Well, here’s some news that was totally predictable.

The COVID-19 cluster at a July 10 DJ night at The Vault has grown from five to 39, according to contact tracers in touch with the City of New Bedford. And 34 of those 39 positive-testing people partying away that night at the downtown concert spot were unvaccinated.

According to the state’s contact tracing collaborative, six people closely associated with the 39 individuals at the music hall on Saturday, July 10, have also contracted COVID-19, bringing the total number of people to catch the novel coronavirus from this one event to 45.

Who knows how many contacts those 45 people may have had — like people at the supermarket or the drug store? So the actual cluster is probably at least somewhat larger.

RELATED: Is COVID-19 cluster at The Vault a warning for New Bedford?

For the time being, however, the City of New Bedford is not changing any of its advisories regarding venues that may attract large numbers of people in close quarters.

The city’s spokesman, Jon Carvalho, issued a statement Thursday afternoon saying New Bedford is heeding the recommendation of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which includes advising, not mandating, that people wear masks at large indoor gatherings. And if you’re not vaccinated, the CDC says you should avoid gathering in unmasked settings and get yourself vaccinated.

RELATED: Where to get vaccinated in New Bedford, with no appointment needed

But that’s what the recommendation has been for weeks now. 

And yet we have mostly young people showing up to a club in downtown New Bedford, knowing they are not vaccinated, and knowing that they will be packed together with scores of other people, as they dance the night away.

Granted, it’s hard for young people. Coming of age in the time of COVID-19, when you have all the energy and exuberance of youth, is not easy. But there is a limit to how much responsibility you can abandon, no?

What kind of kids are these? Do they think it doesn’t matter because young people don’t get as sick as older people? Well, they might want to shelve that bedtime story as the latest news is that the so-called delta variant is seriously affecting larger numbers of younger people. 

That may have to do with the fact that much higher percentages of older people have become vaccinated than younger people. But the more that people don’t get vaccinated against COVID-19, the greater the chances that a mutation will come along that is eventually able to overcome the protection of even the vaccines.

Three weeks after the city began a laudable and concerted effort to increase the number of vaccinated people, the percentage of vaccinated as of Thursday had only grown by a few percentage points, from 39% to 42%. In a city of roughly 100,000 people, that represents an additional 3,000 vaccinated people, but it’s still a far cry from the 70% to 80% plateau that New Bedford needs to reach in order to stop the delta variant’s rapid spread.

What do you think?

Should vaccinations be mandatory? Let us know your thoughts and we’ll publish select responses in Community Voices.

The stats show that it’s young people, and people of Hispanic backgrounds, that have the lowest vaccination numbers in New Bedford.

For the week of July 18, some 74% of city residents between 65 and 74 years old were vaccinated, but only 32% of residents between 20 and 29. When it comes to ethnicity, the vaccination rates were a little less lopsided. Whites and Blacks in the city were vaccinated at 41% and 39% rates respectively. People who are Hispanic were vaccinated at a 27% rate and people who identify as of mixed race at 19%.

More and more you hear folks say, fine, you don’t want to get vaccinated, don’t get vaccinated. But you can’t come into this concert hall, you can’t get onto this bus, you can’t go back to your college dorm and you can’t shop in this store.

That hasn’t happened yet, but people are beginning to talk about it.

Would those kinds of vaccination rules be draconian? Maybe. But is it any more draconian than the unvaccinated forcing thousands of vaccinated people to a life wearing masks with no end in sight? Is it any more hard-hearted than the unvaccinated forcing society as a whole to live a prolonged life of fearing COVID-19 because they don’t seem to care about what kind of hardships their actions cause for others?

Howie Mallowes, one of the co-owners of The Vault Music Hall & Pub, said that since the July 10 DJ party, the music room’s events have only drawn about 100-125 people. He said the Contract Tracing Collaborative originally offered to run vaccination clinics outside the club on weekend nights that might attract crowds of 300 but he hasn’t seen any sign that they’ve done that.

Mallowes said the CTC had not informed him that the number of COVID-19 cases traced to The Vault had grown to 39; in fact, he had not heard from them since last week. He said he will confer with his co-owners now that the number has grown.

Mallowes also said he hasn’t had any additional directive from either the state or the city, so the club doesn’t have any plans to pull back on the music nights. 

“We still have to operate our business,” he said.

Email Jack Spillane at jspillane@newbedfordlight.org .


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