As you may be aware, the Biden Administration is offering free rapid tests to all residents in the United States. The pre-order period for the at-home COVID-19 tests via www.covidtests.gov has begun. Every household in the U.S. is eligible to order four free at-home COVID-19 tests. The tests are completely free and will usually ship in 7-12 days.
ABOUT THE AT-HOME COVID-19 TESTS
The tests available for order: Are rapid antigen at-home tests, not PCRCan be taken anywhereGive results within 30 minutes (no lab drop-off required)Work whether or not you have COVID-19 symptomsWork whether or not you are up to date on your COVID-19 vaccinesAre also referred to as self-tests or over-the-counter (OTC) tests
Pre-order period for the at-home tests via www.covidtests.gov starts this week, on Wednesday, January 19th.
WHA RESIDENT NEWSLETTER LATEST UPDATE - DECEMBER 22, 2021
The holidays are upon us and with the Omicron variant now spreading through the country, it looks like we’re facing another year of COVID-19 not going away. While Omicron appears to spread faster and easier than previous variants, its symptoms appear to be less severe. However, over 1,000 people per day are still dying from COVID-19 infections in the United States, mostly from the Delta variant, which has not gone away. With holiday parties and gatherings now in full swing and people letting their guard down, cases are increasing quickly. We are already seeing evidence of that here at the WHA with an alarming number of residents being exposed to or testing positive for COVID in recent weeks, particularly in our family sites.
In an interview with ABC News on Wednesday, December 8th, UMass Memorial Health Care President and CEO Dr. Eric Dickson told reporters that "we, right now, have more patients in the hospital, overall, than we have had at either of the two peaks previously. You come in one day and you say this is the worst we've ever seen it and you come back the next day and it's even worse." According to Dickson, many of the hospitals in the UMass Memorial health care system are currently at-capacity. At UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, all 450 beds, which are typically available, are full.
In Boston, Mayor Michelle Wu has rolled out an aggressive response to rising cases. Beginning Jan. 15, people aged 12 and up will have to present proof of at least one vaccination dose for access to gyms, restaurants, entertainment venues, and museums in Boston. Worcester isn’t likely to be far behind. Every reputable public health professional has confirmed that the best way to stop the spread of the virus is vaccination. Mutations and new variants are emerging because the virus is finding unvaccinated people to infect and to mutate through. This is science. Trust the facts, get the vax.
FREE HOME TESTING KITS FOR RESIDENTS!
The WHA has received 2,000 free, at-home COVID-19 test kits from the City of Worcester for distribution to residents. Kits have been distributed at a number of sites and residents have been notified via robocall. Supply is limited and first-come, first-serve. If you would like a kit, please contact Resident Services at
508-635-3306 or your property management office to check availability.
STAY SAFE THIS HOLIDAY SEASON!
In Massachusetts, there have been 947,625 total confirmed cases of COVID-19. Of those, 100,399 are “breakthrough” cases (meaning the infected person was vaccinated). The remaining 847,226 were unvaccinated.
The CDC has reported that the Omicron variant has accounted for 73% of new infections last week, nearly a six-fold increase in Omicron's share of U.S. infections in just seven days.
TIPS FOR SAFE HOLIDAYS
• Get vaccinated! Children and adults age 5 and up should get a COVID-19 vaccine. • Gathering with family outside of your immediate household? Get tested before you get together! • Feeling ill? Stay home! Even if it’s just a cold or flu, you could put your loved ones at risk. • Wash your hands frequently, particularly before preparing, serving, or eating food. • Don’t touch your face! The virus enters through your nose, mouth, or eyes. Keep your hands away. • Wear a mask when in public places or around those who are immune-compromised.
If it’s been six months since you got the second COVID vaccine dose and you’re over the age of 16, it’s time to book in for your booster shot. This will provide additional protection against COVID, including the Omicron variant.
In Israel, people who received a booster dose (five or more months after completing vaccination) had infection rates ten times lower than in people who had only received the initial two-dose course.
Pfizer has said that while two doses may not be protective enough to prevent Omicron infection, lab tests showed a booster increased by 25-fold people's levels of virus-fighting antibodies. For Moderna, the booster increased those antibody levels 37-fold.
