By Max Bowenemail@example.com
Over the last few weeks, the count of residents confirmed to have COVID-19 has risen sharply, but the news isn’t as bad as it sounds.
Board of Health Director Anne Marie Fleming said that most of the recent cases are in fact people who had symptoms back in March or April but could not get tested, due to stringent conditions or a lack of test kits. As the case count in Massachusetts has slowed, it has given health professionals a chance to get caught up. These individuals are now being tested for the antibodies produced in those that have been exposed to the Coronavirus. Those that test positive are included in the number of positive cases, which is posted to the town web site.
“Which means they were exposed, but are negative for the disease,” said Fleming. “They may have met the criteria months ago and couldn’t get tested.”
The number of positive cases was 264 in mid-June, but now stands at 290. An estimated 201 have recovered. There have been 28 reported deaths in North Attleborough, though it has been weeks since a new death due to COVID-19 has occurred. Fleming said many of these new confirmations are from people who had traveled to countries that had high Coronavirus cases or underwent hospital procedures.
For those that test positive for the antibodies but are no longer symptomatic, Fleming said that a 14-day quarantine is not required. She said the question will be what sort of protection these antibodies offer, whether that’s a three-month period or from a certain strain of COVID-19.
According to the web site for the Centers for Disease Control, a positive antibody test is presumed to mean a person has been infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, at some point in the past. It does not mean they are currently infected. Antibodies start developing within one to three weeks after infection.
“We need to investigate if more people had it and didn’t realize it,” said Fleming. “I spoke to people in April who thought they had it in February or March but weren’t ill.”
On a related note, the North Nurses Line, which was started in the early days of the pandemic, closed on June 30. Funded through the schools and a grant, the line was staffed by school nurses and took questions on COVID-19, checked in with those confirmed to have the disease, and provided contact tracing.
Fleming said that in recent days the calls have decreased a great deal and many have been from people who work with someone confirmed to have the disease and want to know the risk to themselves and loved ones. Those who still have questions can call the Board of Health at 508-699-0104 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.