Rise in Tri-Town covid cases continues

Nov 17, 2020

Residents of Marion, Mattapoisett and Rochester are going to have to keep covid in mind in their plans for the holidays, as cases continue to spike throughout the area. 

Marion was designated as a high-risk community by the state on Nov. 12, after cases nearly quintupled to 49 in the last week. 

This is mostly because of an outbreak at Sippican Healthcare Center, with 61 resident and staff cases and two resident deaths in the past two weeks.

Mattapoisett cases jumped from 14 to 25 active cases last week, according to state data. Rochester has less than five cases. 

Seven of Marion’s cases are community spread, meaning they were spread organically within the community.

Of Marion’s 49 recent cases, only 14 originated outside of Sippican Healthcare Center.

Despite this statistic, Town Administrator Jay McGrail said at a Nov. 17 Selectmen’s meeting that residents “need to keep our guard up.” The town recently switched all of its meetings back to virtual only.

The Marion Town House and Mattapoisett Town Hall also reverted back to being open by appointment only (Rochester Town Hall has remained open by appointment only throughout the entire pandemic.)

Current population-based metrics place the threshold for becoming a high-risk town at over 25 cases for Marion, Mattapoisett and Rochester. 

Back in Marion, Sippican Healthcare Center has been dealing with staffing challenges due to rising case numbers. Currently, 38 residents and 23 staff members have the virus.

Of the cases, 12 residents are asymptomatic and 14 have mild symptoms, and one positive worker isn’t showing symptoms. Two residents are currently hospitalized.

The cases were found in routine testing that the state requires for a certain amount of employees every week. Once a positive case was found, the approximately 163 staff and 86 residents had to be tested.

For staff members that test positive, their local Board of Health is notified of the case for contact tracing and case totals for the town.

The facility is now relying on members of the state’s rapid response team. This is a state-designated team of healthcare workers who come in and temporarily fill positions of staffers who are home quarantining.

“We’re grateful for the rapid response team,” said Kathy Soderberg, chief compliance officer at Whittier Health Network (the facility’s parent company.) 

The facility has a separate part of the building dedicated to isolating covid-positive patients from those who aren’t sick. Workers who are taking care of patients in the units can’t work in other sectors of the building for fear of exposure.

The rapid response team helps fill those vacant positions, along with hires from other agencies.

Soderberg stressed the importance and dedication of the staff who are taking care of residents at this time.

“We’re in awe of the people willing to do this,” she said.

Cases have been rising in Old Rochester Regional School District schools as well in the last week. 

The district has reported 20 cases relating to the schools since its reopening in September. 

Five cases have been found in Sippican School, four in Center School, three at ORRHS and two at the junior high. Rochester Memorial School remains the only school in the district to have no reported cases. 

10 of the 17 reported cases are currently active and in isolation. Three from Center School and Old Hammondtown, two from ORRHS, and one each from Sippican School and ORRJHS. 

The cases found in district schools have also led to numerous close contacts, particularly in the high school. Close contacts are expected to quarantine for two weeks. 

14 individuals from ORRHS are quarantining, 11 from Center School and Old Hammondtown, six from Sippican School, two from Rochester Memorial, and one from ORRJHS. 

All schools have been operating on their normal schedules, with the exception of the preschool program at the high school which is closed until Nov. 23 at the suggestion of the Mattapoisett Board of Health.

The town of Marion gave holiday safety advice with tips like hosting outdoor gatherings, keeping six feet of social distance and avoiding travel. 

"Given the recent rise in cases in our area and across the state, wearing a mask, avoiding large gatherings and practicing proper hygiene are important measures for everyone to follow,” Marion Public Health Nurse Lori Desmarais said in a town press release. “And we encourage everyone to remain committed to following these measures, especially as we approach the holiday season.”