WOBURN - Following several close calls, city officials confirmed Woburn's first recorded COVID-19 case after the state's Department of Public Health (DPH) acknowledged one adult resident tested positive for the potentially fatal viral illness earlier this week.
Board of Health officials, who due to privacy protections are not disclosing any identifying details about the local resident, were notified on Monday by state health authorities about the "presumed positive" case, a label given to testing results that have not yet been double-checked by the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
The local citizen is apparently only experiencing mild symptoms, as the individual has returned home to recuperate, according to Woburn's Board of Health. As required under current COVID-19 protocols, the person will be required to self-quarantine within his or her residence until advised otherwise by local authorities.
"This resident is currently recovering in isolation at home. As we know, this is a rapidly changing environment…and we [did] expect to eventually experience positive cases in Woburn," the Board of Health noted in a prepared statement.
"The Woburn Board of Health continues to work closely with Mass. DPH and the CDC to get any new and updated information out to our residents as soon as we receive it," the local public health authorities added.
As has been predicted by infectious disease specialists, COVID-19, the illness caused by the SARS-Cov-2 virus discovered months ago in China's Hubei province, will cause mild to moderate flu-like symptoms for the majority of people. However, in roughly 20 percent of cases, the highly contagious disease causes more severe lung infections that require hospital care or advanced medical interventions.
It is believed the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions are most at risk from COVID-19, and in recent days, city and state governments have taken unprecedented steps to protect those most vulnerable to the novel coronavirus strain.
With all schools closed statewide, Mayor Scott Galvin earlier this week ordered the closure of City Hall and other public buildings — including Woburn's Public Library and Senior Center — to prevent the virus' spread. Per the order of Governor Charles Baker, all restaurants and bars across the state were also banned from serving in-house meals and beverages to customers beginning yesterday.
In addition, all public gatherings involving more than 25 people, including those within churches, fitness centers, and social clubs, are now forbidden.
The confirmation of a local COVID-19 case in Woburn comes after several close calls in recent days. Late last week, before Schools' Superintendent Dr. Matthew Crowley ordered the city's educational facilities closed, local parents learned a Shamrock School pupil had been placed into a self-quarantine after coming into close contact the week prior with an individual with COVID-19.
The day after that news, the Board of Health explained one individual, initially presumed as having the virus, had since tested negative. However, in providing that good news last Friday, the local public health officials acknowledged several other people with ties to the community were awaiting test results.
City officials are still awaiting word from Mass. DPH officials about several of those potential new cases. The Board of Health has made clear that none of the people being investigated are children enrolled within Woburn's school system.
Just two weeks ago, state officials were classifying the risk posed to Massachusetts' residents from the novel coronavirus as low. At the time, there were no more than three positive cases in the entire state.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has since risen dramatically. On Tuesday afternoon, Mass. DPH officials appraised the public that of the 1,367 people tested at state labs to date, at least 218 have been labeled as "presumed positive" cases.
89 of those positive cases are linked to individuals who reside in Middlesex County.
City officials, including the mayor, have increasingly advised citizens to prepare themselves for the likelihood that COVID-19 would find its way into Woburn. In fact, nearly two weeks ago, while many in the state were still downplaying the risk posed by the virus, Galvin in an interview with The Daily Times urged citizens to take simple preventative steps to protect themselves from COVID-19.
The mayor has since implored residents to remain calm, avail themselves of information being posted regularly to the City of Woburn's website about COVID-19, and to look out for their fellow neighbors — especially the community's children and senior citizens.
"In the midst of these unprecedented measures, let's remember the effect this environment is having on our oldest and youngest citizens and lead by example — not just with due diligence, but also with calm, compassion, and patience," Galvin said on Sunday in an online post.
Infectious disease experts are increasingly calling for the imposition of social-distancing policies that limit opportunities for the highly contagious virus to spread. Local officials say residents can do their part by staying away from large crowds, keeping six-feet of separation between themselves and others, and by remaining at home if experiencing any flu-like symptoms like a fever, cough, or sore-throat.
Those who cannot work from home or otherwise self-isolate are also urged to practice meticulous hand hygiene using soap and water and to disinfect commonly-touched surfaces like door knobs and cell-phones.