Wellesley COVID-19 update: Indoor mask advisory; schools sign on for pool testing; latest town numbers

Wellesley has added an indoor mask advisory that urges people ages 5 and up to where a mask when indoors in public settings to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant.

Here’s the full text of the Wellesley Board of Health advisory: “In light of the recent increase in the COVID Virus Delta variant, which has proven to be significantly more transmissible, we are strongly advising that individuals over the age of 5 wear a mask that covers the nose and mouth when indoors in a public setting, regardless of their vaccination status. Please understand that information and data is changing rapidly, and we are doing our best to respond in a thoughtful and expedient manner. As additional information is released from the CDC and Massachusetts Department of Public Health our decisions may change. It’s important that we all remain flexible and vigilant during these times.

The town previously issued an indoor mask mandate for municipal buildings.

Schools sign on for pool testing

Wellesley Public Schools Supt. Dr. David Lussier said during Sept. 9 Board of Health meeting that the School Department has decided to take the state up on all 3 testing programs being offering. Lussier had previously informed the WPS community that plans were to take part in the state’s viral testing program, which includes on-site rapid/antigen tests for those who exhibit COVID symptoms at school as well as for asymptomatic close contacts. The hope was that this will allow more students and staff to remain at school.

With vaccination rates high and COVID-19 case numbers low, it didn’t appear WPS would return to pool (surveillance) testing, though some parents in recent weeks have pushed for that in light of the Delta variant’s rise and the lack of vaccination approval for younger students. Lussier said WPS decided to take part in the state’s pool testing program after all for pre-K through 6th grade after seeing the state with its hands full accommodating demand for the other types of testing. WPS didn’t want to get into a position down the line where it needed the pool testing, which involves interior nasal swabs, and the state wouldn’t be able to provide the resources. As he noted, “massive planning” is required for pool testing.

As for the close contact testing already underway, Lussier would like to see more state guidance on close contacts, such as whether this pertains to just in-school contacts. Even a couple of positive COVID-19 cases can result in dozens of close contacts depending on how you define them.

The public can now again track the COVID-19 case count action at Wellesley Public Schools thanks to reactivation of this dashboard.

Latest town numbers

Here are the latest weekly Massachusetts Department of Public Health vaccination figures for Wellesley. The overall vaccination rate remains at 66%, with increases of not more than 1% in any age category. The state figures include some curiosities, including that more individuals in the 50-64 age category are shown having at least one dose than there are individuals in that segment of the population. Also the 20-19 age category might be wonky due to how college students’ vaccinations are accounted for, including those who go to college in town.

Wellesley says it is averaging 4.4 COVID cases per day, though down in the 3s if you exclude students at colleges in town. The positivity rate per test is low at 0.6%, in part because of an increase in testing of asymptomatic people.

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