WILMINGTON — As of Monday, May 11, COVID-19 trends in Wilmington were reason for cautious, guarded optimism.
“We have to have a consistent drop for two solid weeks before we can get real excited,” said Health Director Shelley Newhouse.
She noted in response to a question from Selectman Jomarie O’Mahony that this is in accordance with recently announced state thresholds for entering any sort of phased reopening.
While this consistent drop has not yet been observed, numbers seem to no longer be steadily increasing. According to Newhouse, there are currently 22 active positive cases in town (outside of nursing homes), with nine more individuals in quarantine.
Newhouse noted that the numbers had gone up over the weekend, then dropped back down on Monday.
“We’ll expect to see that (fluctuation) with more testing,” she noted.
CareOne currently has 30 active cases, according to Newhouse, while Windsor Place has 16. Both facilities are “doing ok” and are adequately staffed. Newhouse is in communication with them nearly every day.
“I want to say thanks to the Wilmington Food Pantry, Mary Palen from the Wilmington school food service, and Terry (Marsiello), our elderly services director, for helping out getting our families supplies, food,” Newhouse said.
She also noted that some residents had anonymously helped deliver food to families in need.
Newhouse also urged anybody receiving a call from “Mass Covid” to answer the phone, as that tagline indicates a call from the state contact tracing collaborative.
“It’s not spam, it’s not a scam,” Newhouse said. “…It’s important so we can keep track and get our numbers down.”
Newhouse added that the Health Department has distributed 4,000 masks to members of the community since March, including 500 over the course of a 45 minute period at a recent drive-up distribution. For the drive-up sites, five masks are given to each car, with both child and adult masks available. Another distribution drive will take place once supplies are replenished.
Fire Chief William Cavanaugh reiterated that Windsor Place and CareOne have active patients, whom local first responders have been tasked with transporting to the hospital for COVID issues in addition to chest pain and other medical emergencies.
“We are still confronting that on almost a daily basis,” Cavanaugh said.
He added that AdviniaCare has been transformed into a partial COVID unit, and currently houses five active cases. The fire department is treating the entire facility as if it is contaminated, “…because from our perspective it is,” he noted.
He added that non-covid patients at the facility had been moved upstairs.
Cavanaugh also noted that the town’s response team has been aggressive in procuring PPE, though the endeavor remains challenging. He stated that the department had been able to acquire some materials through MEMA. On calls, responders continue to use “quite a bit of PPE,” Cavanaugh noted.
“There’s a lot of false positives, there’s a lot of false negatives, so we’re treating everything like it’s COVID until it’s presumed otherwise,” he said.
He also urged members of the community to take COVID seriously, noting that the current pandemic is unlike past encounters with various flu illnesses.
“That other stuff didn’t do what this current pandemic is doing to us,” Cavanaugh said.
He praised the frontline personnel for doing well even under daily stress, and noted that precautions taken so far have served local first responders well.
“We have no firefighters and no police officers that have tested positive, a true testament to them taking the proper precautions,” Cavanaugh said.
Police Chief Joseph Desmond echoed this sentiment.
“It’s no accident that nobody has gotten it just yet, we’re being very careful,” Desmond said.
Members of the Board of Selectmen thanked the local response team.
Referring to the response as “yeoman’s work,” Selectman Kevin Caira said, “(We) can’t thank you enough for what you do.”
“I certainly appreciate the diligence and attention to detail that this requires,” added Selectman Jonathan Eaton. “It’s certainly very much appreciated.”
“Keep up the good work you’re doing and please stay safe,” said Board Chairman Greg Bendel.
Town Manager Jeff Hull also thanked the response team.
“I can only imagine the amount of stress they’ve taken on in light of the circumstances… these past couple of months,” Hull said. “…It’s certainly gratifying to have people you can really depend upon.”
Hull also noted the work being done by the Department of Public Works, the Department of Public Buildings, Terry Marsiello and the senior center staff, and Tina Stewart and the library staff for their work in keeping the town operating.
In light of coronavirus concerns, the Fourth of July Committee has cancelled the annual celebration this summer. If conditions allow, a 1-day celebration with fireworks may be held in the fall. Additionally, the Memorial Day parade has been cancelled due to crowding concerns. The Memorial Day ceremony will still be held at 11 a.m. on Monday, May 25. The public is still invited to assist with the annual decorating of veterans’ graves at 8 a.m. on Saturday, May 23, and local squares and monuments at 10:15 a.m. on Sunday, May 24.