WOBURN - With the data showing the city shattering record-high pandemic indicators reached last winter, state officials yesterday revealed that more than 900 residents tested positive for COVID-19 between Christmas and New Year’s Day.
According to the Mass. Department of Public Health (DPH), which each week releases community-level statistics on pandemic trends outbreaks, nearly one of every six Woburnites who sought out COVID-19 testing between Dec. 19 and Dec. 1 would later learn they had contracted COVID-19.
Following the playbook Woburn relied upon last winter to combat the last wave in COVID-19 infections, Mayor Scott Galvin and the Board of Health earlier this week announced a resumption of locally-sponsored testing clinics at Woburn’s Senior Center.
The first such drive, in which local residents will be offered a free polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, is taking place on Saturday at the School Street site. With preregistration required, Saturday’s offering is already fully booked.
“Due to the continued uptick in Covid-19 cases, the City of Woburn will be offering free Covid-19 PCR testing for Woburn residents this Saturday,” Galvin announced earlier this week. “Free testing will be offered to all Woburn residents. In order to better manage wait times, pre-registration is required.”
Last winter, the mayor and other city leaders leaned on testing surveillance to identify newly infected COVID-19 cases as soon as possible. The idea behind the effort was to prevent new transmissions of the virus by ensuring those who had either contracted or recently been around someone with COVID-19 were isolated away from others.
Along similar lines, local officials are also concentrating on vaccination drives in the hopes that the most vulnerable, should they contract the virus, will not become seriously ill. The most recent local booster shot clinic was held at the Senior Center on Wednesday.
According to DPH data, 1,036 Woburnites tested positive for the novel coronavirus between Dec. 19 and Jan. 1, and the city’s case positivity rate now stands at a record-high 16.54 percent.
During the first surge of COVID-19 in the spring of 2020, when PCR kits were in extremely short supply, upwards of 30 percent of all Massachusetts residents who were able to get tested for the contagion were receiving positive test results.
In the late summer of 2021, as schools shifted towards a hybrid instruction model, DPH officials began releasing weekly data on community-level positivity rates and other outbreak indicators.
At the time, both state and federal officials claimed any positivity rate over 5 percent was a forerunner of a dangerous surge in new cases.
Until this week, Woburn had never recorded a double-digit positivity rate, and the previous high was set last January at 9.51 percent.
Setting another record, the city per yesterday’s DPH report is now seeing a 14-day COVID-19 incidence rate of 178.2. The metric, which contrasts newly confirmed cases to population size, more than doubled from the 86.4 figure recorded just a week prior on Dec. 30.
Woburn’s current 178.2 case incidence rate shattered the previous high of 91.9 that was also set last January at the height of the pandemic’s second wave of infections.
Since the pandemic began in March of 2020, at least 7,245 residents have tested positive for COVID-19. Roughly 40,120 people live within the community, according to the latest federal census data.
The staggering climb in Woburn’s COVID-19 caseloads over the past two months is also being matched by record-high infection totals being detected all across the state.
According to DPH data, yesterday alone, some 24,570 citizens across the state tested positive for COVID-19. By contract, a year ago, during last winter’s pandemic surge, state officials reported 7,045 new statewide cases.
Though recording a more than three-fold increase in daily case totals compared to last year, this winter’s surge has thankfully not been accompanied by a proportional spike in hospitalizations and deaths.
According to DPH, as of Thursday, nearly 2,524 people - including 1,019 residents who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 - are currently hospitalized for complications from the infection. By contrast at around the same time last year, 2,416 residents had been admitted to hospitals for COVID-19.
Public health officials are also seeing far fewer COVID-related casualties this winter. Yesterday, there were 43 new COVID-19 fatalities reported to state officials, whereas exactly one year prior, DPH was notified about 86 new deaths across the state.
Since the start of the pandemic, more than 20,000 Massachusetts residents have died due to COVID-19 infections, according to DPH statistics.