WOBURN - Recording 19 new COVID-19 cases since last Thursday evening, Woburn's Board of Health yesterday continued to track a steepening decline in the local transmission of the viral infection.
According to city officials, Woburn broke the 500-case barrier on Monday after the Mass. Department of Public Health confirmed at least 501 local residents have now tested positive for the novel coronavirus. However, that unwelcome distinction was overshadowed by statistical trends which indicate Woburn's community outbreak has slowed drastically after reaching an apparent pinnacle earlier this month.
Representing a 3.9 percent increase in cases, Woburn's total number of COVID-19 cases rose from 482 to 501 confirmed infections since last Thursday (the last time The Daily Times reported on the outbreak).
The latest data from the Board of Health shows that the community has not recorded a double-digit increase in new COVID-19 cases for eight consecutive days — a feat the city hadn't managed since early April.
The sharp drop in new cases began on May 11, the day after the city recorded its highest-ever single day jump in infections with 43 local citizens testing positive for the pathogen. Since that unfortunate record was set, the community has been notified of just 27 additional COVID-19 cases — or an average of 3.375 new daily positive test results.
The fortuitious trend in local COVID-19 statistics comes as Mass. Governor Charles Baker yesterday began loosening draconian restrictions on "non-essential" business activity across the state.
Under his multi-phased plan, construction companies, churches, and manufacturing plants may resume operations immediately, so long as they comply with a myriad of general and industry-specific pandemic prevention mandates.
Also required to meet those new workplace safety regulations, traditional office buildings outside of Boston will subsequently be allowed to reopen at a reduced 25 percent operating capacity beginning on May 25. Most retail outlets will also be able to open, but only by solely providing curbside pickup services for customers purchasing goods and merchandise.
Lastly, a handful of professional service establishments like barber shops and hair salons may also resume business next Monday, but must similarly be able to demonstrate compliance with preventative public health measures such as maintaining records of all incoming clients and maintaining minimum six-foot distances between customers.
The lifting of the economic restrictions is being welcomed by many small business owners and rank-and-file workers, who have been facing unprecedented financial strains as a result of the pandemic-related shutdowns.
Reached early Tuesday morning, Mayor Scott Galvin counted himself as amongst those happy to see economic activity restrictions being relaxed. According to the mayor, he believes Baker's proposal comes at the perfect time for Woburn, as the community's case numbers have been steadily declining.
Believing the state's multi-phased plan tries to balance the public health crisis against the financial repercussions of strict lockdowns, the mayor believes the cautious approach being taken by state officials is appropriate.
"Our numbers are stable, and they're really a function of the number of tests you get done. The governor has really taken a deliberate and cautious approach, and he's trying to balance the economy with public safety," the mayor said in a phone interview.
Though many are welcoming the start of the multi-phased reopening plan, the resumption of economic activity does admittedly bring with it risks of setting off a second wave of COVID-19 infections.
State health officials say they will rely upon five important pandemic indicators in order to prevent that potentially disastrous setback, including the rate of new positive COVID-19 cases, the numbers of patients who are hospitalized and/or die from the contagion, the ability of public health officials to trace close contacts of those who test positive for the virus, and the state's testing capacity.
As of yesterday, a total of 5,862 people across the state have died as a result of the pandemic, while 87,052 residents have tested positive for the virus. Since May 1, the number of COVID-19 patients under hospital care has dropped by 27 percent from 3,707 to 2,533 admitted individuals. The three-day average of new COVID-19 deaths has also dropped by approximately 38 percent during the same timeframe.
According to Woburn's Board of Health, as of last night, the city was monitoring the status of 211 residents who have "active" COVID-19 infections. Those deemed active cases are required to isolate away from others in order to prevent the spread of the contagion.
At least 70 close contacts of those "active" cases were also serving out mandatory quarantines to be sure they too haven't contracted the virus. To date, 267 Woburnites — or roughly 53 percent of all cases — have been declared by the Board of Health as recovered from the infection.
Tragically, the outbreak has claimed the lives of 23 local residents.