Haverhill continues to be in the red, high-risk zone for COVID-19, although health officials say they are seeing a slight drop in infections in the community.

They continue asking residents to practice social distancing, wear masks, wash their hands often and avoid large gatherings — things that appear to be simple but can add up to big improvements in the community, health officials say.

Most of the recent COVID-19 cases in Haverhill have been among people in their 20s to 40s, many of whom were exposed to the virus in the workplace, according to city health nurse Mary Connolly.

"We are starting to see a small improvement,'' she said of the number of cases, "but we're not where we want to be.''

The city reported 69 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, 59 on Monday, 67 on Sunday, 80 on Saturday, 102 on Friday and 108 on Thursday of last week.

According to the state's latest COVID-19 public health report released Jan. 7, Haverhill had a positivity rate of 10.73%, slightly down from 10.95% the previous week. The positivity rate represents the percentage of people tested for the virus compared to the percentage found to be infected.

Over the most recent 14-day reporting period, 8,279 tests were administered and of those, 888 were positive for COVID-19, yielding the 10.73% positivity rate. Mayor James Fiorentini said the positivity rate is the best indicator of the level of spread of COVID-19 in the city.

Connolly said the latest report from the state should provide insight into the level of spread resulting from New Year's gatherings because infections tend to emerge a week or two after a person is exposed to the virus.

According to a vaccination schedule determined by the state Department of Health, vaccinations are being distributed in order of priority to healthcare workers, nursing home patients and staff, first responders and others in congregate settings through February. This week, vaccinations for first responders began in Haverhill.

Thirty firefighters received vaccinations Monday from Connolly, while 50 other firefighters made appointments for clinics happening later in the week, according to the mayor's spokesman, Shawn Regan. After this week, about 75% of Fire Department members will be vaccinated, Regan said.

Connolly planned to vaccinate Haverhill police officers at the police station on Tuesday and Thursday of this week, Regan said. Haverhill's Moderna doses, which arrived late last week, have been kept under lock and key at an undisclosed location, according to the mayor's office.

"I'd like to encourage people to visit mass.gov to learn when and where vaccines will be available for the general public," Connolly said.

Teachers and adults over 65 are in the second group that will receive the vaccine starting in February, according to the state's schedule. Vaccines should be available to the general public in April, officials said.

 

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