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Lynn and Revere in bad coronavirus company

LYNN — Lynn and Revere are two of the four communities in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts with an average daily COVID-19 case rate of eight per 100,000 in the last three weeks, according to figures released Tuesday. 

The other two communities, according to Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders, are Everett and Chelsea. 

"Our numbers have been upticking," said Lynn Mayor Thomas M. McGee Tuesday. "Obviously we need to address it."

McGee said the increase in cases can be linked to "larger personal and social gatherings, parties, showers, and things like that.

"Under the circumstances," he said, "this is unacceptable. This is bringing us back in the wrong direction."

The mayor urged a redoubling of the same type of efforts undertaken in the late winter and spring where "we went through some tough times, but we came a long way.

"I understand," he said. "It's summer. It's hot. People are antsy. But this virus is not taking the summer off. We can't either."

Much of the rest of the United States has backslid on the COVID front since the summer began. 

McGee said he has been in contact with officials from Revere, Chelsea and Everett in efforts to lasso the virus back under control. 

"What's important is that people need to cooperate and let us know things like if you've heard from contact tracers. That's important. We're finding that people aren't answering calls, or are being evasive. The only way we know to stop the spread is to know who you come in contact with. It's not about getting anyone in trouble. It's understanding who might be infected. If you test positive, we're calling to make sure we know who else might be impacted."

Also, he said, "if you're sick stay home. If you feel sick, get tested. The locations offering testing have seen a good amount of people. It's very simple."

Rosie Conway, practice manager of the COVID response team for the Lynn Community Health Center, said that while the numbers are alarming, she's happy people are taking advantage of the "Stop the Spread" campaign that allows for free testing. The program was recently extended through the middle of September, and she hopes the LCHC is able to conduct testing beyond that date.

"That red color (on the chart that separates the high from low number of cases is somewhat alarming," she said. "It paints a picture of what we're dealing with. 

"But we're happy that people are being proactive, and that people are taking protective measures to stay healthy.

"It's certainly been quite an experience to see how our initial thoughts and expectations have adjusted over the last few months," she said. "No one, at the beginning, could cast a forecast on what this would look like long term. But we're in it for the long haul. Testing is not going to conclude anytime soon. We're already on our way to making contingency plans."

Three other communities -- Saugus, Salem and Peabody -- have recorded between four and eight cases per hundred thousand over the past three weeks, according to a graphic provided by the mass.gov website. Swampscott and Marblehead have fewer than four, while Nahant has fewer than five altogether during that time. 

The city has also postponed a planned showing of “Dora and the Lost City of Gold,” that was scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 18, as a drive-in movie at the Lynn ferry landing. An already-alarming increase in COVID-19 numbers, before Gov. Charlie Baker even announced his figures Tuesday morning, prompted the move, which was made Monday night, Public Health Director Michele Desmarais said. 

"The numbers are headed in the wrong direction," Desmarais said. "There are so many gatherings, so many events, birthday parties, house parties, and they just keep happening. There are no masks, no social distancing. It is out of control.

"COVID does not take the summer off," she said. "It reared its ugly head in the last few weeks. It is very discouraging. If people would take the challenge, or challenge themselves, and be respectful of this dangerous and suffocating virus. I know it's hotter than Hades out there, but wear a mask. Do the three "Ws" as I call them: Wear a mask, watch your distancing, and wash your  hands."

In Revere, Mayor Brian Arrigo did not comment on Tuesday's remarks by Baker and Sudders. However, he had already undertaken three measures last Wednesday, in response to already-announced COVID numbers.

First, the city suspended all sanctioned and sponsored events until the numbers improved. Schools will open remotely until there's an opportunity to reassess, Arrigo said (Lynn Superintendent Patrick Tutwiler announced the city will do the same). And last weekend, the city began an attempt to bring awareness of the possibility of resurgence.

State officials urged residents in 33 communities with concerning rates of COVID-19 infection to step up their efforts to slow the spread of the disease.

Baker said his administration is reaching out to local leaders in moderate and high risk communities to offer state support in combating the virus. State officials are encouraging residents in those communities to be sure to wear masks, keep their distance from others and avoid large gatherings.

“Our administration is ready to provide assistance to enhance outreach and enforcement and messaging efforts as well as additional public health resources and public awareness strategies in these moderate and high risk communities,” Baker said. “And we’re asking everyone to recognize that this virus continues to infect, injure and kill people every single day.”

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