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Groton’s Population Skews Older, Making It More Vulnerable to Covid-19 Fatalities

With the full impact of the pandemic gradually becoming clear, it is worth considering the risk profile of Groton’s population. It turns out that our town’s population, taken as a whole, is at higher risk of fatalaties than many other towns and municipalities in Massachusetts because of the large portion of people over 60. Given this reality, it is reasonable to ask whether the Select Board should consider any special policies or programs to address this greater vulnerability.
     Public health experts warn that people over the age of 60 are most at risk of dying if infected by the COVID-19 virus. That warning has been borne out by the rising tally of deaths released by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Protecting residents over 60 from the disease is a prime reason state and local officials say that residents should stay at home and maintain social distancing when venturing outside for exercise or essential shopping.
     Of the 48 COVID-19 deaths reported in Massachusetts as of March 30, all but one of the victims was 60 years of age or older. The only person under 60 was a 54-year old Ayer woman with a pre-existing condition predisposing her to greater danger from the virus.
     Older adults appear to be more severely at risk from the new virus while young children seem to be largely spared — and understanding why could be crucial to treating people with the illness it causes, according to scientists.
     According to Groton’s 2020 census data, there are 9,041 adult residents in town (those aged 17 and older). Of that adult population, 2,696 are older than 60. Therefore, approximately 29.8% of Groton’s adult population is in the ‘vulnerable’ category for the COVID-19 virus. Statewide, 17.2 percent of adults are 60 or older. So, Groton’s population is 12.6 per cent older than the Massachusetts average. With a total of 2,969 residents in this category, Groton has 1,138 more vulnerable residents than if the town’s demographic matched state averages.
     While the immune systems of older people are typically not as robust as those of younger people, leaving them more vulnerable to a wide variety of illnesses, scientists say they can't definitively say why the coronavirus has been harder on older people.
     "We're trying to figure out why age is a primary feature of this infection, but from a biological perspective, we don't have that answer," said Dr. Srinivas Murthy, a clinical associate professor in the department of pediatrics at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.
     Surgeon General Jerome Adams, speaking Monday afternoon at a news conference, confirmed that the virus had been more severe for older people based on the data currently available.
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