Select Board Approves Vaccine Mandate For Belmont Town Workers

Photo: Vaccination is a requirement for town employees

The Belmont Select Board voted unanimously Monday night, Oct. 18 to mandate all town employees to be vaccinated for Covid-19.

But the requirement will likely take at least a month, if not longer, before it goes into effect as the town must complete impact bargaining with the seven labor unions representing the 300 full- and part-time municipal employees. During those talks, it will be determined what administration action will be taken against workers who remain unvaccinated.

“This is a public health emergency,” said Select Board Chair Adam Dash before the vote. “I think [the board] need[s] to stand strong and do the right thing.”

“The goal here is for people to get vaccinated and stay employed. They’ve sacrificed quite a lot in their lives to [be in public service] and this is one of those things for the greater good,” Dash said.

The town mandate comes after the Belmont School Committee approved an agreement on Sept. 10 with the Belmont Education Association to require teachers and school staff to be vaccinated.

Spurring the board’s vote was the lastest data on Covid-19 infection rates in Belmont. Data (see at the bottom of the article) compiled by Public Heath Agent Lindsey Sharp showed higher 2021 infection rates than in the same month in 2020. For instance, while there were 11 new cases in August 2020, Belmont recorded 96 in 2021. And since June of this year, Belmont has seen 233 new cases, with nearly half being breakthrough cases occurring to residents who are fully vaccinated.

Sharp said the surge in the past few months are likely related to the highly virulent delta variant of the virus and the reopening of schools and businesses during the summer and fall. “There’s just more people out and about doing activities, traveling,” said Sharp.

In a voluntary survey of employees conducted by the town’s Human Resources Director Shawna Healey, a little more than a third participated of whom all said they have received at least one shot of the Covid-19 vaccine. The town’s Labor Counsel Brian Maser told the board it could require the other employees to provide their vaccination status by exercising its managerial prerogative as part of a vaccination mandate.

But even if the board went that route, “what does that get us?” said the Board’s Mark Paolillo. If, for example, 80 percent of employees are vaccinated, “what do we do with the other 20 percent?”

“I hate to mandate anything but these employees work for the town and we have to consider the safety of our residents,” said Paolillo. Saying there has been “chatter” on Facebook that the board is seeking to control worker’s lives, Paolillo “we’re just trying to protect the public.”

Vice chair Roy Epstein suggested a possible two track approach used at health sites such as the Boston Medical Center in which unvaccinated employees are required to be tested once or twice a week if they choose not to comply with notification requirements or outright refusal. But Paolillo countered that while religious or medical exemptions can be part of the measure, the board needed to take a strong stance on vaccinations.

“I just don’t think halfway [measures] helps anything. It’s either fully mandate or you don’t,” said Paolillo who backed Dash’s amendment.

The most notable of public comment came from resident Joseph Kelly who has questioned the vaccine mandates in Belmont at other venues, saying “there are a lot of things, short term and long term, that we don’t understand yet“ about the Covid vaccine, citing side effects to young recipients and a myriad of other issues. He also noted what he called the “Nuremberg Code” that he said that a person cannot be forced or coerced to be part of this “medical experiment” which, if the employee mandate is passed, would result in a person losing their job.

[Editor’s note: USA Today has produced a fact sheet on the Nuremberg Code and the misinterpretation of its main tenant.]

One area the board expressed concern was what to do with employees who flatly refuse taking the vaccine after an agreement is approved. While not wanting to fire an employee, Maser told the board it can follow the state’s mandate for its executive branch employees. Those who do not comply by a specific date would be placed “on leave” status when they would be required to use their accrued benefits charge, basically their holiday and other time off. When that is expired, those employees are not meeting the condition of employment and faces progressive discipline and ultimately termination.

Town Administrator Patrice Garvin said the practical issue facing the town is negotiating with seven unions who will could have different demands or requirements before signing an agreement with the town. Maser advised the board not to set a date certain that is at least four weeks from the vote for the mandate to take effect. It was agreed that after informing the unions of the vote on Tuesday, the board will meet in executive session next week with Garvin, Healy and Maser to discuss strategy relative to what the town’s proposal to bring to the bargaining table.

