WOBURN - The city's COVID-19 outbreak claimed the lives of two additional local residents in recent days, bringing the community's death toll from the contagion to 26 fatalities.
According to the local Board of Health, which reported the two most recent deaths on Tuesday evening, the latest losses of life come as testing data shows an ongoing plateau in the rate of new infections across the community.
As of Thursday evening, the public health officials revealed, the total number of local residents who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus had climbed to 516 cases. Representing a 3.9 percent increase in new cases since last Sunday — just before the local outbreak surpassed the 500-case barrier — Woburn has now gone 11 consecutive days without reporting a daily double-digit jump in newly reported coronavirus infections.
For quite some time now, officials in Woburn and neighboring communities like Stoneham and Reading have lamented the devastating toll COVID-19 is taking on elderly populations, particularly those residing within nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
Earlier this week, during a phone interview from his City Hall office, Mayor Scott Galvin stressed the importance of safeguarding Woburn's senior citizens and immune-compromised populations by ensuring prevention protocols are closely followed by elderly residents and workers within long-term care facilities.
"It certainly has devastated certain segments of our population, the elderly in particular. Clearly, it's hitting hard our senior and vulnerable populations in nursing homes and long-term facilities," said the mayor of the pathogen.
Woburn, where at least a half-dozen elder care and rehabilitation centers are situated, is hardly alone in seeing the distressing impact of the COVID-19 pathogen gaining a foothold in long-term care facilities.
In fact, in neighboring Reading, where the National Guard has similarly been helping nursing homes and assisted living facilities manage outbreaks, the COVID-19 pandemic has claimed the lives of 30 citizens.
Earlier this week, public health officials in Stoneham, who have not provided regular updates about coronavirus fatalities, for the first time disclosed that 46 residents have passed away since the pandemic reached the community. Local officials on Tuesday night explained every single one of those casualties is linked directly to one of Stoneham's local nursing homes or long-term care facilities.
Based upon state data, about 61 percent of all COVID-19 deaths can similarly been traced back to a long-term care facility in Massachusetts, where as of Thursday, 19,106 patients and health care workers had tested positive for the virus.
However, the most recent public health data for the state also indicates that the outbreak is finally abating after spreading at an exponential rate for much of March and April.
New pandemic indicators being monitored by the Mass. Department of Public Health (DPH) show that since the beginning of this month, COVID-19 hospitalizations have dropped by 31 percent, while the percentage of those who test positive for COVID-19 (as opposed to getting a negative result) is also declining.
Perhaps most significantly, DPH officials say the number of new daily fatalities has plummeted by nearly 47 percent since May 1 — based upon a metric that measures fatality data by a three-day average.
The statewide statistics are trending positively as at least two new classes of businesses will be able to reopen next week under Mass. Governor Charles Baker's reopening plan.
Beginning on Monday, which also happens to be the federal Memorial Day holiday, traditional office buidlings outside of Boston will be allowed to reopen at a reduced 25 percent occupancy, while barber shops and hair salons may also resume business with operational restrictions.
All retail stores can also reopen — so long as all transactions are made using curbside pickup services.
Earlier this week, state officials notified construction companies, churches, and manufacturers that they could resume operations.
According to Galvin, with so many businesses across Woburn struggling for their very survival, he welcomes Baker's proposal to reignite the state's economic engines.