COVID cases on the decline, but caution advised for summer

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3D illustration of coronavirus

By Max Bowen-max.bowen@northstarreporter.com

While COVID-19 cases have begun to trend downward, local health officials are encouraging people to be aware of potential illness as they head to the BBQs and concerts.

This summer, more and more events are returning to their pre-pandemic formats, but people should be aware of how they’re feeling and not just discounting it as a cold, according to Public Health Director Anne Marie Fleming. Cases in North Attleborough have begun to drop after hitting 446 in May, the highest number since the department began tracking, with the exception of December and January.

Looking ahead, Fleming said people should test if they’re feeling sick, not just for themselves, but for the people they may be around.

It’s an awareness factor, that the cold symptoms may in fact not be colds, it may be COVID,” she said. “If they’re going to be around those more vulnerable, people should make sure they tested. That’s the key to preventing transmission.”

Fleming said the big concern is that if cases do increase, those more easily affected by COVID could be the hardest hit.

How serious people take that depends on their vulnerability or those they love,” she said.

According to the town’s Health Department, North Attleborough has seen a total of 7,185 COVID cases. This doesn’t take into account positive home tests that don’t get reported. As of this week, there are 56 active infections, and the town has a test positivity rate of 12 percent. Statewide, more than 30,000 cases were reported over the last two weeks, the majority of cases in the 20-49 year age range.

There have been 127 reported COVID-related hospitalizations at Sturdy Memorial Hospital from March-May this year, a slight increase over what seen in the same timeframe last year. Dr. Brian Patel, Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs, Medical Director and Chief Quality Officer at Sturdy Memorial, said the increase in hospitalizations comes from the different variants, and the fact that masking mandates and other restrictions have ended.

We are hoping we had this last little surge, and it may ramp up in the summer and fall,” he said.

Patel added that outdoor events are fairly safe, but advised people to consider wearing masks for the more crowded indoor ones. He said the country is in a much different position than it was last summer, but this doesn’t mean another surge can’t happen.

I’m hoping we won’t see another surge,” he said.

There’s been a lot of discussion on whether the U.S. is now out of the pandemic phase and into a peri-pandemic or endemic one. Patel said it’s hard to say if that phase has happened and that the next couple of months will show how big the surges really are. Fleming said calls to the BOH have been less anxious, which she counts as a good thing, that there was a lot of anxiety and angst before. She hopes that people continue to test and get their vaccinations. At this time, the town is not considering bringing back any mask mandates.

His (Town Manager Michael Borg) focus is on people protecting themselves, making their own decisions,” she said.