Despite Neighboring Community’s Rat Concerns, Pumpkins Are Welcome In Belmont

Photo: Pumpkin … or problem?

Nothing signals fall than the appearance of the winter squash known as the pumpkin.

From mid-September to Thanksgiving, the humble pumpkin is a star; in the kitchen – pies, breads, spices and seeds – and especially for its aesthetic value: what doesn’t evoke the season than a slew of pumpkins on the stoop or a jack-o-lantern by the front door on Halloween? Nothing comes close.

But this year, the pumpkin is getting a cold shoulder in one of Belmont’s neighboring communities and it doesn’t have anything to do with cancel culture.

In Watertown, town officials are advising residents to chuck the real thing and replace it with plastic or ceramic orbs when decorating their stoops and gardens. The reason: rats. Well, rats and other vermin that have been sweeping through the town as if it was 14th century Hamelin.

Many homeowners have complained over the past year of an increase in rodents in a community has been a hot spot of commercial and town construction projects that disrupt them in their underground habitats. Shorter winters have allowed rat couples to have more babies and there’s the problem.

According to Larry Ramdin, Watertown’s public health director, the friendly urging from the town – it is not in anyway a mandate – is an attempt to remove a ready source of food for the local rodent population and that includes the orange squash.

“We have observed rat problems last year around this time. We are being proactive,” Ramdin told the Boston Globe.

“Did you know that putting pumpkins and other edible decorations outside your home can provide food sources for rodents?” Watertown health officials wrote in a Facebook post. “This year, please consider plastic decorations to help prevent rodents on your property and in Watertown.”

Belmont has also had its fair share of ratty issues in the recent past. A few year’s back, Joey’s Park in the Winn Brook neighborhood became a rodent housing complex with numerous underground burrows and the streets around Grove Street Playground have seen a sizable uptick in rats from overburdened trash containers and a problematic house on a nearby street.

But rest assured, the town’s Health Department is happy to tell residents they can keep the real thing this fall.

“At the moment we do not have reason for concern about Halloween pumpkins or any related outdoor activities,” said Wesley Chin, the Health Department’s director.

Fines Out, Signs In As Select Board OKs Measured Adds To Town’s Mask Mandate

Photo: It was a full Zoom house as the Select and Health boards approved additions to the town’s mask mandate.

With opposition growing by members to a Health Board proposal to penalize store owners whose patrons repeatedly violate the town’s indoor mask mandate, the Belmont Select Board voted Monday, Sept. 20 to set aside a suggested $300 fine and replaced it with a watered-down compromise simply requiring businesses and large residential buildings to post signs informing the public of the town’s indoor mask mandate and ordering all employees to wear masks.

In addition, Belmont will delay implementing a vaccine mandate for town employees as it waits for possible action by the federal government on a proposed nationwide vaccine requirement for organizations with more than 100 workers.

The fine and employee mandate proposal was passed by the Health Board on Sept. 13 in response to the surge in positive cases of Covid-19 in town and across the country due in large part to the especially virulent Delta variant.

Donna David, the Health Board chair, said the recommendation “just gave teeth to what we were doing” in encouraging mask wearing. While admitting that enforcement could be “a little tricky’, the recommendation was no different to what the Health Department does when receiving complaints and food inspections.

“Like other health-related things in businesses, we’ve found the best to put the onus on the person who is responsible for the establishment,” said David, similar to enforcing the cigarette policy where the owner rather than the employee is ultimately the person who is held accountable.

Adam Dash, the Select Board chair, said the fine would “put a little ‘oomph’ behind what is already on the books.

While each of the board members supported some version of the fine, some where concerned the

Mark Paolillo worried that many businesses have “younger folks working behind the counter” who will be required to tell people to put on masks and they “say I’m not wearing a mask … [and] you set up a confrontation” because the owner doesn’t want to incur the fine. “That’s problematic,” said Paolillo who would rather see the individual violating the mandate fined.

Paolillo suggested the town should first discover if every business that is open to the public has been notified to have a sign at their location and if, in fact, they have one.

