WOBURN - Mayor Scott Galvin yesterday assured residents that city leaders will closely watch COVID-19 transmission trends in the coming days after Woburn retained its "yellow" or warning status under a Mass. Department of Public Health (DPH) classification system.
In a phone interview on Thursday morning, the mayor maintained that current COVID-19 infection rates do not yet justify the closing of school buildings and the switch to a full remote learning model. While insisting a closer look at case data does not yet warrant business and movement restrictions or a change to the district's hybrid instruction approach, the mayor is urging residents to follow social distancing and facial covering mandates.
"We want to avoid knee-jerk reactions and do what's right for everybody involved," said the mayor in response to Woburn being listed as a "yellow" community for the second consecutive week. "We're looking at all of the numbers on a daily basis…The decision [about whether to go to remote learning] will not be made until we all sit down and discuss what's happening n the community."
"Our numbers are going up and it's something that we're watching. We want to make sure that people are not letting their guard down and understand that if they're outside, they have to have a mask with them and wear it whenever they can't [maintain a safe six-foot distance from others]."
In a weekly DPH report released late Wednesday afternoon, Woburn's incidence rate climbed from a 6.4 to a 7.1, an increase that inches the city closer to the state's "red" level or danger threshold of 8. Since Sept. 23, when Woburn entered into yellow territory for the first time, DPH has confirmed four additional infective COVID-19 cases in the community.
Presently, according to the latest report, a total of 41 residents within the city are being monitored for active infections, while to date, a total 770 residents have tested positive for the virus since last March.
Woburn is far from alone in having to deal with a sudden uptick in new COVID-19 cases, as there has been a drastic increase in the number of "yellow" and "red" communities since the DPH began tracking community incidence rate statistics on Aug. 12.
DPH and state education officials have described the incidence rate as the most important metric for public school districts to consider when mulling the implementation of hybrid versus remote or at-home learning plans.
Compiled based off of data collected over a 14-day reporting window, the incidence rate metric counts the number of active COVID-19 cases recorded in cities and towns and then adjusts that number based upon a baseline population size of 100,000 people.
The state's weekly report uses those incidence rate metrics each week to create a color-coded map that designates community in the state as either white, green, yellow, or red. A white shade is assigned to any municipality that has five or fewer active COVID-19 cases, while a green label is given to cities and towns with an incidence rate of four or under.
Yellow classifications are for cities and towns with incident rates between four and 7.9, while the worst ranking, a red designation, is assigned to any community with a rate of eight or higher.
The School Committee and Superintendent Dr. Matthew Crowley hold the ultimate say over the disposition of daily school operations. However, both Galvin and the superintendent in recent weeks have explained local leaders are tracking and discussing Woburn's COVID-19 caseload as a team in order to coordinate the municipality's response to the pandemic.