COVID cases climb as Brockton-area officials adapt to a new normal

The Massachusetts Statehouse. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

By Anna Guaracao

Boston University Statehouse Program

The Massachusetts Statehouse. (Photo by Ana Goni-Lessan/BU News Service)

BROCKTON — COVID-19 cases in Brockton have increased and continue to see over a 5% positivity rate in the past few weeks, even though President Joe Biden and local leaders have started to consider the pandemic as a concern of the past. 

“The pandemic is over,” Eno Mondesir, Brockton’s executive health officer, said, agreeing with the president’s controversial statement on Sept. 18 in an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes.”

Mondesir said that despite no official statements from the White House or federal and state-level health departments, many health officials nationwide are considering COVID-19 as entering its endemic phase and changing their prevention responses.

But the virus continues to spread. 

Since Sept. 22, there have been 64 cases in the past week in Brockton, and the next day, according to local health officials, 24 more residents tested positive.

These numbers don’t include the positive results from at-home testing, and with its high positivity rate per 100,000 people, the area is in the “red” category outlined by the state Department of Public Health.

“It’s estimated that the number of cases really is about three times the number of PCR tests,” Dr. Richard Herman, Brockton’s pandemic consultant, said in the city’s weekly COVID-19 update. “We’re seeing about 15 cases a day, so really, probably closer to 45 cases a day in [Brockton].”

Herman said that the positivity rate is similar in neighboring towns.

“If we look at our neighbors in the towns surrounding Brockton, you can see likewise, the percent positivity all greater than 5%,” he said. “The percentage has really remained steady over the past week.”

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Two weeks ago, Brockton had 164 cases, and since Sept. 22, the community has seen an over 8% increase with about 178 active cases. 

This increase in cases reflects trends statewide.

In the past week, DPH reported over 9,000 confirmed cases in Massachusetts, contributing to a positivity rate that has increased from 7.32 to 7.48%. 

Locally, several other areas are above the state’s 14-day average positivity rate, with Raynham and Stoughton experiencing over a 15% positivity rate and West Bridgewater and Brockton seeing about 13%. 

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Since Sept. 22, Bristol, Norfolk, and Plymouth counties have reported at least 20 confirmed deaths—almost half of the state’s total count. 

There have been no new deaths in the past few days in Brockton, and local health officials hope to keep it that way. 

Although COVID-19 cases are significantly lower than a year ago and COVID-19 prevention and awareness initiatives have started to disappear locally and statewide — like the mask mandate and daily COVID-19 reports — Mondesir said residents should still be concerned about contracting the virus. 

He hopes everyone will continue taking precautions to protect themselves and the populations most at risk for complications, like the elderly and the immunocompromised.

“We still encourage people to be cognizant where they are and where they are going,” said Mondesir. “We encourage people to wear masks and if people test positive to observe isolation protocol.”

He also pointed to the several existing initiatives to protect its community members against the disease, including wastewater testing to identify the extent of the virus’s presence in the area and weekly free vaccine clinics in the downtown area like Brockton’s City Hall or the Cape Verdean Association. 

Brockton is one of the state’s 20 prioritized communities as a part of the Vaccine Equity Initiative, which customizes data reports so health officials can identify health equity gaps and work towards higher vaccination rates.

As a part of this program, municipalities received 175,882 vaccine doses, and 26 Brockton-based organizations received over $3.5 million

Still, vaccination rates in Brockton are lower than in the state

As of Sept. 26, in Brockton, 66% of the population is fully vaccinated compared to 78% statewide.

The booster rates are even lower, especially among older adults, with just over half of Brockton residents 50 and older who have received their first booster, or 54%. And only 15% have received their second. 

Brockton’s leaders hope to narrow that gap.

“[The Mayor’s Wellness Trust Team] periodically do city events so we can keep the community resources available,” said John Messina, Brockton’s director of constituent services. “We keep vaccines available and pass on PPE and testing kits to nonprofits and the various communities within the city of Brockton.”

The wellness trust team’s next event, “Fall into Wellness,” is on Oct. 22 and will offer a free vaccination clinic for anyone living in the region. 

Mondesir said that since the pandemic’s onset, more than 500 people in Brockton have lost their lives to COVID-19, so despite efforts to prevent transmission receding, one action remains constant for him and the city — vaccination distribution to prevent an increase in the death count. 

“We lost 504 people due to COVID, and that is a major reason people should get vaccinated,” Mondesir said. 

“To prevent themselves from being sick or even on the verge of getting so sick that they might die.”

This story originally appeared in The Enterprise.

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