Epstein’s objection was the proposal was unworkable as Health Department employees would need to observe an incident with “an egregious violator” not wearing a face covering in the store.

”I just seems unworkable to me,” said Epstein.

Local businesses are also concerned with the introduction of financial penalties on the establishment because a patron is willing to violate the town’s mandate.

“There’s a help issue in small businesses … were struggling to get product in our stores and we’re struggling to retain customers. And for you to fine a customer or small business to me is ludicrous,” said Deran Muckjian, owner of the Toy Shop of Belmont in Belmont Center. He reiterated Paolillo’s worry that “a 16 year old Belmont High sophomore by himself in the store” will confront a 45 year old adult who says “No, I’m not going to wear [a mask.]”

“What do you do, how do you deal with that,” said Muckjian, who called the recommendations “a bunch of crap.”

By the end of the hour long discussion, the board coalesced behind Paolillo’s suggestion to require businesses have signs visible to customers and for managers of larger residential housing complexes to have signs in common areas that residents could congregate. The Health Board joined the Select Board in approving the new language to the mask mandate.

“I can live with that going forward. If we have issues, which I don’t expect … then we will come back to you,” said David.

While the employee vaccination mandate has taken a back seat to the federal government’s proposal, the town will be polling employees on their vaccination status. “If [the poll] shows we’re 99 percent or something, then maybe this is less of a driving concern,” said Dash.

Select Board Defers Vote On Vaccine Mandate, Fines For Unmasked Patrons

Photo: Debate over creating fines for violation of Belmont’s mask mandate has been delayed ‘til Sept. 20.

The Belmont Select Board decided at its scheduled meeting Monday, Sept. 13, to delay action on a pair of recommendations from the town’s Health Board mandating vaccinations for town employees and imposing fines on businesses and managers of public spaces which don’t enforce the town’s indoor mask requirement.

“We do not disagree with the recommendations necessarily. We’d like to get a little more data,” said Select Board Chair Adam Dash.

“We’re not disagreeing with the recommendations necessarily. We’d like to get a little more data,” said Select Board Chair Adam Dash.

The first recommendation would require all town employees to receive the Covid-19 vaccine. The second would impose a fine of $300 on businesses or large residential housing complexes which doesn’t enforce the town’s mask mandate.

Wesley Chin, Belmont’s Health Department director, said the pair of unanimous 3-0 votes were approved with the understanding the Select Board, working with the town’s Human Resources Department, would consult with the Town Counsel on implementing the employee mandate which would require negotiating with 11 of the town’s 12 unions. The Belmont Education Association last week approved a mandate for its members.

But before the Board could debate the mandate, the members tabled the recommendation after hearing from Town Administrator Patrice Garvin. She said both George Hall, the town’s general counsel, and the local Labor Council were asking the Board to wait on any vaccine requirement “because they’re still running some things down, especially with President Biden’s mandate.”

While saying he “conceptionally supports” the measure, Board member Mark Paolillo wanted to know if it was even in the town’s “purview to do something like this and how employees would react.”

Chin turned to the fines saying the addition of financial penalties to violations of the town’s face mask mandate were considered after his department received a number of complaints from concerned residents that “people just not wearing masks in indoor places that the public can access.”

Under the proposed amendment, if an incident is reported to the health department and the violation is observed, the Health Department would first provide a written warning to the business owner or manager. Subsequent violations would result in the issuance of a $300 fine for failure to comply with the mandate “to put pressure and motivate businesses to enforce massive mandates … inside of their locations,” said Chin.

Dash said establishing a financial sanction is not new. The town’s emergency order number two from March 2020 which created the mandate has similar language about the $300 fine but under that order the penalty was on the individual, not the store owner or manager.

“So the rationale is to change in focus: let’s put the pressure on the businesses to remind people that they have to wear masks,” said Dash who recalled his wife telling him when she visited a large store in town where “almost nobody was wearing a mask.”

“We’ve seen exactly what you’re talking about that some of these businesses were blowing it off entirely, said Dash.