The CDC has said the risk of infection is 8x higher in the unvaccinated than the vaccinated, and the risk of hospitalization or death is 25x higher.
WHA RESIDENT NEWSLETTER LATEST UPDATE - AUGUST 11, 2021
The Delta variant – what you need to know
After a sharp drop in COVID infections in the first half of the year, many states have seen numbers inching up recently as the Delta variant – a highly infectious, contagious, and more severe strain – started to quickly spread, particularly among a younger demographic as states eased restrictions.
This strain is also causing “breakthrough” cases in fully-vaccinated persons. A recent outbreak in Provincetown, MA made headlines after hundreds were infected, including many fully-vaccinated persons
(74%). Very few of those infected in this outbreak were hospitalized, and none died, proving that the vaccines work as expected to prevent severe illness and death from COVID-19.
In total, out of approximately 164 million people vaccinated nationwide, there have been 125,682 breakthrough cases since January. This sounds like a lot, but it breaks down to 0.08%. Thinking about it in another way, 99.92% of vaccinated people have not had a breakthrough infection – pretty solid odds! On the contrary, almost 99% of hospitalized patients infected with COVID-19 are UNVACCINATED.
How did we end up with Delta?
It is important to understand the science behind mutations and vaccination. Viruses aren’t living things - they need a host (you) to survive. Once a virus enters your body, it reproduces and spreads. The more a virus circulates in a population of people, the more it can change and mutate. Every time the virus jumps to a new person, its chance of mutation increases. However, if the virus keeps running into vaccinated people, it hits a wall and can’t keep spreading. Decreasing the number of infections through vaccination is the best way to stop community spread and prevent new variants from developing.
How bad is it in our community?
On August 2, 2021, there were 883 new, confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported in Massachusetts. There are currently 226 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, 51 in ICU and 16 who are intubated. What is most concerning about this variant is the population most impacted – the younger, 20-40 age group.
As of July 6, 78% of the eligible population in MA have had at least one dose of the vaccine. 70% are fully vaccinated. While Massachusetts is faring better than other states, updated data from the CDC now shows nine Massachusetts counties, including Worcester, at either substantial or high risk. Last week, the CDC said that even fully vaccinated individuals in such areas should wear masks when in public indoor settings.
Confirmed cases by age during the last two weeks *Data updated weekly
Age group (years)
WHAT CAN YOU DO
• The WHA is not currently making any changes to existing COVID-related protocols, but will be watching the numbers closely and responding quickly to changes in public health guidance. • Unvaccinated persons must continue to mask on WHA property when outside of their unit. Vaccinated individuals are encouraged to mask in public spaces, especially when in close contact with others from outside of your household. Sanitize, keep your hands away from your face, and use caution around those at high-risk. • GET VACCINATED! Now is the time. In most hospitals, over 99% of COVID patients in ICU are unvaccinated. Many beg for the vaccine as they lay dying in hospital beds without their loved ones. For them, it’s too late. For you, it’s not. The Delta variant is as contagious as chicken pox, spreading quickly and hitting even young and healthy people hard, including children. Talk to your doctor and get reliable, professional, educated advice. • Worried about side effects? The vaccine is not live and leaves the body within 72 hours. The antibodies created by your own immune system is what sticks around. Serious side effects from the vaccine are extremely rare and the vast majority occur within 6-8 weeks of receiving the shot. In contrast, the long term effects of COVID can be devastating, including permanent lung damage, permanent loss of taste or smell, and cognitive issues, like brain fog and memory loss. Millions of people around the globe have been vaccinated to date without issue. What are you still waiting for?
FROM THE FRONTLINES
"As Mindy Greene spent another day in the COVID intensive care unit, listening to the whirring machines that now breathed for her 42-year-old husband, Russ, she opened her phone and tapped out a message."
“We did not get the vaccine,” she wrote on Facebook. “I read all kinds of things about the vaccine and it scared me.
So I made the decision and prayed about it and got the impression that we would be ok.”
They were not.
Her husband, the father to their four children, was now hovering between life and death, tentacles of tubes spilling from his body. The patient in the room next to her husband’s had died hours earlier. That day, July 13, Greene decided to add her voice to an unlikely group of people speaking out in the polarized national debate over vaccination: the remorseful.
