Virus Numbers Back at January Levels, And Rising

With Massachusetts in the midst of another COVID-19 surge, daily confirmed infections have returned to levels not seen since mid-January, before any of the three vaccines were available to the general public.

The Department of Public Health (DPH) reported 5,402 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, and hospitalizations climbed to 1,204, with 252 patients in intensive care units and 144 on ventilators.

The spike in infections arrives as colder temperatures have pushed more people indoors, people gather for the holidays, and as vaccinated and unvaccinated residents return to many of traditional activities they took part in before the pandemic.

The Omicron variant, which has been detected in Massachusetts, adds a new unknown to the equation as Gov. Charlie Baker continues to urge people to get vaccinated, including booster shots, and some officials seek a return to indoor masking where it is not currently required.

On June 25, the seven-day average of new cases was 64.1. It now stands at 3,309, as high as it’s been since late January. The 4.99 percent test positivity rate reported by the DPH is also as high as it’s been since Jan. 23, with 120,207 new tests recorded on Wednesday.

The Baker administration has taken steps to address the overcrowding of hospitals by requiring providers with limited available bed capacity to curtail non-essential procedures. Hospitals have seen a nearly 134 percent increase in COVID-19 admissions over the past month, with 515 patients reported as hospitalized with the virus on Nov. 8. DPH reported 12 new deaths on Wednesday, after reporting 51 deaths Tuesday, and the total confirmed deaths from the pandemic to date stand at 19,163.

More than a third of the patients currently in the hospital with COVID-19, or 417, were fully vaccinated when they became infected, according to DPH. The state reports 4,949,714 residents have been fully vaccinated with either two shots of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or one shot of Johnson & Johnson, or about 70 percent of the total population. Another 1,346,965 booster doses have been administered.

The Joint Committee on COVID-19 and Emergency Preparedness and Management plans a hearing next Thursday to examine the state of the pandemic in Massachusetts.

Matt Murphy/SHNS