When she asked who was enforcing the mask mandate and an employee said the workers were told not to do anything about it, as managers would enforce it. “‘Where’s the manager? He’s in the back,’” Dash was told. “So they’ve signs up on the door but no one was doing anything and no one was wearing masks,” he said.

In the case of residential buildings, Chin said complaints are coming from residents in larger apartment buildings where they were concerned about unmasked residents in common areas such as lobbies, fitness clubs, lounges, and hallways. “Apparently we’re not enforcing the rule,” the resident told Chin.

While understanding the need for fines to enforce compliance of the emergency health code, Paolillo also recognized the difficulty of having “a high school kid behind the register” attempt to manage and enforce the code.

The board also highlighted the difficulty of actually catching those violating the mask mandate in the act as the Heath Department is already burdened with multiple tasks to observe a meaningful number of violations and the police are busy with public safety.

“While virtually every Belmont business does have signs but [do they have] the staffing to confront potential violators is a real open question,” said Board member Roy Epstein, who noted to the board that with the general trend of positive Covid-19 cases falling, a mandate could be unnecessary in the near future.

With questions remaining unanswered, Dash proposed a joint meeting with the Board of Health on Sept. 20 to allow for a “give and take” on the issues.

“Then we might have some information on a vaccine mandate from the town counsel and labor councils at that point, maybe we can have a more comprehensive discussion,” said Dash.

Schools Mask Mandate Will Stay Until The New Year: Board Of Health Chief

Photo: A sign you’ll see in schools by the holiday break

Parents and students hoping for a quick end to the mask mandate in Belmont schools – specifically for high school students – saw their wishes dashed as the head of the Belmont Board of Health believes masks will be a part of the school day up to the holiday break in the last weeks of December.

The declaration by Chair Donna David came during the Board of Health’s Aug. 16 meeting during which the board clarify aspects of the town-wide indoor mask mandate that passed on Aug. 6 as well as make clear that the schools and town will have different standards of when to end mask requirements.

Based on public feedback after the previous week’s Belmont School Committee’s, there was a desire to clarify the confusion of when the town-wide mask mandate would end in the Belmont schools, said Wesley Chin, Belmont’s Health Department director. Under a sunset clause in the town-wide directive, the face covering requirements will be lifted when Middlesex county records two consecutive weeks of lower infection rates.

In the board’s new plan, the schools’ mask mandate is now a separate from the town’s document. “Pretty simple and straightforward,” said David.

The new regulation states: “Face coverings are required for all individuals aged two years and above except where an individual is unable to wear a face covering dude to a medical condition disability.”

Under the new regulation, the board will incorporate guidance and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the state’s Department of Health to decide when the mask mandate will be dropped.

While the board will be monitoring the data and taking daily advice from the town’s health department, David said until the Covid-19 vaccine is available to children under 12 – both Pfizer and Moderna say they anticipate sharing results and seeking authorization for their vaccine in ages 5 to 11 as early as September or October – and the number of overall cases are declining, she doesn’t see a reason to remove the mandate and “this could easily be in effect through December.”

”This brings a little stability to what we’re doing and what our line of thinking is,” said David. Until the under 12 vaccine is available, “‘we’re kind of in a holding pattern because, in the schools particular, we’re doing this to protect those who cannot be vaccinated.”

The board also voted to bring greater clarity to the town’s mandate after receiving public comments on the document the Select Board approved last week.

The four clarifications are:

  • Indoor performers at public spaces such as the Beech Street Center, restaurants or schools are required to wear face coverings,
  • Private residences are excluded from the mandate,
  • Residents and employees in multi-unit homes and apartments are required to wear face coverings when inside common hallways and spaces, and
  • Members and employees in private membership clubs are required to wear face coverings while indoors.

“It’s not drastically different, just more detailed,” said Adam Dash, chair of the Select Board which reviewed the changes at its Monday night meeting.

Indoor Mask Mandate At Town Buildings Return Wednesday; ‘Emergency’ Meeting Friday To Discuss Possible Town-Wide Order

Photo: Belmont welcomes back masks to town

Beginning Wednesday, August 4, visitors and employees in town offices and buildings will be required to wear a mask as Belmont responds to a recent surge of positive cases of Covid-19.

