How are we doing? Another week of data brought more encouraging signs in the state’s battle against the coronavirus.
Experts and officials say key metrics are on the decline because of the state’s vaccination campaign. Steep drops in hospitalizations, deaths, and other measures among the vulnerable elderly, who got their shots earlier in the campaign, are a driving force.
With everyone 16 and up eligible now, more than 3.9 million people have either gotten a first shot of the Moderna and Pfizer two-shot vaccines or a single shot of the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine. State officials say the vast majority return for their second shot.
Many of the coronavirus metrics in the charts below show a similar pattern. After the terrifying first surge last spring, the state saw a summertime lull. Then came the second surge this winter. The second surge seemed to be on the wane when numbers bumped up, raising worries that a third surge was imminent, fueled by the B.1.1.7 variant that first emerged in the United Kingdom.
The bump never turned into a surge and has been shrinking in recent weeks.
Here’s an update on some of the key data:
The seven-day average of reported cases reached over 6,000 around the beginning of 2021. It dropped sharply, then bumped up in late March and early April. Now it’s on its way down again. As of Thursday it had dropped to 882.
The levels have still not dropped to the levels reached during last summer’s lull.
Hospitalizations are also coming down off the worrisome bump. Like cases, they have still not dropped to last summer’s levels.
Deaths have reached the lows the state saw during last summer and appear to be edging even lower.
An encouraging fact: Four times in the seven days ending Thursday the single-day count dropped into the single digits.
The percentage of coronavirus tests that come back positive, a much-scrutinized number, continued to head down this past week, though, again, it has not dropped as low as last summer.
The chart shows the positivity percentage with the effect of college testing programs factored out. College testing programs dilute the data because they repeatedly test large numbers of asymptomatic people in an effort to rapidly identify new cases.
The state offers a breakdown of cases among students and school staff. It has also been showing encouraging signs.
The numbers have dropped significantly in recent weeks, even as more students have returned to in-person classes.
The number of cases among staff members has drastically dropped as more adults statewide have had the opportunity to get vaccinated. Thursday’s report of 65 new coronavirus cases among school staff members was the lowest weekly case number since October.
Community risk levels
With the virus on the wane, the number of communities in the state designated high-risk is dropping.
New data showed that 13 of the state’s 351 cities and towns are considered high-risk for the virus, down from 26 last week and 48 the week before.
What’s ahead? A look at wastewater surveillance data
The amount of coronavirus found in the wastewater at the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority’s Deer Island treatment plant has been on the decline in recent weeks. It now appears headed to levels as low as last summer.
The results are broken down by the northern section of the MWRA system, which includes Boston, and the southern section. The northern section has dropped to lower levels than the southern.
The trends in this data are particularly intriguing — and nowadays encouraging — because they may provide a window into what happens next. Officials and experts believe wastewater data can serve as an early warning signal of cases that will be reported days later.
“After a difficult year, all the current trends are giving everyone such great hope. Future progress depends on sustaining any efforts to make vaccination convenient, flexible, accessible — and ultimately irresistible,” said Dr. Howard Koh, a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a former US assistant secretary of health.
“Investing in stronger public health systems must start now so that we never again have to accept this unacceptable level of preventable suffering,” Koh, who is also a former Massachusetts public health commissioner, said in an e-mail.
Globe correspondent Jeremy C. Fox and Ryan Huddle of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.
Martin Finucane can be reached at email@example.com. Vince can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @vince_dixon_. Felicia Gans can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @FeliciaGans.