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COVID-19 Update, Dec 29: 34,829 Cases

For Immediate Release: 12/29/2021 3:31 pm

The City was recently allotted 135,540 rapid antigen COVID-19 tests from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and immediately began targeted distribution through local community groups, social service agencies, and faith-based organizations to make the kits available to at-risk individuals and families across Worcester who may not otherwise have access to testing.

To date, 100,000 tests have been distributed through our partners at the Worcester County Food Bank, United Way, Central MA Housing Authority, South East Asian Coalition, and about 40 other local organizations serving our elderly, veterans, homeless, immigrants and refugees, children, those in recovery, and other vulnerable or disadvantaged populations.

For a list of participating organizations, click here.

Individuals who visit a free, walk-up vaccine clinic at the Main Branch of the Worcester Public Library and gets a first, second, or third vaccine dose can pick up a free test kit while supplies last. Clinics are held Wednesdays from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m., and Saturdays (not including New Year’s Day) from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

To date, there have been 34,829 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in the City of Worcester an increase of 1,817 cases from the total last Wednesday and an increase of 3,337 from the last press conference, just 3 weeks ago on December 10.

The City’s 7-day average is 259.6. At our last briefing on Dec 10 that number was 131 per day.

Shrewsbury: 4,639 (+300 from last week)
Grafton: 2,018 (+137 from last week)
To date, 475 Worcester residents have succumbed to the virus (+5 from last week, +7 since 12/10)

173 total COVID-positive in-patients (+7 from last week, +40 from 12/10)
56 total COVID-positive ICU patients (+20 from 12/10)
902 total COVID-related deaths (+9 from last week, +37 from 10/22) to date

There is substantial community spread and the highly contagious Omicron variant is now officially present and contributing to the post-holiday surge. Current caseload could be significantly undercounted due to unreported at-home positive tests.

Do your part to protect yourself and others, and to keep hospital beds and staff available, by wearing a mask, getting vaccinated and boosted when eligible, getting tested, and following social distancing when possible. If you do test positive, please immediately begin isolating and reaching out to anyone you may have been in close contact with.

The Citywide mask mandate remains in place.

To address the rising case counts, City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr. has signed an Executive Order updating the vaccination policy for City employees and limiting capacity in municipal buildings:

• Effective February 1, all City employees must receive a booster shot within 14 days of becoming eligible
• Those who are not boosted in this timeframe must enter the weekly testing protocol.
• Worcester public schools will be implementing similar changes for staff and faculty

84% of City employees and 73% of School employees are now currently vaccinated; however, there are currently at least 41 positive cases with dozens more tests pending due to possible exposures. The booster will help mitigate further spread and illness.

Prior to the December holiday, the City executed a series of 10 clinics at City sites, where 343 employees got their booster shots. We will continue to offer workplace clinics to make it easy for employee to receive their vaccine and booster.

Today’s Executive Order will also implement the following changes effective January 1 through January 31, with the possibility of extension:

• Public capacity inside all municipal buildings will be limited to 25% and we will again employ building monitors to help enforce that capacity, as well as our mask mandate

• All City board and commission meetings will transition to a virtual format

• The Worcester Senior Center will be closed to in-person programming, but virtual programs will be available, including exercise programs, concerts, book clubs, and the Distinguished Speaker Series. Programming can be viewed on WSC Stay Connected Channel 192 (Worcester Govt. Channel) as well as via the Center’s YouTube Channel, Facebook page, and website. Multicultural elder group coordinators will remain in touch with their groups virtually, and Senior Services staff will continue to assist with personal matters such as applications for housing, fuel assistance, SNAP and more. Important messages will be delivered to registered seniors via robo calls, email and Facebook. o Please email elderaffairs@worcesterma.gov or call 508-799-1232 for more information.

58% (120,420) of the total population in Worcester is fully vaccinated (+1% from 12/10)
69% (141,554) have received at least one dose (+2% from 12/10)
39,495 individuals have received a third vaccination – or booster – dose (+14% increase from 12/10). This number does not include those who have received a booster after being fully vaccinated with the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, so the total number of boosters is actually higher.

1,273 doses were administered last week through the City’s Mobile Vaccination Clinics, including last Wednesday’s Library clinic, where 535 doses were distributed – the highest single day total since the Library clinic began.

7,305 total doses at Worcester schools (+1,400 since 12/10)

All three vaccines and both boosters will continue to be available at the City’s mobile vaccination clinics and most clinics being offered through the City. Click here for more 

A reminder that anyone in Massachusetts aged 18 and up is eligible to receive their booster six months after receiving the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or two months after receiving a Johnson & Johnson single dose vaccine. And those ages 16 and 17 are now eligible for the Pfizer booster.

Starting today, the City will resume weekly press conferences for the month of January.
As we approach 2022, we would like everyone to be able to celebrate the New Year safely.

As World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus recently said, “An event canceled is better than a life canceled.”

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