All Adults Now Eligible For Vaccine, But Officials Warn Of ‘Breakthrough Cases’

By: Alan Pollock

Topics: COVID-19

Harwich resident Anna Bodo, 80, receives her COVID-19 vaccination. TERRI ADAMSONS PHOTO

While all people over the age of 16 are now eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, and while case numbers are trending down again, officials are warning that even fully vaccinated people are still able to contract the disease.

On Monday afternoon, Broad Reach Healthcare President and CEO Bill Bogdanovich notified residents and family members that a staff member at the Victorian assisted living center had tested positive as part of routine surveillance testing.

“Of particular concern is that it is what is called a ‘breakthrough’ case – that means the person was fully-vaccinated – 14 days after both shots,” he said. The employee will remain home until they’ve been without symptoms for 10 days, and in rapid-testing conducted Monday, all residents of the Victorian tested negative for COVID-19. But the case is a wake-up call, Bogdanovich said.

“This potential for fully-vaccinated individuals to test positive reiterates in very real terms that there is much

that is not known about COVID-19 and its variants, so I take this as an opportunity to continue to implore all to remain vigilant in social distancing, mask use, and hand-washing, no matter where you go and no matter what

you do,” he said. “Though an invaluable reassurance, vaccination is simply not a guarantee of anything, at least not yet.”

In continued positive news, COVID-19 new daily case counts continue to decline locally. As of Monday, the number of new confirmed cases on Cape Cod stood at 34, continuing a downward trend from the daily case count of over 100 at various times last month. Statewide, there were more than 2,500 new cases reported on March 29, compared to around 1,350 last week. Still, the 14-day positivity rate in some towns, including Harwich, remains high enough to place them in the state’s “red” risk category.

Starting Monday, all residents 16 and over became eligible to receive vaccinations, but vaccine doses remain in relatively short supply, particularly since the pause in the use of Johnson and Johnson vaccine on April 13. The pause, ordered by the CDC in an “abundance of caution” after six recipients suffered a rare type of blood clot, has further strained the vaccine supply. Outer Cape Health Services has put in an emergency order for doses of the Moderna vaccine in response. People who received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine and who develop a severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination are urged to seek medical attention, and to report symptoms to their doctor.

In her weekly report to selectmen, Harwich Health Director Katie O’Neill stressed the importance of not letting up on the precautions that have helped bring rates down so far.

“Please continue to maintain social distancing, mask use, and good hand hygiene,” she said. “We need to work together as a community to minimize the spread!”

With many schools on vacation this week, there is a danger of spread through travel and social gatherings of students, Monomoy Superintendent of Schools Scott Carpenter wrote in his update to parents.

“We need to continue to do whatever we can to keep COVID rates down in order for our schools to close out the year with in-person learning. We cannot afford to have rates spike upwards as they did after February vacation,” he wrote. “Masking, social distancing, and avoiding indoor gatherings continues to be important.” Carpenter said many families, including his own, will be traveling over the April Break.

“To protect everyone in our school community, our expectation is that unvaccinated students and staff traveling over break will get tested before returning to school and will not return to our buildings until they have gotten negative test results,” he wrote.

The Monomoy schools have been using pooled COVID-19 testing for eight weeks now, and the results are not surprising.

“All pools this week came back negative,” Carpenter wrote last week. “Over the past several weeks, the few pool tests that came back positive were positive because an individual in that pool was momentarily asymptomatic, and before the results were received, the individual and/or their family members had become symptomatic and contacted their doctors and the school. We will not continue pooled testing after the April vacation, and we need families and our staff to continue staying home, as needed, and keeping the lines of communication open with our nursing staff.”

Monomoy High School plans to return to all in-person learning as of May 3, provided the current trend continues (see page 3).