During an update this week on the coronavirus pandemic, Hull Board of Health Director Joyce Sullivan had some sobering news to report to the Board of Selectmen about the 40 COVID-19 cases her office has been following since early this month.
“Thirty-three of those are confirmed PCR [swab test] positives, and seven are probables, but we still follow them as if they were positives,” Sullivan said. “This is the largest number of cases we’ve had in a two-week span [between Dec. 2 and 16].”
The Board of Health performs contact tracing in accordance with state requirements whether a case is positive or probable; the process involves notifying those who have come into contact with individuals who have tested positive.
Sullivan noted that her statistics differ from those released by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health each week because her office counts “probable” cases as well.
Sullivan also told the selectmen she had applied for doses of the vaccine for Hull through the state DPH. The request was approved, and a vaccine refrigerator is expected to arrive in her office on Monday. But the time frame for when the vaccine will arrive and which kind it will be is uncertain.
“The challenge once the vaccine arrives is getting those who receive the first dose to return three weeks later for the [recommended] second vaccination,” Sullivan said.
A plan will be in place as to who receives the first vaccines – likely police and fire personnel and health care workers and then individuals who are in the high-risk category due to serious health issues. They will be followed by grocery store and public works employees, adults age 65 and over, and then individuals who want to get the vaccine, although not necessarily in that order.
“The vaccine will likely be available to the general public in phase three,” Sullivan said. In the meantime, “residents should still get a flu shot and do everything they can to keep themselves healthy.”
Based on the success of the town’s drive-through flu clinic, the same model may be used in administering the vaccine. “The process went quickly, and people felt safe not being inside a building,” Sullivan said.
Selectman Greg Grey asked whether Hull’s COVID-19 numbers spiked after Thanksgiving.
“Yes, definitely,” responded Sullivan, reiterating the 40 positive and probable cases that were counted during the past two weeks. “I expect this could happen again at Christmastime with people getting together.”
Selectwoman Donna Pursel asked how the schools are faring with COVID-19. “We have had a few cases, but there has been no spike among students,” Sullivan said, emphasizing there have not been any clusters of cases. “They are really spread out and among different age groups.”
Sullivan went on to commend the efforts by the Hull Public Schools students, staff, and administrators in cleaning and disinfecting, social distancing, and wearing face masks.
At the same time, she cautioned, “If a student or staff member is sick, they should stay home. People need to be diligent even though they are tired [of all of this] and want to get back to normal. But that isn’t happening yet.”