. Also of note, during a twenty day period between June 20 and July 10, the city HAS recorded zero new COVID-19 cases on 13 occasions.
After receiving word about the 11-case influx on July 7, the Board of Health advised the community about lone positive testing results on Wednesday, July 8 and Friday July 10.
Mayor Scott Galvin and other city officials are closely analyzing the COVID-19 data trends as a number of small business owners and non-profit organizations move towards a resumption in operations under Phase 3 of the state's multiple-step reopening plan.
As of last Monday, Governor Charles Baker launched the start of Phase 3, which outlines reopening requirements for fitness centers, museums and historical sites, movie theaters, and low-contact recreational facilities like bowling allies and driving ranges.
Banquet halls and wedding venues were also allowed to reopen, but with strict limits on such functions that include prohibitions on bar service and the use of dance floors.
The start of Phase 3 also marks the long-awaited return of youth sporting and amateur athletic competitions, so long as that league play meets both state social-distancing/hygiene criteria and the approval of local Boards of Health.
Late last week, Health Inspector Meghan Doherty notified Woburn's various social clubs that she has obtained the state's permission to consider social club reopening requests. Many of the city's various private clubs are financially dependent upon private rentals within their buildings.
"Today, the Department of Labor Standards let me know that I can make the decision to let social clubs reopen under "restaurant" guidelines. With that being said, I have come up with guidelines that your club is going to have to abide by in order to open," Doherty explained in a memo released to the public last Thursday.
Some of Woburn's rules for social club reopenings include:
• All bar seating is prohibited, and all other food dining tables must be situated at least six-feet apart from one another;
• Facial coverings must be worn at all times by workers and any guests who are not seated;
• All gaming areas, such as dart boards and pool tables, must remain closed to use by members;
• And social clubs must offer food service that is overseen by at least one manager with appropriate public health certifications.
"As long as your establishment can abide by these required guidelines, you will be allowed to operate. Please contact me here at the Board of Health, and I will set up a time to come around and check that these guidelines are in place," noted Doherty in her letter to the city's social clubs.
As more and more businesses reopen, local and state officials expect to see small upticks in new COVID-19 cases. However, as the mayor and the Board of Health have noted, all citizens and businesses should be attentive to prevention guidelines to increase the likelihood such clusters can be contained.
"The goal of the phased reopening plan is to methodically allow businesses, services, and activities to resume, while avoiding a resurgence of COVID-19 that could overwhelm our healthcare system and erase the progress we’ve made so far," the city leaders explain on a COVID-19 information section posted to the Cit of Woburn's website.
As Massachusetts plods along with its plans to restart the local economy, a number of other states with more aggressive reopening plans have witnessed a resurgence in new infections.
However, thus far, according to DPH, data continues to indicate that the Massachusetts' outbreak is subsiding.
Since last April, which is thus far proven to be the height of the public health crisis, state officials have seen a drastic reduction in the number of daily positive COVID-19 testing results and deaths.
In mid-April, DPH was regularly tracking as many as 2,000 new novel coronavirus cases a day, while anywhere between 140 and 200 people were reportedly dying from COVID-19 complications. By contrast, yesterday afternoon, public health authorities recorded 15 deaths and just 172 new cases.
Though those numbers are very promising, there has been a pretty significant drop in the number of new COVID-19 tests being conducted across the state.
For example, during the worst of the crisis, the state was regularly testing as many as 14,000 people for he pathogen. However, since the beginning of July, state officials have frequently fallen far short of that mark — the highest number of tests conducted so far this month was 11,189 on July 7.
DPH officials have responded to criticisms about the daily testing decreases pointing out that the percentage of people recording a positive result now currently stands at around 1 percent. By contrast, earlier this spring, at least 20 percent of all persons tested were ultimately confirmed as COVID-19 positive.