“It’s erring on the side of being cautious. It’s the best thing for the public health and safety of everybody,” said Health Board Chair Donna David as the Select Board approved the sudden return to a mandate after speaking to health and town officials at its Monday meeting. In addition, public meetings will revert back to being held via Zoom or other virtual software.

At this time, there is no scheduled date for the mandate to end.

On Friday morning, Aug. 6, the town’s health and select boards will hold an emergency meeting to discuss expanding the indoor mask mandate to local stores, offices and restaurants. While the town building mandate was a straightforward call, the Select Board appeared less eager to re-establish a full town-wide indoor mask requirement.

“I think the business community’s going to be really upset with us” if masks make a return, said the Select Board’s Mark Paolillo.

It appears Belmont’s schools will continue requiring masks indoors at the district begins the new school year in mid-September, according to Donna David, chair of the Health Board. “They are onboard,” she said.

Adam Dash, chair of the Select Board, told the meeting that in the past when cases were on the rise the town had followed closely recommendations from the state’s health department on mask “but now the state’s basically saying ‘it’s on you’. So here we are.”

At Monday’s meeting, Health Department Director Wesley Chin told the Select Board that after going more than three weeks without a case in early summer, the town has seen 20 Covid cases since July 4, half of which are “breakthrough” cases; when an individual tests positive after they’ve been fully vaccinated against the disease.

“So far, we’ve been lucky we haven’t had any hospitalizations or deaths with these breakthrough cases,” said Chin, noting that those exposed were in their 40s and 50s and relatively healthy. While Belmont has not entered the state’s designated “red” zone of new cases, David said it is moving into that range, with the added complication that within the next three weeks, children – many under 12 and unvaccinated – will be returning to town from family vacations and trips as they settle in before heading back to school.

David said since it has made a “very strong” recommendation to the School Committee to continue its mask mandate, he said her board was “pretty much in alignment that [masks] should extend to the town buildings and offices, whether you are vaccinated or not.”

The reason for being vigilant even with a majority of adults being vaccinated, said David, is due to what is being learned about the variant on a daily basis.

“Each day unfolds new information in terms of the viral load and how it spreads to others,” she told the board. “If you’re at work and you’re exposed and asymptomatic and take it home to your unvaccinated child or somebody who’s immunosuppressed.”

Paolillo said he would support masks for workers and those visiting town-owned facilities “as a way of protecting our employees” especially since the town will not ask who is vaccinated inside a building.

While Town Administrator Patrice Garvin had hoped to give the employees a level of expectation of when the order may cease, it will be up to the Health Board working closely with the town to determine when the mandate will end.

Health Board ‘Strongly Recommends’ Masks In Classrooms As CDC Endorses Coverings In Schools

Photo: A continuation of the current mask mandate is being proposed by the Board of Health

After an hour long debate, the Belmont Board of Health voted unanimously on July 26 to “strongly recommend” a universal indoor masking requirement for students and staff at Belmont’s public and private schools to begin at the start of the new school year in September.

The decision came about 24 hours before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday, July 27, endorsed the wearing of masks by teachers, staff members, students and visitors in schools regardless of vaccination status and the rate of community transmission of the virus. 

Monday’s 3-0 vote came after the board nearly approved a mandatory mask requirement but took a step back from the more restrictive sanctions to allow the Belmont School Committee to have its own discussion before accepting or rejecting the board’s decision.

NOTE: Belmont Select Board will discuss a possible town-wide mask mandate at its Monday, August 2 meeting.

But the board’s chair made it clear that it would come back with more definitive mask measures if it believes the school committee will not commit to a clear masking policy.

“[The School Committee] must know what we’re leading up to so a strong recommendation is pretty strong,” said Board Chair Donna David.

The board’s action comes as the highly contagious COVID-19 Delta variant is causing positive cases and hospitalizations to increase after the rates of infection has been dropping over the past four months. The CDC noted in its revised guidance of this week that those fully vaccinated and become infected with the Delta variant can harbor large amounts of the virus as seen in unvaccinated people, thus becoming spreaders of the disease. Those people should return to wearing masks indoors in certain situations, including when vulnerable people are present.

