The update this week is similar to last week - we continue to see a level of new cases that keeps us at the state-designated Yellow level of community transmission. Hampshire County is now in the Substantial transmission category on the CDC county tracker website, as is Franklin, while Hampden and Berkshire county remain in the High category.
Here in Easthampton, our vaccination rate continues to creep up, bit by bit (I'll share an updated breakdown of that by race/ethnicity in next week's dashboard). Most of our new cases continue to be unvaccinated people, though a good number are fully vaccinated and report only minor symptoms from the virus. I am seeing more cases occur within our non-White population as well, which I'll also detail in next week's center graph.
Household transmission remains very efficient while the Delta variant continues its dominance nationwide. Even if you are fully vaccinated, the chances of you getting COVID from an infected family member sharing your home is high. For that reason, we highly encourage all exposed individuals to also get tested at least several days after their last exposure, keep a close eye out for new symptoms, and quarantine. Vaccinated folks who do not quarantine following an exposure should definitely mask indoors in public during their incubation period, even if it's not mandatory. If you are continuously exposed at home, your incubation period will run the entire length of the infected household member's infectious phase (10-14 days from positive test or symptoms beginning), plus 14 more days. The state's COVID website still has isolation and quarantine guidelines posted, but these have not been updated to reflect the possibility of vaccinated individuals spreading the virus to others, which we now know to be possible, even if less likely. The CDC's quarantine guidelines are a bit more stringent in this regard. If you are unsure what to do after an exposure, you can reach out to the City Health Department for more info.
As you can see on this week's center graph, most of our cases this summer have been among the twenty- and forty-somethings, but 25% have been in children too young to be vaccinated. Thankfully, reported symptoms have been fairly mild overall among the kids whose parents I've talked with. Given that we are still learning about the long-term impacts of COVID, and the vaccine is not yet approved or even effective for everyone, it makes sense for all of us to mask in public when we are indoors, even if we are vaccinated, to avoid unwittingly spreading the virus to someone who may be at higher risk than ourselves. We'll continue to keep an eye on local and regional trends, and share best practices accordingly.
Amy Hardt, MPH, RN
Public Health Nurse