In less than three months, the state of the coronavirus pandemic in Massachusetts has changed dramatically.
Cases, which reached a pandemic peak in the first week of January, fell sharply in February. And while the rate of decline has slowed, Massachusetts Department of Public Health data released Thursday shows cases by test date are now roughly where they were at the end of last summer before COVID is only starting to rebound in the biggest peak of the pandemic.
There were 4,195 COVID cases per test date reported last week. That’s 1,049 fewer cases than the previous week and a 97% drop from the week of January 2.
The increase in home testing could explain some reduction in reports. However, virtually every other measure being tracked by public health officials shows the virus continuing to be in a receding phase even as mask mandates end and people begin to return to more normal social activities.
Hospitalizations and deaths – two key measures that have shown the worst side of the virus – continue to decline. The state has reported 228 hospitalizations for COVID, according to Thursday’s data. But of those 228, the state reports that only 78 are hospitalized primarily for COVID-related illnesses. The others were hospitalized with other issues but tested positive for the virus.
The percentage of vaccinated individuals who are hospitalized has steadily increased as more people have been fully vaccinated. Of the 228 full hospitalizations reported Thursday, about 61% were for fully vaccinated people. The remaining 39% were those who were unvaccinated or who had not completed a two-dose vaccination or a single injection of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The percentage is not surprising given that more than 5.3 million people in the Bay State are now fully vaccinated, or about 78% of the population. Additionally, 2.8 million people in Massachusetts received booster shots.
Deaths have also fallen sharply. The state reported 10 more COVID deaths on Thursday. The seven-day average of confirmed COVID deaths is now 7.6. It rose to 64 at the end of January.
The state recently updated its definition of a COVID death. Previously, they were counted if COVID was listed as the cause of death on a death certificate, but also if the deceased was diagnosed with COVID within 60 days of death. The updated definition has reduced this period to 30 days.
The new definition adjusts the total of confirmed COVID deaths in the state to 18,926.
Massachusetts public schools saw an increase in COVID cases last week after several weeks of declining cases.
From March 10-16, there were 1,597 cases of COVID among students – compared to 1,345 cases reported from March 3-9.
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