Community covid cases lower as school numbers climb

Jan 5, 2021

While cases reported in state data continue to decline in the Tri-Town, cases related to the Old Rochester Regional School District have sharply increased in the last week.

Marion ended a seven-week streak as a high-risk red community this week, as the number of new covid cases in Marion lowered to 22, shifting the town to yellow in the state’s color-coded risk designation system.

But the town likely won’t stay in the yellow for long. Marion Public Health Nurse Lori Desmarais confirmed that there were 36 active covid cases in the town at a Jan. 5 Board of Health meeting. 

“Those are people in the community that we are currently actively following,” Desmarais said.

Also in Marion, the Cumberland Farms at the intersection of Route 6 and Front Street is temporarily closed for the second time this year after an employee tested positive for covid.

The store was closed at 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 5 to be cleaned and sanitized by an industrial cleaning crew and will re-open in the next few days, Cumberland Farms stated in a press release. 

All employees who work at the store have been contacted and advised to follow recommended guidelines from the Center for Disease Control.

“We are making every effort to provide the affected team member and our broader team with the necessary resources and support,” the statement read.

Public Health Agent David Flaherty noted at a Jan. 5 Board of Health meeting that he has been in touch with the store manager, who told him that the employees will get tested while the store is closed and only those who test negative will be allowed to return.

Since this has happened previously, Flaherty said, “They know how to handle it, and they’re used to that.”

There were 47 new cases in Mattapoisett this week, with 37 new cases in Rochester (down from 50 last week). Both towns are still designated as red communities.

Sippican Healthcare also reported three new deaths this week, bringing the total at the long-term healthcare facility to 21.

This is the first state-level data to be released since Christmas, and includes cases active between Dec. 17 and Dec. 31.

In a stark contrast with cases reported in weekly state data, the school district had a record 17 new cases this week. The new cases bring the total number up to 93 since the district’s Sept. 16 reopening.

When new cases are reported in the district, the Boards of Health in Marion, Mattapoisett and Rochester conduct contact tracing and assess the situation surrounding the case to offer a recommendation to the district on whether schools should remain open. Marion Board of Health Chair Ed Hoffer explained in a Nov. 3 meeting that schools are likely to be closed when evidence of spread within the schools is apparent.

No K-12 schools in the Tri-Town have been closed this academic year due to covid. Ostensibly, cases reported in the district are a result of community spread rather than spread within the schools. Cases in the school district are reported immediately and may not be reflected in community-level data until later.

Similarly, state data released this week may not yet reflect any upticks from gatherings over the holiday. To brace for an anticipated rise in cases, the state has released new guidelines reducing capacity at all businesses to 25%.

After Thanksgiving, surges in the Tri-Town were reflected in state data between two and three weeks after the holiday.

In anticipation of another surge, officials at all levels of government, from Boards of Selectmen to the Center for Disease Control, have advised against travel.