WESTFIELD, NJ — A 63-year-old town resident is the latest local person to die from COVID-19 — the first Westfield coronavirus death since July — and one that comes amid a dramatic rise in cases, the mayor said.

The death — Westfield’s 44th — comes as the Westfield Regional Health Department reports that it received reports of 83 coronavirus cases in people ranging in age from 2 to 94 during the past seven days, Mayor Shelley Brindle said in her coronavirus update Friday. Since the pandemic’s start, it is highest number of cases the health department has seen over the course of any seven days in Westfield, she said.

Two Westfield residents remain hospitalized with COVID-19 as area hospitals report an increase in cases, Brindle said. These developments come amid a rise in cases across the regional health department’s eight-town coverage area and statewide, she said, citing figures from Health Officer Megan Avallone.

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“Across the eight towns managed by the Westfield Regional Health Department, there were 315 new cases investigated this week (up from 200 last week),” Brindle said. “There were also four deaths, which, like Westfield, are the first seen since July. The vast majority of the state, including our region, has entered the high-risk matrix level, and the deep concern remains that the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday weekend can result in additional community spread.”

Brindle noted the promising news of vaccines that may be delivered to New Jersey as early as December, according to state officials, while also saying that they may take many months before they are broadly distributed.

“As we wait for these vaccines, we must continue to be vigilant,” Brindle said. “I know that COVID fatigue is very real for everyone, but please continue to take all necessary precautions at this critical time.

“An indoor gathering for Thanksgiving with those who don’t live in your home is very strongly discouraged as the rate of transmission continues to remain elevated. These indoor gatherings, multiplied across Thanksgiving tables throughout the area, can have a drastic negative impact on the community spread of this virus.”

The state’s COVID-19 dashboard on Friday showed the rate of transmission at 1.4. Any number above one 1 means the outbreak is expanding.

Also on Friday, School District Superintendent Margaret Dolan warned in a letter to families that Westfield Public Schools may have to soon switch to all remote learning.

“I ask that you be prepared for any eventuality and that students and staff bring home all materials necessary for remote learning,” Dolan said. “As I have mentioned before, there understandably is a wide variety of opinion on whether our schools should remain open, especially around the holidays.”

She added that 75% of the district’s students are receiving a combination of remote and in-person learning.

“My decisions are, and will continue to be, based on the data and the recommendations of our local and state public health officials,” Dolan said.

Email Matt Kadosh at mkadosh@tapinto.net | Twitter: @Matt Kadosh

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