City Nurse Sees Encouraging News in Rate of Positive Cases

The percentages of residents testing positive for COVID-19 continues to go down in Everett, and Public Health Nurse Sabrina Firicano said she is taking that as very good news.

While the numbers of cases is on the rise and will likely show greater increases, Firicano said that is a result of much more testing being done and being available to residents – particularly with the drive-thru testing site open to all at the CHA Malden health center. That, along with extensive testing in nursing homes and senior citizen buildings, will likely drive up the case count, but it is another statistic that is good news to Firicano.

That stat is the percentage of residents that test positive, and that number is steadily dropping.

“We’re continuing to monitor all the numbers,” she said. “One thing that has stuck out over the past 10 days is the positivity rate of the numbers of people tested has been dropping. As of Monday, when the state issued its report, our positivity rate was 10 percent. It hasn’t been that low since March 24.”

The rate of positive tests compared to total tests has been higher in various communities. Places like East Boston have seen a positivity rate of nearly 50 percent, while other places see somewhere between 25 and 30 percent. Everett’s number has been around 15 percent, then went up to 19 percent, and on Sunday was down to 12 percent.

The state report confirmed a lower rate of 10 percent positivity.

That number is a key stat to watch, she said, rather than the numbers of cases, which as of Tuesday were 1,178 positive cases. There had been 201 people who recovered by Tuesday, and 19 had passed away from COVID-19.

“We will see an increase in numbers coming up because we have greater access to testing,” she said. “More people can be tested…and we are seeing a lot of people take that up. It gives everybody the opportunity to be tested if they want to be tested.”

Right now, at the CHA Malden facility, any Everett resident can be tested whether they have symptoms or not. Results are usually available quickly and it gives people peace of mind to have the information, Firicano said. That effort came with the collaboration of Mayor Carlo DeMaria and CHA as they announced the drive-thru last week.

Meanwhile, there is likely to be an increase in overall numbers of cases because the state has come in to assist by testing everyone at nursing homes in the city. They have already tested the Everett Nursing and Rehabilitation facility and are waiting on results. They will also test all the senior citizen buildings in the city as well, but those tests are not mandatory and will be available only to those who consent.

“We could have a big spike in numbers, but that could be only because we have one facility that has tested and there are a lot of cases,” she said.

•WEAR A MASK

Gov. Charlie Baker has required that all people wear a mask when outside their homes starting today, May 6, and Firicano suggests that is a good idea as well.

She said most people are following that advice already, but some find it difficult when exercising.

“I know if people are walking or running, it can be difficult to breath with a mask on,” she said. “As long as you have it around and can lift it up a little to get air and put it back on, that’s ok. You should always have it available on you so if you come across people you can lift if up. It doesn’t have to be an N95 respirator, but a covering, even fabric.”

•SUMMER ACTIVITIES IN FLUX

As the better weather begins, there are questions about youth sports – like Little League and summer softball – as well as Independence Day celebrations.

No one is quite sure what will happen, but Firicano said it probably isn’t a good idea to have things like Little League and other large gatherings this summer.

“While kids may not get sick as often, they can be carriers,” she said. “With Little League and youth sports, you have parents and grandparents coming to watch. You have to worry about who is touching the ball…As much as it can be great to get back to some normalcy, we have to consider we don’t know yet the long-term effects of the virus. It could put us at a disadvantage if we get everyone together cheering on a child at Little League.”

While that seems to be the awful reality of the summer ahead, City officials are trying to think about things like Independence Day celebrations and movie nights as well. All of it, Firicano said, will require considering the public health risks before planning any sorts of celebrations.

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