Worcester leaders concerned about uptick in COVID-19 cases

Worcester leaders concerned about uptick in COVID-19 cases

WORCESTER — Worcester city leaders are getting concerned about an uptick in COVID-19 cases after seeing an increase for the third consecutive week.

City leaders held a news conference Wednesday for the first time since June to say they’ll start to get aggressive with handing out fines to businesses and people not complying with the COVID-19 guidelines.

They’ve received hundreds of complaints for businesses not following the rules for mask-wearing and social distancing.

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“We’re asking for folks to continue their vigilance,” said Ed Augustus, Worcester city manager. “Individuals are bringing it home to their household and then infecting other folks in those households.”

The biggest trend they’ve noticed is more than a dozen clusters of cases where families are gathering and spreading it to each other or their neighbors.

Worcester is tracking those hot spots in specific neighborhoods.

“So it really is important even if you’re a family getting together that you continue to abide by that social distancing and the mask wearing,” said Augustus.

While the city tries to stop the spread of the virus, they’re also working on a program to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine as quickly as possible once it’s available.

UMass Memorial hospital is one of only a few in this region to offer the Phase 3 trial vaccine over the next couple weeks.

“We are planning for the opportunity to offer mass vaccinations to the community once a vaccine is provided and particularly looking at some disproportionately impacted neighborhoods and communities,” said Augustus.

Right now, Worcester city leaders plan to set up about a dozen sites throughout the city to offer the COVID-19 vaccine early next year or whenever it’s ready.

“In the meantime, we’re going to test that system by trying to distribute our flu vaccine that way,” said Dr. Michael Hirsh of UMass Memorial HealthCare.

Dr. Hirsh hopes the flu shot will be available earlier than usual in September in the hopes that more people will get it this year, so that hospitals aren’t overwhelmed with both COVID19 cases and the flu.

“They’ve worked so long and so hard on that first wave I think to go backwards would be a sense of defeat,” said Dr. Hirsh.

Dr. Hirsh says he’s also concerned about the estimated 25,000 college students coming to Worcester over the next few weeks before the fall semester that could contribute to another spike in cases, so he hopes the public stays extra vigilant in the coming weeks.

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