A recent headline in the Standard-Times told us all we need to know about COVID-19 and the City of New Bedford. The headline in the January 8 edition reads, "City Has Most Cases in Bristol County."

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health reports New Bedford has the eighth-highest number of COVID cases statewide.

None of this surprises New Bedford's Director of Public Health, Damon Chaplin. He's been looking at the the city's COVID numbers since the start of the pandemic.

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During the latest surge of cases caused mainly by the super-contagious Omicron variant, many people who are not vaccinated and came down with the virus are becoming very ill and need hospital care. Chaplin said make no mistake, people are still dying from COVID.

For Chaplin, reducing the number of COVID case is all about getting more people vaccinated. New Bedford's vaccination rate was hovering around 45 percent for what seemed like several months, but now that number has slowly increased in recent weeks to about 54 percent. However, only 15 percent have received booster shots. Experts say booster shots will prevent serious illness, and keep most people out of the hospital.

During an interview this week on Townsquare Sunday, Chaplin expressed hope that New Bedford will be in a much better place a year from now, because more people will get vaccinated. However, he is quick to add there are no guarantees because there is still much that's unknown about the virus and its variants.  

Chaplin said the health department and its partner agencies are doing all they can to prevent premature deaths among New Bedford residents. Vaccination clinics have been set up around the city and more testing is becoming available. Chaplin believes all of us, young and old, have a responsibility to get the facts about the vaccines, share information with family members, and get vaccinated in order to stay safe.

Townsquare Sunday is a weekly public affairs program heard every Sunday morning on 1420 WBSM. The program highlights individuals and organizations striving to make the SouthCoast a better place to live and work.

If you would like your organization featured on Townsquare Sunday, please e-mail the host at jim.phillips@townsquaremedia.com.

Answers to 25 common COVID-19 vaccine questions

Vaccinations for COVID-19 began being administered in the U.S. on Dec. 14, 2020. The quick rollout came a little more than a year after the virus was first identified in November 2019. The impressive speed with which vaccines were developed has also left a lot of people with a lot of questions. The questions range from the practical—how will I get vaccinated?—to the scientific—how do these vaccines even work?

Keep reading to discover answers to 25 common COVID-19 vaccine questions.