Wesley Chin, the director of the Belmont Health Department, told the board parents were looking for direction from the town on masks as schools are set to open in six weeks. David told the approximately 30 people attending on Zoom that the board’s decision would follow current “scientific knowledge” rather than being decided by a “popular vote.”

“We’re doing it in the best interest of the public health for everyone,” she said.

Vice Chair Julie Lemay said the recent jump in cases in the past week after a relative quiet summer “this information is evolving and it’s evolving quickly.” She believed that to prioritizing moving kids back in the school and keeping schools open, “using mitigation strategies including mask wearing is going to be important” with the knowledge that the policy will be reevaluated during the school year.

Adrienne Allen pointed to guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics that stressed that if school districts’ goal is “to keep all of our children in person in school all year, universal masking for staff and children is the way to do it.” Until questions of vaccine effectiveness and other issues are addressed, “it’s better to stay the course, follow the AAP and have masking until more is known,” said Allen.

In addition the board members, Director of Nursing Services Beth Rumley spoke on the current mitigation measures the school district have established for the summer session including masks, following up on all absentees and testing for anyone who is out sick. “I hear the concerns about masking but when you have a high volume of students and you have masking, it works,” she said. Nor is masking the only mitigation that needs to be concerned about including checking students and staff who have symptoms and creating a plan to return to school. “We’re going to make decisions with everyone’s safety in mind,” said Rumley.

The majority of residents who spoke Monday were in favor of the masking option. For Mariola Magovcevic, a mask requirement is the only way she will send her two children – one who is at high risk in catching infections – to elementary school in September. Speaking on making mask wearing an option, Magovcevic said such an action “does not protect me from children from spreading the virus who are not wearing a mask.”

Playing roulette with other people’s lives

Heather Rubeski said she’s not worried about her children being infected, “I’m worried about what they’re going to bring home” with her husband’s inoculation just 60 percent effective due to existing conditions. “It’s playing roulette with other people’s lives,” she said. Speaking to residents who have told her that their children “have suffered enough” by learning at home and following mask and other mitigation strategies at schools, Rubeski spoke how her niece and nephew lost their father to COVID as a true cost of suffering.

“It is not suffering to wear a mask for the vast majority of people. It’s unfortunate that as a community we can’t come together a little better and to this one basic thing that’s going to protect so many people … and considering all the families and not just the children in school but teacher families and our families,” Rubeski told the board.

There was not unanimity at Monday’s meeting for the recommendations. Speaking as a resident, School Committee Member Jamal Saeh attacked the board saying that while it earlier declared any recommendation or requirement would be made based on the available science, “I didn’t see it in today’s conversation.”

After pointing to selected studies from the New England Journal of Medicine on the effectiveness of vaccines on different COVID variants, “I don’t know exactly other than our community members who are pushing for [mandates], why we’re having this conversation right now,” said Saeh, who then proposed a “proper” conversation via a large public forum to hear from a “large swath of the community.” He also suggested creating a strategy on mask wearing for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals and when, upon reaching some undetermined rate of infection, would the mandates end.

In response, David pointed out that there is still much to be known about the Delta variant that carries a lot more viral load within people. “There are new things coming [from the CDC] and school is about to start,” she said, noting that determining a percentage of infection or other numbers that show a decrease in cases “is an evolving process.”

“I don’t think there’s an easy answer,” said David, a comment seconded by Allen, who is a physician. “I don’t feel prepared to set a … number [when to lift a mandate]. I would want to consult with others” but would still follow the AAP guidelines “if we care about equity because it’s really an equity issue for all students.”

While there was consensus among the board for masking and other mitigation measures for indoor activities, LeMay wasn’t prepared to make their decision a requirement for the school district to follow. Rather, she felt the Belmont School Committee should be given the opportunity to discuss the board’s “strong recommendation” on all people wearing masks in schools.

While the board effectively “punted” to the school committee further discussion of the issue, the board said it would moved its next scheduled meeting up to early/mid August to review the information coming from the CDC and the state’s Board of Health with an eye towards following the AAP in its recommendation.

