Wellesley’s Board of Health meeting on Monday, Feb. 8 covered a host of issues, and not surprisingly vaccines were the No. 1 topic:
Vaccines—Lenny Izzo, director of community and public health, once again put in a request for up to 100 doses of vaccine that the Health Department could dispense at clinics for those age 75-plus and others eligible under the state’s Phase 1 and Phase 2 A, and once again was denied by the state. Wellesley is not alone in having this happen, as the state continues to have less supply from the federal government than there is demand. “It’s got nothing to do with us, it’s totally in the state’s hands at this point,” said Izzo, whose staff fielded many calls, emails, and texts over the weekend from members of the public trying to understand the vaccine system.
Board Vice-Chair Dr. Marcia Testa Simonson urged people not to panic about the current state of vaccine distribution, and explained that one reason most local health departments aren’t being supplied with vaccine is that doing so would make “the supply chain and distribution extremely complicated…it’s much easier to send 10,000 vaccines to a general location than to send them to 351 health departments.”
The Health Department plans to continue putting out messaging to the public to address concerns and confusion.
The town this week will be giving a second dose of the vaccine to first responders, as well as a first dose to 40 first responders who weren’t vaccinated the first time around. Izzo says he’s curious to learn about the reactions those getting the second dose might have, and is prepping messaging to help seniors and other residents know what to expect (for example, you might want to stock up on groceries BEFORE you get the second dose in case you don’t feel well after getting it). “I don’t know of many that have gotten out with no symptoms,” he says.
Health Department officials lauded the Council on Aging and its volunteers for helping seniors in town get registered for vaccinations. More than 100 families and more than 200 appointments were made over the past week, they said, and volunteers continue to be trained in anticipation for people age 65-plus being eligible for vaccinations in the near future. There could be a role for local religious organizations in supporting people who need help registering for vaccines, Board of Health Chair Shep Cohen said.
Wellesley Public Schools Supt. Dr. David Lussier sought any updates on when teachers might be eligible for vaccination, but they’re still in line behind those age 65-plus and those with two or more of certain medical conditions. The Board of Health promised that Lussier and team would be the first to know once the Health Department knows.
Schools—Supt. Lussier is hoping to update the school’s COVID-19 reopening dashboard this week, but the school department still needs to meet with the teachers’ union. The new dashboard would be more heavily focused on local metrics rather than state and regional ones to help the administration make decisions regarding in-person and remote school attendance. Next week’s February break, meanwhile, makes for tense times in terms of possible COVID-19 spread.
Mental health chat—Wellesley Health Department social workers are hosting a chat about community mental health for parents of adolescents and young adults. It’s planned for Friday, Feb. 12 from 1-2 p.m. and interested participants should email Joyce Saret directly at email@example.com
COVID-19 numbers—Ann Marie McCauley, the town’s public health nurse supervisor, is encouraged by falling case numbers in town. She says the average number of cases per day has fallen from 14 to 9.4 to 7.1 over the past few weeks. “It’s wonderful…I’m just worried about the Super Bowl and school vacation week,” she said.
Babson offers help—The Wellesley Health Department met with Babson reps last week and Babson has let the town know it wants to help however it can in the event, for example, that the town is able to access more vaccine and distribute it in bigger numbers. This could entail using Babson facilities, volunteers, storage, and more, Izzo said.
Wellesley College will be providing the town with an update this week as its next semester begins.