“If I had the information I have today we would have gotten vaccinated,” Greene wrote. Come what may, she hit send. “I have such incredible guilt,” Greene said one morning as she sat in the fourth-floor lobby outside the ICU at Utah Valley Hospital in Provo, which looks out to the mountains where her family once went hiking and four-wheeling. “I blame myself still. Every day.”
WHA RESIDENT NEWSLETTER LATEST UPDATE - May 28, 2021
After a year and a half of living through a pandemic, we are finally beginning to see a light at the end of this long tunnel. On May 13th, the CDC announced new guidance outlining that fully-vaccinated individuals no longer had to wear masks indoors, except in hospitals, on public transportation, and in other specified places. On May 17th, Governor Baker announced that effective May 29th,
• All industry restrictions in Massachusetts will be lifted;
• Capacity limits will increase to 100%;
• Gathering limits will be rescinded; and
• Fully-vaccinated individuals will no longer need to wear a mask or social distance indoors or outdoors except in certain situations.
Non-vaccinated individuals are advised to continue wearing face masks and to continue distancing in most settings., Masks will still be mandatory for everyone, (vaccinated or not) on public and private transportation, including rideshares, livery (such as Uber or Lyft), taxis, ferries, MBTA buses and trains, Commuter Rail trains, at transportation stations, in healthcare facilities, and in other settings hosting vulnerable populations, such as congregate care settings, as well as indoors for staff and students of K-12 schools and early education providers.
However, this latest guidance relies on the honor system - a hope and trust that unvaccinated individuals will continue masking and taking precautions, even though they are not required to show proof of vaccination. While as humans, we all hope that others will be responsible, accountable, honest, and respectful, we know it unfortunately doesn’t always work out that way.
Massachusetts leads the nation in vaccinating residents, with 75% of adults receiving at least one dose. 3.2 million Massachusetts residents are now fully-vaccinated. New cases have dropped by 89% since January 8th and hospitalizations are down 88% since January 1st. The vaccines are working!
Governor Baker also noted that businesses can set their own requirements. Please carefully read the next section to understand what is changing at the Worcester Housing Authority.
• WHA offices will remain closed to the public, except by appointment (Property Management and Family & Resident Services). If you need to speak to someone, call the appropriate office to set up an appointment. WHA staff are able to meet by telephone or virtual conference for everyone’s safety.
• Community rooms will remain closed, except for scheduled and pre-organized events in order to maintain safe social distancing and appropriate capacity.
• For everyone’s safety, Maintenance and Property Management staff will continue to wear masks when entering resident units, whether they are vaccinated or not.
• Fully vaccinated people can remove their masks both inside and outside of WHA buildings.
• If you’ve been exposed to someone who has COVID-19, or have traveled outside of the state, you are no longer required to quarantine or get tested for COVID-19 unless you have symptoms.
• The virus is not gone. Be safe, be smart. Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Clean and disinfect your spaces. Maintain social distance whenever possible.
• Unvaccinated persons must continue to wear masks and social distance at all times in public areas of WHA buildings, such as lobbies, elevators, hallways, community rooms, and laundry rooms.
• Unvaccinated persons can remove their masks when outside of WHA buildings, except when social distancing is not possible.
• You are at high risk for contracting COVID-19 and spreading it to others. Be personally accountable. The virus is not gone. Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Clean and disinfect your spaces.face. Clean and disinfect your spaces.
As you are aware, concerns about the COVID-19 virus (aka coronavirus) are increasing and, as with other businesses around the country, the WHA is actively monitoring developments and will do whatever is necessary to protect our staff and residents. The virus symptoms manifest as a mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) believes at this time that symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure.
The WHA is working diligently to provide all staff and residents the provide all information pertenint to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 situation.
While we are always there for you via email/phone, we encourage you to utilize the various remote tools available especially the CDC and the World Health Oganization (WHO).
Here are some informational resources regarding the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and how to keep your communities safe and healthy. In addition, please remember to check with your local health department and local governments.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development's COVID-19 page states that "[e]veryone should continue promoting everday disease prevention strategies;" - If you are sick, stay home from work or school.
- Avoid close contact with those who are already sick.
- Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing with a tissue or the crook of your arm.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose, or mouth.