More COVID-19 in October

            In her Public Health Director / Nurse Report to Tuesday’s meeting of the Marion Board of Health, Lori Desmarais said there are 41 active COVID-19 cases including 25 over the last two weeks.

            There were 39 positive cases in Marion in September 30, but that number has risen to 53 so far into October; 20 of those cases are with children under age 12. There are four positives among ages 12-15, none among ages 16-19, three among ages 20-29, 11 among ages 30-49, 11 among ages 50-64, four among ages 64-75, and two who are over age 75.

            Of the 53 October cases, 33 were eligible to be vaccinated. Of those 33, 16 were unvaccinated. Among those who were vaccinated, 10 had received the Pfizer-brand vaccine, five had received the Moderna vaccine, and two had received the Johnson & Johnson.

            On October 19, Sippican Elementary School had 10 people in the “test and stay” program and nine testing positive and in quarantine as a result. Sippican has had 23 positive cases so far this academic year.

            The numbers are better at Old Rochester Regional, with five junior high personnel in quarantine, one positive test, and five for the school year. At the high school, there have also been five positive tests this academic year, but there is currently only one in the test and stay program and none in quarantine.

            Tabor Academy held random testing last week, and among the 116 tests two were positive.

            Desmarais anticipates news next week of approval for half-dose boosters of the Moderna vaccine. She also has attended discussions where approval for ages 5-11 are being held.

            Dr. Ed Hoffer, a practicing physician and chairman of the Board of Health, said that the Moderna vaccine has been a better vaccine in that it has kept antibodies up much higher than the Pfizer vaccine. He also said that those who originally received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine who are also seeking a booster are “better off” switching brands.

            Dr. John Howard, board member and also a practicing physician, noted that even the adults who have been vaccinated and subsequently tested positive for COVID-19 have had “mild cases.”

            Desmarais said the only one October case from Marion was hospitalized as a result.

            Estimating that the data indicates a 10-1 advantage for vaccinated people over unvaccinated, Hoffer said, “Vaccinations will never be perfect, but they are pretty good.”

            Since the beginning of the outbreak, Marion has documented 540 COVID-19 cases.

            Desmarais also reported on flu vaccine clinics held on October 14, including a drive-thru and a smaller clinic at Cushing Community Center.

            Board of Health member Dot Brown and Health Agent Ana Wimmer will look into the possibility of creating regulations for the routine testing of private wells in Marion.

            “As near as we can tell, there are no regulations governing private wells as far as routine testing,” said Hoffer, suggesting there should be a minimal annual requirement for testing by homeowners with wells who are not hooked into town water. Hoffer, with a hint of a chuckle, did allow for the irony of last week’s public water crisis posing a challenge to the idea.

            If a residence sits near an agricultural area (bogs, for instance), it would be recommended for more frequent testing and for more contaminants.

            Brown noted that aquifer protection rules would be up for vote on Town Meeting floor later Tuesday. The Board of Health received a letter from the Planning Board indicating that while state regulations prevent any drainage into an aquifer district, the Town of Marion has no such regulation. One advantage the Board of Health has over the Planning Board is in its ability to address conditions resulting from problems created prior to a regulation’s existence.

            The Board of Health also discussed regulations in light of a dumpster complaint from resident (and member of both Marion’s Planning Board and Energy Management Committee) Eileen Marum, who reported that dumpsters at her residence have been overflowing during renovation work. Debris from the construction project has apparently left no room for residents’ trash, and as a result the overflow is available to animals.

            “I can see why that would be annoying,” said Hoffer, noting that the situation at Marconi Village Apartments is being considered a health issue.

            Wimmer reported that she and Desmarais spoke with SK Management, which runs Marconi Village Apartments. “They said that they usually have the people that do those renovations take the trash out of the property,” said Wimmer, who added that record keeping is key to the ongoing effort to establish accountability.

            The management company plans to keep record of any requests from trash collecting company Republic. “That way there’s a paper trail,” said Wimmer.

            Wimmer will receive Maven training (microblading and permanent makeup), as Marion seeks to have more people become literate in the science so it can more effectively recognize appropriate health standards in light of the recent increase in COVID-19 cases in town.

            In her Health Agent Report, Wimmer said two body art studios are in the permitting process. Two people are in training at one of the studios, while the other studio has completed training and should be applying for an operating permit shortly. A third establishment has indicated interest.

            Now that the Boil Order has been lifted, Wimmer intends to start scheduling food inspections at restaurants around town.

            Hoffer said the BOH remains under budget for 2021.

            The next meeting of the Marion Board of Health is scheduled for Tuesday, November 2, at 4:00 pm.

Marion Board of Health

By Mick Colageo

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