In sizing up the current state of COVID-19, the two practicing physicians on the Marion Board of Health, Chairman Dr. Ed Hoffer and Dr. John Howard, agreed on January 6 that it makes sense to get vaccinated.
Hoffer estimated the current situation as “enormous growth in cases primarily due to the Omicron variant” with daily case counts in Massachusetts rising from 1,100 per day to 15,000 a day, the percent of tests positive rising from slightly under 2 percent to 22 percent. “At the same time, Omicron seems to be significantly less dangerous than previous variants in terms of people getting ill.”
“My own feeling is we ought to encourage but not mandate mask usage,” said Hoffer, recommending the posting of signs on a business’s front door strongly suggesting a mask but stopping short of mandating them.
Member Dot Brown noted that businesses can require a mask to enter, and Hoffer concurred, recalling the days of signs such as “no shoes, no shirt, no service.”
Brown, however, believes the state will get back to a mask mandate for businesses. “I think the state will eventually get there. I’m willing to wait for the state to do it,” she said.
Dr. John Howard agreed with Hoffer that the rate of serious cases is very low among the vaccinated. Hoffer said that the unvaccinated are roughly nine times as likely to be hospitalized in the intensive-care unit. While positive case counts are up 12-fold, said Hoffer, deaths are up approximately three-fold, and hospitalizations from three- to four-fold. “People who are not vaccinated still get sick and die. They made their bed and can lie in it, to be perfectly blunt.”
Public Health Nurse Lori Desmarais said those who are vaccinated tend to exhibit none to mild symptoms, while a few of those she has seen who are not vaccinated have been hospitalized.
Desmarais reported a total case count of 717 in Marion, 114 of which are active for a positivity rate of 6.74 percent. There were 45 cases in November and 165 in December. As of January 6, there were 55 so far in the New Year. The age groups dominating the positive testing results are ages 16-19, 30-49 and 50-64.
In reporting on COVID-19 in Marion schools, Desmarais told the board that Sippican Elementary has five personnel (students or staff) in its Test and Stay program, 12 in quarantine, 15 positive tests in isolation and a total 80 cases since the start of the school year.
At the junior high, 3 were in Test and Stay, 8 in quarantine, 20 positive tests in isolation and a total 46 cases since the start of school. At the high school, 3 were in Test and Stay, 9 in quarantine, 53 positive tests in isolation and a total 140 since school started. Tabor Academy students tested prior to their return to campus and on January 6 conducted full testing on campus.
Marion has hosted five booster clinics so far at the Cushing Community Center and followed up with homebound visits; the town has administered 350 booster shots.
Desmarais spoke to some infected people in their late 70s and early 80s, and all who are vaccinated reported mild symptoms and sought a test because of positive cases in their families. A positive is allowed to emerge from quarantine on Day 6, while wearing a mask when around others.
Health Agent Ana Wimmer told the board that her husband tested positive, and as a close contact her ability to perform her duties has been limited.
In reporting on the situation at 514 Front Street, Wimmer said the tenant called into the town last week about rats in the basement. Rodents, she said, are the occupant’s responsibility, not the manager’s, unless the tenant can prove that the rodent is the result of a breach in the building. The tenant found a few holes and patched them, according to Wimmer.
Former Marion Health Agent Dave Flaherty said he would check up on the house. Pest control and a contractor have found defects in the basement of the house, and the tenant has a lawyer, according to Wimmer.
Where it concerns the mold in the house, the Marion Board of Health cannot mandate anything, according to Wimmer. She said lawyers are now involved but that the town is working on updating the housing code.
The next meeting of the Marion Board of Health was not scheduled at adjournment.
Marion Board of Health
By Mick Colageo