Student report examines COVID-19 spread in Chelsea, Mass.

A report by Cristina Alonso, DrPH ’21, found two major reasons for the swift coronavirus spread in Chelsea, Mass.: the lag time between when people first noticed symptoms and when they got tested and the fact that about one-third of the positive cases were asymptomatic.

Collaborating with the Chelsea Board of Health, Alonso looked at data on 3,302 COVID-19 cases in the city from March 9 to August 3, 2020. She found that people got tested roughly a week after experiencing symptoms. “The time people were taking between symptoms and being tested was pretty long,” said Alonso in a November 5, 2020 Chelsea Record article. “If there’s one thing that I hope is learned from this report, it’s do not wait to get tested.”

Alonso cautioned against blaming individuals for not getting tested in a timely fashion. “We have to look and remember people here are essential workers and can get replaced on the job,” she said. “They may have been the only person at the time that was bringing home a paycheck. If COVID can cost you your job, it can be stigmatizing and not something someone wanted to know.”

The report also found that the prevalence of coronavirus cases in Chelsea was greatest among retired people and Hispanic essential workers, and that people with comorbidities such as asthma, cardiac disease, diabetes, or hypertension were significantly more likely to die from COVID-19 than those without such health issues.

Read the Chelsea Record article: Case Study: Public health data show why COVID spread in Chelsea, and amongst whom