Home > Uncategorized > As more people get vaccinated in the DDS system, COVID rates appear to be declining

As more people get vaccinated in the DDS system, COVID rates appear to be declining

Reflecting a decline in COVID-19 infection rates in the state as a whole, the latest data available in weekly state facilities reports show a drop-off in recent weeks in the numbers of persons testing positive in the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) system.

While that decline appears to be at least partly due to vaccinations that have been ongoing in the system, Baker administration officials have not yet responded to our request last week for comment on the possible trend.

Here are some COVID testing numbers in various DDS residential categories, taken from the latest state facilities report as of February 9, and from previous reports:

DDS state-operated group homes

The number of residents in state-operated group homes testing positive for COVID-19 reached a high of 43 as of January 26, and dropped to 18 as of February 9.

The number of staff in those residences testing positive reached an all-time high of 111 as of December 22, and dropped to 60 as of February 9.

DDS provider-operated group homes

The number of residents in provider-operated group homes testing positive reached an all-time high of 305 as of January 19, and dropped to 111 as of February 9.

There are no data specifically regarding COVID-positive staff in DDS provider-operated group homes.

Wrentham Developmental Center (WDC)

The number of residents at WDC testing positive reached an all-time high of 11 as of January 12, and dropped to 0 as of February 9.

The number of staff at WDC testing positive reached an all-time high of 32 as of January 12, and dropped to 12 as of February 9.

Hogan Regional Center

The number of residents at Hogan testing positive reached a high of 8 as of January 12, and dropped to 0 as of February 9.

The number of staff at Hogan testing positive reached an all-time high of 23 as of December 29, and dropped to less than 5 as of February 9.

Below is a graph showing the positive test curve for provider group home residents since last June. It’s typical of the data arc for the other categories:

Possible role of vaccinations

It appears possible that the recent decline in COVID positive test results in the DDS system is at least partly due to the introduction of vaccines in DDS facilities.

Phase 1 of the state’s Vaccination Plan included residents and staff of DDS long-term care and congregate-care facilities as priority vaccination recipients. But there has been no information provided by the administration on how many DDS residents and staff have been vaccinated so far.

CNN reported Sunday that officials were hopeful that for the nation as a whole, the continued ramping up of vaccinations was “beginning to shift the pandemic’s course in a positive direction.”

Little information available on vaccinations in the DDS system in Massachusetts

The Baker administration recently began publishing online information showing the number of vaccine doses shipped to Massachusetts and the number administered to residents, broken down by age, gender, county, race, and ethnicity. But the online data does not break the numbers down by disability or show how many people have been vaccinated in the DDS system.

On Friday (February 12), I emailed state Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders and DDS Commissioner Jane Ryder, asking whether they would agree that there has been a potentially significant drop in COVID-positive residents and staff in the DDS system.  I also asked whether that drop might be due to the vaccinations of residents and staff in the system. As noted, I haven’t yet received a reply.

The decline in positive test results could be temporary

The CNN article noted above reported that some 38 million people have received their first dose of the two-dose vaccines available to the US market, and about 14 million people have been fully vaccinated.

But the article stated that while Covid-19 numbers may be trending in the right direction now, four key factors will determine whether those trends continue. Two factors contributing to the downward trajectory in infection rates are the increasing vaccinations and a pattern of lower transmission that’s likely in the US during the spring and summer months.

Two other factors, however, can slow or even reverse the declines. One of those factors is the spread of the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first identified in the UK. Another key factor is increased behaviors that favor COVID-19 transmission such as frequenting high-risk settings, including indoor dining.

The article reported that experts believe now is not the time for the US to let down its guard, “even as a growing list of governors loosen Covid-19 restrictions.”

We will continue to monitor the state’s COVID testing reports for DDS facilities. While those reports could be more informative — they should include test results for provider staff, for instance — they at least provide measurable data on COVID infection rates in the DDS system.

We hope the administration will begin to provide similar online information on vaccine doses administered in the DDS system so that we can all better understand ongoing COVID trends in that system.

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