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Posted on: July 23, 2021

COVID-19 - Personal Message from Michael Hirsh, MD, Medical Director for CMRPHA

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Dear Community Members, 

Our battle against COVID-19 is not over. We had seen very encouraging results of our aggressive vaccination program in Central MA that began in early January 2021 with case numbers really diminishing over the period of time from the one year anniversary of the Pandemic State of Emergency March 11, 2021 till the May 29, 2021 reopening of the Commonwealth. 

But now we are facing a new variant of the original COVID-19 virus called “Delta”. It is 60% more transmissible and made its way here just when we were starting to hit the wall on vaccination distribution. We now have achieved at least 60% full vaccination for Worcester County for vaccine-eligible populations (25% of our unvaccinated includes the kids under 11 who have not yet been approved for vaccine). So there is a block of 30% of our community unvaccinated for all kinds of reasons. Let’s talk about what this means for the Greater Worcester Community. 

Across the country, we are seeing a steady rise of COVID-19 cases in all 50 states as the Delta variant is now 80+% of all the cases. And this increase is almost exclusively in unvaccinated people. Because we have done such a good job of vaccination in the >60 years of age group, the new COVID-19 patients are from a younger demographic (20-50 years old). This group normally experiences milder symptoms, but the viral load that the Delta variant can mount can overcome the age advantage. 

Here in Massachusetts where our community vaccination rate is high, we have seen the uptick in case numbers but nothing to the degree we are seeing in the southern and Midwestern states where community vaccination rates are as low as 35%. This is all further proof at how effective the vaccinations have been. But the unvaccinated still pose a threat to the Greater Worcester Community by allowing the Delta variant to propagate and potentially causing that increase in hospitalizations and also in the brewing of new variants that might be more resistant to the vaccination. If this goes unchecked we will undoubtedly have to march backwards into the time of the 3W’s including mask wearing for all. 

One more thing you should know- the media makes a big deal about “breakthrough infections”- COVID-19 cases in vaccinated patients. But the Massachusetts Department of Public Health released some incredibly reassuring numbers confirming the efficacy of the vaccinations. There have been 4,500 breakthrough cases in the Commonwealth out of 4.25 million citizens who have been fully vaccinated. That is a rate of less than 1/10 of 1%. And of these 4,500 breakthrough cases- 92% have had minimal or no symptoms (+tests caught many of these when asymptomatic patients tried to fly or had PCR tests from a contact tracing request). Only 6% needed hospitalization and less than 2% died. So that translates to an extremely low morbidity and mortality showing again that the vaccines work. 

So here is the bottom line. Reversing the Delta Variant threat is in the hands of our unvaccinated neighbors. But you as residents, municipal or school employees can help ensure that our school re-openings and the functions of our municipal government continue without disruption. And it will set an example for the entire community if we can show >80-90% vaccination compliance rates. 

Please consider this for your and your family’s well-being. But in a larger sense, your valuable service to the community you do every day can be negated if don’t set the example that in the Pandemic times our individual health choices are not our own- they affect the entire community at large. 

If you still decline to be vaccinated make sure you continue to wear your mask indoors and out. 

The Town of Shrewsbury,  the Worcester Division of Public Health, the medical community, your local Board of education, and the citizens at large have worked incessantly to get us to this point. We have the tools to beat this Coronavirus cold. Everyone pulled the oars together. We must do the same when it comes to vaccinations. We can do this! 

Thanks for doing your part during these remarkable times. This additional ask is one that I know will further confirm to us all that you are the true heroes of the Pandemic. 

Yours in good health,Dr. Michael Hirsh - Medical Director signatureMichael P. Hirsh, MD - Medical Director
City of Worcester / Central MA Regional Public Health Alliance (CMRPHA)


Resources:

WHERE CAN I GET VACCINATED?

COVID-19 IN-HOME VACCATION PROGRAM

WHERE CAN I GET TESTED?

CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL (CDC)

MA DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH (MDPH)

Central MA Regional Public Health Alliance-CMRPHA
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