This week's dashboard reflects the continued slow but steady upward trend of local newly reported cases, mirroring the situation across most of the state and region. Hampshire County transmission overall remains lower than in Easthampton, but Hampden County is higher risk for spread, so please be vigilant when you're out and about, even if you are fully vaccinated. While it's a relief that severe cases and deaths have not been in the numbers we saw last year, anybody who has had to go through isolation and quarantine knows that it is very disruptive and often financially frustrating, especially for sectors of our workforce that do not typically receive much paid leave. Now that school is back in session, we all want our kids to be in the classroom, not hanging around the house waiting for a certain number of days to pass before they can go back. Taking steps to reduce community transmission is good for all of us, for many reasons.
I don't have much to add to last week's narrative, except to share that this will be my last dashboard to update for Easthampton. The state has funded a number of regional shared public health services grants, and I am heading up a new program in the Berkshires. It has been such a pleasure to get to know and work with so many of Easthampton's residents and community leaders. I am deeply grateful for the leadership of the Mayor, Board of Health Chair and members, and the Health Department Director and staff. I appreciate all of the community members who have done their part in sharing information, having difficult conversations with family and friends, advocating for appropriate safety policies, and above all, modeling the behaviors that demonstrate our responsibility towards one other. Thank you all for this opportunity to support the Easthampton community during a challenging time.
Going forward, the Health Dept.'s COVID-19 data dashboard will be updated weekly by the incomparable Megan Ward Harvey, a local epidemiologist, college professor, and school parent. She has been a tireless voice encouraging us to "follow the data" and I am sure she will do a great job at keeping everyone up to date. You may notice a few minor changes to the dashboard, as I have streamlined a few things lately, including removing the "% of recent cases that are "breakthrough". Like the total number of deaths, that number wasn't really changing, and since I began reporting it, the research has coalesced around the fact that with the Delta variant, COVID can spread to and from vaccinated individuals (although at a significantly reduced rate, and not for as long as period). You may also notice the total case numbers have decreased a bit from last week - when I began producing this dashboard in late winter, testing sites were overwhelmed and symptomatic individuals were starting to use the rapid tests in large numbers, so I began by tallying both the PCR confirmed and rapid antigen test numbers and continued to do so. However, the state's official calculations utilize PCR confirmed testing totals only, and it made sense to follow their practice a bit more going forward. Hopefully the total case count for Easthampton will not increase much further as we move closer to the end of the pandemic.
Stay well everyone,
Amy Hardt MPH, RN
Public Health Nurse