WILMINGTON, MA — The Wilmington Board of Selectmen received an alarming COVID-19 update from Wilmington Health Director Shelly Newhouse on Monday night.
Newhouse noted that Wilmington has a record 200 active confirmed cases of COVID-19, with an additional 600+ residents in quarantine, another record.
“I’m seeing the effets of Thanksgiving. Tramission is within households. We’re seeing one person pick it up somewhere and bring it back home. COVID is running rampant through households,” said Newhouse. “Wilmington is at a 7.6% positivity rate. That’s the highest positivity rate of any surrounding community.”
Newhouse noted that contact tracing has proven to be “very, very challenging” in town and schools, noting it consumes most of their days. The town recently hired two part-time nurses to assist the Health Department with contact tracing efforts.
“COVID and contact tracing are putting a big strain on the department, but we’re managing and doing OK,” Newhouse told Selectmen. “It’s been stressful since Thanksgiving. It’s been a lot…. All night long. All weekend. COVID doesn’t stop. You take the cases as they come. Part-time helpers are handling a couple of cases a day.”
Newhouse noted that the general public will likely be receiving the vaccine in the late spring, but could potentially change. She added that the vaccine just arrived in hospitals today and clinical and non-clinical health care workers will begin receiving it soon. CVS will be the ones to administer the vaccine to the three long-term care facilities in town.
Newhouse also added that the Governor has rolled back the entire state to Phase 3, Step 1. Wilmington was heading in that direction anyway as it would have been “in the red” for three consecutive weeks under the state’s metrics.
Newhouse announced that her department is looking for volunteers to food shop and deliver meals to families who are quarantining and cannot leave their homes. Message her through the Health Department’s Facebook page or email email@example.com.
“With all the households being quarantined quickly, sometimes they’re at a loss in terms of how they’re going to get food and meals,” added Newhouse.
Wilmington Fire Chief Bill Cavanaugh reported that the police, fire and dispatch departments are back at full strength with no active COVID-19 cases. He was recently able to obtain more PPE and the departments have a healthy stockpile. Cavanaugh noted that the CARES Act is ending in about 2 weeks, which will shut down some of the reimbursements the town is getting. To date, the town has received $672,000 in CARES funding. The town will be receiving a much larger amount through FEMA, but those reimbursements take up to two years.
Town Manager Jeff Hull anticipates going in front of the Finance Committee in the coming months to request funding from the reserve accounts as the CARES funding ends and as the town waits for FEMA reimbursement payments. Hull also noted that Newhouse recently secured a $5,600 grant for COVID costs, and Lowell Five Bank made a $5,000 donation to the town, which it will put towards COVID expenses.
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