The state reported 31 new confirmed coronavirus cases Sunday, the lowest number since March 2020, as infections, hospitalizations, and deaths continue to drop amid rising vaccination rates.
Numbers have been consistently declining: On Tuesday the Department of Public Health reported 33 new confirmed cases, and the state’s seven-day average is hovering around 53 new infections a day.
The department reported only one new death Sunday.
The new lows — not seen since emergency orders were just beginning, and dozens of cases were likely going uncounted while the state tried to quickly ramp up its testing abilities — are an achievement for the state , one specialist said Sunday.
“While we should absolutely, as a state, be proud of what we’ve achieved, it is not time to completely celebrate and think of the pandemic as over for us,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health and a Massachusetts resident.
The decline is likely the result of the high numbers of residents getting vaccinated, Jha said. As of Sunday, the number of fully vaccinated people in Massachusetts rose to 4,184,359, about 59.5 percent of Massachusetts residents.
“We have a lot of immunity in the Commonwealth, and that is a major, major driver of what has gotten infections so low. But also, it’s going to become a major buffer as the Delta variant arrives here,” Jha said, referring to the highly contagious variant that now makes up about 20 percent of sequenced SARS-CoV-2 samples in the US.
It’s likely that cases will rise again in the fall, though whether it’s a small bump in numbers or an overwhelming wave depends on vaccination rates and new variants of the virus, Jha said.
The existing vaccines appear to be effective against emerging variants, but Jha said he had concerns about communities across the state where fewer residents have gotten their shots. He encouraged state officials to focus their efforts — and funds — on raising vaccination rates across the state, leaving fewer vulnerable communities.
“There’s still a lot of unevenness,” he said.
Though case counts are steadily declining, the pandemic’s impact is still present: Bay Staters are still grieving deaths of loved ones. The state’s unemployment rate has fallen to about 6.1 percent, but hiring is slowing. Hunger remains prevalent, according to recent surveys.
The department said the state’s pandemic death toll Sunday was 17,626. The total number of confirmed infections is 663,625.
Daily average numbers of new deaths and cases have continued to decline since mid-April, and reached levels not reported since the outbreak began early last year. The vaccines are safe and effective measures against the virus, health officials and elected leaders have said.
The state said 36,410 new vaccinations were reported Sunday. The total number of administered doses has grown to more than 8.5 million.
Those who have received their second shot of the currently approved two-dose vaccines from Pfizer or Moderna, or a dose of Johnson & Johnson’s single shot, are considered fully vaccinated after two weeks.
Officials reported 1,432 people were estimated to have active cases of the potentially deadly virus, and 96 confirmed coronavirus patients were in the hospital. Those figures have also fallen dramatically since the spring, according to state data.
Gal Tziperman Lotan can be reached at email@example.com or at 617-929-2043.