The number of new coronavirus cases in Hull jumped more than seven-fold from the first two weeks of July to the first two weeks in August. While the actual numbers were small, they appear to reflect a nationwide trend of increasing transmission this summer.
There were 22 new COVID-19 cases in town between Aug. 4 and 18, compared with the two-week period between July 4 and 18, when there were three, Public Health Director Joyce Sullivan reported to the Select Board this week. As of Wednesday night, five of those cases had been reported in the past 24 hours.
Of the 22 cases, 15 of the individuals were known to have been vaccinated at the time of Sullivan’s update. Of Hull’s 9,795 residents, 68 percent are fully vaccinated. (Children under age 12 are not yet eligible for vaccinations).
“In the last 14 days, the state is not showing any variants for Hull,” Sullivan told The Hull Times in response to an email after the meeting.
The total number of COVID-19 cases in Hull since March 13, 2020, is 736. “The average age for deaths in Massachusetts from COVID is 73,” Sullivan said.
She also provided an update on the virus booster shots, which she said should be administered eight months after the last vaccination for individuals who received Pfizer or Moderna shots, “but not Johnson & Johnson at this point because that vaccine came out later.”
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice will make future recommendations on booster shots. “We don’t know if local health departments will receive doses or not,” she said. The committee is a group of medical and public health experts who develop recommendations on how to use vaccines to control diseases in the United States.
Looking toward the start of the new school year, Sullivan and Public Health Nurse Joan Taverna met with the Hull Public Schools nurses and School Superintendent Judith Kuehn recently and recommended that the schools require face masks for all students and faculty, regardless of vaccination status.
“The youngest students aren’t vaccinated, and we’re not sure which staff members are,” Sullivan said.
The School Committee, which will make the final decision, will discuss the reopening of schools at its Tuesday, Aug. 24, meeting at 6:30 p.m. in the Hull High School Auditorium.
Agenda items will include mitigating strategies, safety protocols, cleaning practices, PCR testing, and a vote on whether to adopt a universal mask policy – meaning that everyone in the school buildings would be required to wear a mask, including students, teachers, and other employees, regardless of vaccination status.
“We will continue to monitor cases and may require masks for employees and visitors in the town buildings,” Sullivan said.
She also noted that the Board of Health will have received 400 doses of the flu vaccine by the time the Endless Summer celebration arrives and that there will be a clinic at that venue. “We usually vaccinate about 200 people during that event,” she said.
A possible drive-through flu clinic is under consideration, based on the success of the COVID-19 vaccination clinic that was held this year at the back of the state Department of Conservation and Recreation parking lot. “People feel safe staying in their cars and not standing in a crowd,” she said.
In other news, Sullivan reported that the Massachusetts Department of Public Health recently awarded a collaborative Public Health Excellence Grant to the towns of Hull, Weymouth, Hingham, and Cohasset totaling $300,000 for the first three years, with a renewal option subject to available funding. “The Cohasset Board of Health will take the lead,” she said.
The program enables groups of cities and towns to plan for or to expand sharing of staff and resources – such as a shared social worker, community resource specialist, epidemiologist, and program coordinator – to improve local public health effectiveness and efficiency.