MILFORD – Schools in the city will switch to an entirely remote model next week, following a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases across the city since the end of October.
“A lot of people think the school is the canary in the coal mine,” said public health director Jacquelyn Murphy, noting that the closure of the school itself in Milford is linked to the spread in the community. , and not to an epidemic in any of the school buildings. “If the schools are closed, things must be really bad. “
After a summer in which 1 in 15 cases were reported each week, new cases climbed among adolescents in late September and stayed there or slightly more, giving the community four consecutive weeks of “red” status or more. high risk of the condition.
Milford fell into the “yellow” zone for a week under the state’s more relaxed categorizations, but has since reverted to red.
“One of the issues we’re seeing in the community is that our numbers are growing at a pretty big rate,” Milford Public Schools Superintendent Kevin McIntyre said.
The week of October 29, the city recorded its highest number of new cases, 55, since May, up from 19 the week before. The week of November 5, Milford saw 79 new cases.
There have been 964 total cases in the city since the start of the pandemic and 68 deaths. Milford’s positivity rate last week was 5.83%, down from 3.33% the week before.
Milford’s figures are for residents of Milford who test positive and are separate from Milford Regional Medical Center cases.
“Pretty much everywhere,” that’s where the city’s cases are coming from, Murphy said. “We see, I would say, small but frequent and in some cases large clusters. “
There is no evidence of transmission in schools, McIntyre said, but the city has on average just under three student cases of COVID-19 for the first 10 weeks of blended learning, and in recent weeks , six or seven students tested positive.
Murphy said she sees the virus spreading through neighborhoods.
“He’s kind of moving down a street because of these… informal gatherings that people perceive as a space,” she said.
Coming out of the red and tackling the number of Milford escalation cases means avoiding not only big parties but also game nights, dinners and other small informal gatherings, Murphy said.
“It really depends on whether sick people stay away from healthy people,” she said. “Stop getting together, basically, which is really sad, and I know everyone is fed up.” But that’s what we need to do for each other right now.
The relationship between social gatherings and the virus is cyclical, she added.
The gatherings are helping to spread COVID-19, which means there are more cases in the community. This makes gatherings more likely to include an infected guest and continue to spread.
“This cycle will unfortunately continue to increase our number of COVID-19 cases,” Murphy wrote in an email. “The power to turn the tide is in the hands of community members. “
Distance education will last for four weeks and will reflect the experience of approximately 20% of students who have already chosen the full distance option. Although school days vary by level and subject, that typically means around three or four hours of Zoom lessons, and two to three additional hours of self-employment, McIntyre said.
The Hockomock YMCA will expand its current remote child care program next week, with options to enroll children in five- or three-day programs. Called Out of School Time Support, the program helps families who cannot stay at home with their children by providing the Milford Youth Center with people who can supervise and help children who attend classes remotely during the school day.
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The program is available in a handful of communities.
“I know child care has been a problem since the start of the year,” McIntyre said, acknowledging the compulsion to walk away altogether.
He hopes the COVID-19 numbers stabilize, he said.
As usual, Murphy implored residents to keep their distance from people they don’t live with, wear masks, stay home if they feel unwell – except to take a COVID-19 test – and to quarantine themselves properly if asked to do so.
McIntyre also called on families to follow guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“We are heading into a particularly difficult time for this as we head into the holiday season,” he said.
Anyone with questions or looking for a place to take the COVID-19 test can contact the Milford Health Department at 508-634-2315.
Alison Bosma can be reached at 508-634-7582 or at [email protected] Find her on Twitter at @AlisonBosma.