While many have breathed sighs of relief following the state’s relaxation of mask-wearing rules, the Wellesley Health Department is finding it actually has more work on its hands.
That’s because the floodgates have opened with new requests for activities that school and other groups, including new camps, wouldn’t have considered during the blanket mask mandate. Lenny Izzo, the Wellesley Health Department’s director, at Monday’s Board of Health meeting said the wording of the mask rollback has been confusing. “It wasn’t a blanket [statement] that you didn’t need to wear a mask at all,” he said.
“It’s bringing a lot of work for us because all of these programs need to submit COVID plans and we have to review the COVID plans,” he said. “We thought we were actually going to get a bit of a break through this and end up with a somewhat mild summer, but it’s actually turning into making up for lost ground that we had from the past summer.”
Izzo wishes the rollback had been announced a little closer to the end of the school year.
One tough school-related decision the town just made was putting the kibosh on Wellesley High School wrestling this season. Other sports have been allowed, with alterations, during the pandemic. WHS Athletic Director John Brown said this isn’t a decision the administration wanted to make, especially given that for some students, this is their only sport. He did stress that not many of the schools surveyed from a couple of leagues are allowing wrestling.
Another interesting call for the town and schools has to do with continued testing of staff and students who have been fully vaccinated. The scientific community has serious questions about the value of testing those who have been vaccinated, said Dr. Shira Doron, a Wellesley resident and Tufts Medical Center epidemiologist who has become a regular contributor at Board of Health meetings.
This goes back to the “positive predictive value of a test when the pretest probability is low,” she said, noting that it’s way more likely for a fully vaccinated person to have a false-positive on a COVID-19 PCR test than to actually be positive. This can result in unnecessary isolation for the person tested and unnecessary quarantines for close contacts. One challenge is that the Centers for Disease Control hasn’t issued guidelines for schools doing asymptomatic testing, and likely won’t, she said.
The Board of Health will look to make a recommendation on this matter in weeks to come.
Health Department round-up
Other items of note from the Board of Health meeting:
- COVID-19 case counts in town are trending in the right direction, with just a couple cases a day. However, all eyes will be on Wellesley Public School testing results this week in the wake of April vacation. There have already been at least a few cases connected to travel over the break.
- Mark Kline, the clinical psychologist who serves as executive director for the Human Relations Service, is leaving that position, and the mental health agency has hired an outfit to begin the search for a replacement.
- The town has been reaching out to residents who might have issues, such as transportation, preventing them from getting vaccinated. Wellesley has funds available to provide transportation to these individuals, and is beginning to offer this service.
- A Freedom of Information Act request has been made to the town (and other communities) to find out how many fines or citations it doled out for COVID-19 rule violations during the pandemic. The answer in Wellesley, according to Izzo, is none. While there were violations, the Health Department chose to treat these situations as educational opportunities, and worked with organizations to get them into compliance.