By Laura Hayes, Senior Community Reporter
REGION — Local leaders say they’re seeing the impacts of a state-wide increase in COVID-19 cases as the more contagious Delta COVID-19 variant spreads.
After weeks of a downward trend, the Massachusetts Department of Health reported on July 29 a total number of 671,644 cases in the Commonwealth.
That was an increase of 742 new cases compared to the prior day, according to state data.
“Certainly, we’re concerned like everyone else, as the numbers go up a little bit,” Marlborough Director of Health John Garside told the Community Advocate on July 29.
Local officials address increase
Garside said there were about 13 active cases in Marlborough, which he said was double the number seen in the previous week.
“It’s a concern there,” he said. “Do we end up masking again? Maybe, right? We’re continuing to promote the vaccination through our social media, other PSAs.”
Two-thirds of the active cases in Marlborough were among unvaccinated individuals. One-third of the cases involved people who were vaccinated.
“The symptoms are milder, I’m sure, as you know, but we do see the break-through cases,” Garside said.
In Shrewsbury, Town Manager Kevin Mizikar noted during a July 27 Board of Selectmen’s meeting that there was an uptick of cases in town.
As of July 27, Shrewsbury had a total of 2,995 positive COVID-19 cases dating back to March of last year. That included 22 new cases since the selectmen’s last meeting on July 13. Seventeen cases had cropped up within the last week.
“That’s a marked uptick in the number of cases, and actually, we’ve seen several days of the upper single digits of six or seven cases occurring in a single day,” Mizikar said.
Elsewhere, Department of Health data reported that Northborough had a total of 710 cases throughout the pandemic. Southborough reported 314, Westborough had 1,007, Hudson had 1,240 and Grafton had 903, as of July 29.
The Massachusetts Department of Health announced in a press release on July 30 that it is recommending that fully-vaccinated people should wear masks or face coverings indoors if they have a weakened immune system, if they have increased risk because of their age or underlying conditions or if someone in their household has a weakened immune system, is unvaccinated or is at increased risk for severe diseases.
This was in response to spread of the Delta variant and similar guidance from the Centers for Disease Control.
As of July 20, 72 percent of Shrewsbury residents had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Roughly 66 percent were fully vaccinated.
Mizikar noted that over 4,000 residents became fully vaccinated since the selectmen met in the beginning of June. But residents between the ages of 20 and 29 were “lagging” with a 59 percent vaccination rate.
“So, we still encourage everyone to consider getting the shot,” Mizikar said. “It is your safest bet with regards to preventing at least significant challenges from COVID-19.”
According to Department of Health data, 81 percent of Northborough residents were fully vaccinated compared to 81 percent of Westborough residents, 79 percent of Southborough residents, 64 percent of Hudson residents and 62 percent of Grafton residents.
The state reported that 64 percent of Marlborough residents were fully vaccinated.
Earlier this week, Marlborough staff were on Main Street, giving vaccinations as they were providing information on the vaccine to residents.
“If we pick up a few vaccinations here and there, it helps in the big picture,” Garside said.
“We’re pretty proud of our vaccination rates as we compare ourselves to similar type cities,” he said. “We think we’ve done pretty well in that regard, given our demographics and such.”
The vaccine is making a difference, Garside said, adding that he’s seen residents out and about.
“Some of this is to be expected, I think, just because life is back, and yet the virus is still out there and only 70 percent of folks are vaccinated, or even less if you get outside certain places. … It’s to be expected, I think, in some respect,” Garside said.
In the meantime, Garside said Marlborough will continue to encourage people to get vaccinated.