“Look, no matter what we decide, people are going to be upset but that’s not our concern. We’re concerned but it’s not going to influence what were going to do,” said David.

COVID Update: After Quiet Summer, Uptick This Week Of COVID Cases In Belmont

Photo: The number of positive cases has increased over the past week in Belmont

After a quiet past two months, Belmont has seen a slight uptick in positive COVID cases during the week, following the increase of new coronavirus cases in every state due to the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.

After four weeks that saw a single new case, Belmont recorded five new cases in the week end July 16, according to information from the Belmont Department of Health.

But unlike some parts of the country where infection rates have increased by double digits, Belmont’s increase is lower than 1 percent of the average daily incidence rate per 100,000 people over the previous two weeks.

Belmont’s low infection rate compared other parts of the country is directly in line with the higher rate of residents who have been vaccinated. As of July 16, 19,044 Belmontians are full vaccinated making up 69 percent of the population. That is more than the rate for Massachusetts (62 percent) and the US (50 percent). The age group in town most fully vaccinated are those between 50-64 with 88 percent having received both shots.

COVID Update: Half Of Belmont Is Vaccinated; Out Pacing State, US

Photo: CDC vaccination card and sticker

Belmontians are outpacing their fellow state residents and US citizen in stepping up and being fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

As of the week ending May 11, approximately 51 percent of all Belmont residents are fully vaccinated, having received two doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine or the one shot Johnson & Johnson dose, according to Diana Ekman, assistant director of the Belmont Health Department. Statewide, 47 percent of Massachusetts residents are fully vaccinated while 37 percent of US citizens have all their shots.

Belmont has recorded a total of 1,139 positive cases of COVID-19 since March 2020 with 80 deaths attributed to the coronavirus.

Nearly 2/3 of all residents (66 percent) and 84 percent of adults over 20 have received least a single dose of the vaccine, which can reduce household transmission of the virus by up to half. In Massachusetts, 63 percent and nationwide 48 percent of adults have had one shot.

For older adults in Belmont, the rate for those 65 and older to be fully vaccinated has reached 82 percent while 88 percent of 65-74 and 90 percent of those 75 and older have had received one shot.

“We got most of the folks in that category,” Ekman told the Select Board at its Monday, May 17 meeting.

While the number of children and young adults representing those 19 and under who have obtained the vaccine remain quite small, “[w]e have heard anecdotally from folks in the schools that there’s been a really good uptake rate in the older group of teenagers that been eligible for a little while and we hope that continues in the 12 to 15 groups as well,” Ekman said.

COVID Update: With J&J’s Return, Belmont Resumes Homebound Vaccinations

Photo: The latest update on the COVID-19 virus in Belmont

Three days after the CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the resumption of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the general public, the Massachusetts Department of Health gave the “green light” for Belmont’s Health Department to resume its homebound vaccination effort, according to Wesley Chin, director of Belmont’s Health Department.

Speaking before the Select Board at its Monday, April 26 meeting, Chin said the town has vaccinated 46 at home residents with the help of the Belmont Fire Department.

“I just to encourage any residents out there who are homebound, please call our office at 617-993-2720 and we can schedule an appointment to get them vaccinated in their home,” said Chin.

As of the latest data, 80 percent of residents 75 and older have been fully vaccinated. A third of all residents have had their two shots with 55 percent of the population having at least one vaccine jab.

The temporary halt of the J&J vaccine came after reports of adverse effects primarily an increased risk of blood clots with low platelets in adult women younger than 50 years old. It was resumed after the government said the vaccine’s known and potential benefits outweigh its potential risks.

According to the Health Department, as of April 23, Belmont has 1,106 cumulative confirmed cases of COVID-19, an increase of 10 cases since April 16. There have been a total of 80 COVID-19 related deaths to date, all of which are confirmed by filed death certificates with the Town Clerk’s Office. 

Due to the new case count over the past two weeks, Belmont’s average daily incidence of 8.1 per 100,000, and the .90 percent positivity, Belmont remains “green” according to the state’s color designation metrics.