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Newtown Health Official Says COVID Is In Check, For Now



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Newtown Health District Director Donna Culbert will be the last person to tell residents they should not wear masks, especially if they are immunocompromised, or have concerns about contracting the aggressive COVID-19 delta variant.

But locally and throughout the rest of her district, which includes Roxbury and Bridgewater, Culbert said the incidence of new coronavirus infections has remained extremely low over the past six to eight weeks.

“I’d say, so far we are doing OK here in Newtown, Bridgewater, and Roxbury,” Culbert told The Newtown Bee July 28 soon after finishing up a conference call with state health department officials. She said most of the few new local infections are in homes where there was already an infected occupant, or in a home where one or more of its residents have traveled to a hot zone, whether domestically or internationally.

She also has noted some heightened concerns about more mask wearing, given national and state reports of escalating cases pushed by the delta variant. As of 3 pm on July 28, Connecticut health officials reported a daily positivity rate of 2.97%, and since the previous Tuesday, July 20, 2,421 new cases were recorded statewide.

On July 28, the CDC amended its public health recommendations, but Culbert reassured her local constituents that the CDC is speaking very broadly, and taking the entire national picture into consideration. The latest CDC recommendations:

*Added a recommendation for fully vaccinated people to wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission;

*Added information that fully vaccinated people might choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of transmission, particularly if they are immunocompromised or at increased risk for severe disease from COVID-19, or if they have someone in their household who is immunocompromised, at increased risk of severe disease, or not fully vaccinated; and

*Added a recommendation for fully vaccinated people who have a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 to be tested three to five days after exposure and to wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days or until they receive a negative test result.

In addition, the CDC recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status.

“With regard to mask wearing, I would encourage people to remain calm on this topic,” Culbert said. “I understand the angst, but we are not yet in a place to require or recommend fully vaccinated people to wear masks, unless they prefer to due to their own or their loved one’s health status or preference, and/or if they are in crowded places, especially with people whose vaccination status is not known.”

Since the CDC’s recommendation spoke to “areas of high transmission,” Culbert said she is comfortable with her position as of July 28, confirming, “We are not an area of high transmission.

“With regard to school, however, we local public health [officials] are awaiting updated Department of Public Health guidelines,” she said, “which we were told are coming soon.”


Editor John Voket can be reached at editor@thebee.com.

Newtown Health District Director Donna Culbert
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