To the Editor:
The Westfield Board of Health met on Sept. 14.
The Board discussed the progress and accomplishments of the Westfield Regional Health Department in responding to the pandemic of Covid-19 in Westfield and our seven contract neighboring municipalities. Although the situation in town had stabilized this past month, proven preventive measures are still needed because of the increased Covid-19 activity in other parts of New Jersey and many other states.
These preventive measures include: stay socially connected while keeping a physical distance of 6 feet; wear a facial covering in public when not appropriately distanced; wash hands often; and stay home when ill. People who have had potential contact with the SARS-CoV-2 virus should be in quarantine for 14 days. They should remain in quarantine despite the results of any tests for Covid-19 because of the variable time from contact and infection to illness (the incubation period).
The health department has a team of professionals who will pursue contact tracing if a resident is infected and has potentially exposed others. If you get a call from the health department, please COOPERATE. Please do YOUR part to keep your family, friends and community safe. This must include being honest about any potential exposures you have had or persons you may have exposed. Any information you share with a town contact tracer will be held in strict medical confidentiality.
Since the situation is very fluid, residents are recommended to subscribe to the Westfield Covid-19 Updates. Click here to see the updates. These information summaries, periodically issued by the Mayor, include local data and case information, prevention tips, guidance and changes in the town and state. In addition, residents have complete access to the town’s Coronavirus Resource Center, which includes information about what you can do to protect yourself and your family. It highlights local, school, business, mental health, police, health department, state and federal services and resources.
The schools in town reopened and the health department has been providing consultations and assistance to the Board of Education. The schools are doing their part by following the State and Board of Health guidance and using proven measures to control the transmission of the novel coronavirus. These measures allowed students, teachers and staff to resume educational activities in all of our schools.
However, as this letter was being written, Westfield High School resumed all remote learning for two weeks. The State rules require this measure to be taken when at least 2 students in different classrooms are diagnosed with Covid-19 without an easily identified clear exposure connection. Of note, there are also anecdotal reports that some students follow precautions in school but stop doing so as soon as they leave school grounds. Actions have consequences, and we are sadly seeing this at the high school now.
The proven good health habits followed in school by the children and teenagers should also be followed when they are out of school, both by students and their families. The community must rely on parents to model the healthy behaviors summarized above. However, if enough people choose to disregard proven individual prevention measures, then the incidence of infections may increase and additional community mitigation efforts may be needed, including the closing of school buildings.
Procedures in nursing homes have also been adapted to better control possible virus activity and transmission, so we are not seeing the terrible toll that was present in the early days of the pandemic.
Business activity, including restaurants and indoor dining, is also expanding. The health department is maintaining its high alert and vigilance to follow-up on an expected increase in virus transmission as more community activities expand.
In other business, the Board discussed the special need for all adults and children over 2 years old to get vaccinated against the flu this year. Click here for more information. There will be flu vaccination sites throughout town at local pharmacies and health care providers. In addition, the health department can vaccinate anyone who is uninsured or underinsured. Please call the health department at 908-789-4070 for more information.
We also need to continue to vaccinate children against other communicable diseases. For example, chickenpox, pertussis and measles are still present and so all NJ school immunization requirements will continue to be enforced. Parents should ensure that their children get their routine check-ups and vaccinations.
Similarly, adults should continue to get their needed preventive medical exams, such as breast and colorectal cancer screenings, and to seek medical care if they are ill.
Information about the health department’s activities, free education programs and helpful health-related advice and recommendations is available at https://www.westfieldnj.gov/health. The department’s monthly newsletter, Your Health Matters, recently highlighted emergency preparedness, suicide prevention and mental health and substance abuse issues. It is available on the department’s website in the September Newsletter tab. You can sign up to receive health department information here.
The complete minutes of the Sept. 14 meeting will be posted after review and approval at our Oct. 5 meeting at 5:30 p.m., to which the public is invited to attend.
Lawrence D. Budnick, MD, MPH
President, Westfield Board of Health