Mayor Holaday's Weekly COVID-19 Update - November 19, 2020

Mayor Donna D. Holaday
 November 12, 2020

Link to video recording.

Good afternoon everyone, and thank you for listening in on this latest COVID-19 update.  It’s important today that we address the status of the virus in our country, the state and our community.  Currently, more people in the United States are in the hospital with COVID-19 now than ever before as the country climbs over 10 million recorded cases during its third wave. November has been particularly dreadful; since the start of the month, the number of new cases being recorded each day has doubled. Though Massachusetts is still a long way from the nearly 4000 people that were hospitalized statewide last spring, the state numbers are clearly trending upward with over 2000 COVID cases per day and increased hospitalizations.  At the local level, we have resumed regular updates and discussions with Anna Jaques Hospital on our current situation- so far we are doing better than when the surge hit this past spring.  Overall, people are not getting as sick or ending up in the ICU or on ventilators. People may be getting medical care sooner than they previously were, which is a positive, and so, many patients stay in the hospital for 15 days, as opposed to the previous average of 30-45 days. This is also good news. 

And in Newburyport, while we’ve been extremely fortunate to have had low case numbers since the start of the pandemic, that has changed.  We have seen a sharp rise in cases.  We currently have 49 active cases, and sadly we’ve lost four more residents to the virus in one of our long term care facilities.  This is all really serious.

But despite these facts, pandemic fatigue has set in among many.  As the state struggles to contain a fast-growing wave of coronavirus cases, there’s reason to suggest that people aren’t taking some pandemic precautions as seriously as we once were. Unfortunately for us, the colder temperatures are pushing us inside, where there is a higher risk of breathing in the virus via tiny water droplets called aerosols that linger in the air.  More people are gathering indoors with people they don’t live with which suggests this is contributing to the resurgence of COVID-19 cases.

Heading into Thanksgiving, I think it’s important to talk about  activities surrounding next week.
Everyone needs to be mindful of the significant challenges COVID-19 places on celebrating the holidays safely this year, and give serious consideration to modifying their plans accordingly. Residents should do all they can to limit the number of people they celebrate with, and take extraordinary precautions should they decide to travel themselves or welcome others coming to visit their home.  Families welcoming students’ home from college, or any other visitors from out of state for the holidays should be mindful of the ongoing travel restrictions in effect.
If you host a holiday celebration, keep it small and follow the public health guidance.  Please do all you can to reduce the risk –no more than 10 people, having people bring their own food and drink, wearing masks except when eating, and opening the windows in your home for better ventilation.  Any time you’re near people you don’t live with, wear a mask when not eating or drinking, wash your hands often with soap water, and stay at least six feet apart from others. Please consider those around you at higher risk such as older adults or those with certain medical conditions and take extra precautions.

All of this should be second hand by now, but please read the CDC guidelines for Thanksgiving under for more details. The guidelines offer tips and advice on level of risk for   celebrations, as well as some safe thanksgiving activities such as holding small gatherings with the people you live with, having a virtual Thanksgiving dinner, getting creative with the sharing of food, enjoying virtual games at home, and enjoying Thanksgiving events from home such as the many shows and events that are on the television and other media networks.  And for some families, going shopping on Black Friday is a tradition and easy way to gear up for upcoming winter holidays.  However, consider more local shopping and supporting our businesses, many who provide online ordering and curb side pick-up. 

We can keep the spirt of thankfulness alive without putting ourselves and loved ones at risk.  As always, I want to thank you all for your cooperation during this holiday and in this most difficult year. 

On another note, there are so many things we are doing right. Massachusetts is ranked one of the best states for wearing masks, but there is still room for improvement here at the local level in Newburyport.  However, even though it’s the minority of people, unfortunately in Massachusetts and here locally in Newburyport, we have people who reject the guidance on wearing masks. Please everyone - masks slow the spread of COVID-19. They protect you. They protect everyone around you. And they will help us move in the right direction.

Going forward, it is more important than ever with bleak predictions on the spread of the virus during the winter months that we work together and take aggressive measures now. We know that the vast majority of cluster outbreaks have originated in households and with outside activities.  These are the biggest offenders in our community. In our school district we have been fortunate; even though we have had cases come into the schools, we have not had in-school transmission and this is attributed to the safety protocols in place throughout the district.

However, we are concerned about any kind of spread following Thanksgiving next week in the schools, and should things change, a shift to a remote model is not out of the question, but it will all come down to data and further guidance from the state. 

I would also like to remind people to get a flu shot, as some people are starting to confuse flu symptoms and COVID-19 symptoms. This will help our health care first responders as they manage our health care system during what will be a very trying winter. 

Despite these difficult and continuing conversations about the pandemic, positive information is emerging about Pfizer and Moderna’s progress in the development of a Covoid vaccine.  We will continue to work with our State officials and provide more information on dispensing and priorities as the information becomes available. 

On a happier note, I wish to take a minute to recognize a very special individual. Roseann Robillard, our Director for the Council on Aging is retiring after 27 years of service with the City of Newburyport.  We cannot thank her enough for her dedicated service to its members and the community we serve. She patiently waited over 20 years for a senior center and never stopped advocating for our elders.  Her leadership, compassion and commitment have made a positive impact on the hundreds and hundreds of lives that she has touched. We have been so fortunate having you as our COA Director and we are forever grateful.  On behalf of all in our city, Roseann- Best wishes on your retirement!

Thank you, be well, and I wish everyone a happy, healthy and safe Thanksgiving.