Massachusetts coronavirus cases and other metrics continue to rise as the end draws near of the “summer of freedom” that instead turned into a season of worry about the coronavirus, thanks to the surprising ferocity of the Delta variant of the coronavirus.
The increases in cases, hospitalizations, and other measures are not as bad in Massachusetts, a national leader in vaccinations, as in other parts of the country. But experts warn that the fall could see the numbers go higher for multiple reasons, including students going back to school, people gathering indoors because of cooler weather, holdouts refusing to get vaccines, and immunity from the shots waning.
Here’s a roundup of some key coronavirus charts that show where Massachusetts stands this week in the battle against the pandemic. The data is current as of the end of Tuesday.
So much for the “independence from the virus” that people were hoping for at the end of June. The seven-day average of reported cases hit a low of 52 a day on June 28. But then the supercontagious Delta arrived. Two months later, the seven-day average has now soared to 1,512 a day, nearly 30 times higher.
While the increases seem alarming, a chart of cases from the beginning of the pandemic shows that cases have not reached the levels they reached in the previous two major surges. They have also not reached the levels of the bump in cases in March that some worried might become a third surge.
The number of coronavirus hospitalizations bottomed out at 80 on July 4. The number of hospitalizations is now up to 591, more than seven times higher.
Here’s a look at hospitalizations since the beginning of the pandemic. Note the two surges, the bump, and the current rising levels.
The number of daily deaths reported from the coronavirus slowed to a trickle by mid-July. On several days there were zero coronavirus deaths reported. But the seven-day average has been inching up since. The good news is that it’s still in the single digits, reaching 7 on Tuesday.
The waste water signal
What’s next? After an encouraging recent dip, the amount of coronavirus in Boston area wastewater has been on the rise again, in a possible signal of more case increases ahead, according to the latest data.
The pilot program tests for SARS-CoV-2 RNA copies per milliliter of wastewater at the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority’s Deer Island treatment plant. Officials think the tests can serve as an early warning system for surges in cases. Cambridge-based Biobot Analytics, which conducts the tests, says it has found that the amount of virus in the waste water is correlated with newly diagnosed coronavirus cases four to 10 days later.
This chart shows the seven-day average of test results. The latest results reported are from Friday.
Experts say no one really knows what the unpredictable virus will do next. They also have emphasized that what people do will play a key role, saying the state will fare better if holdouts step up to get their vaccines, people wear masks in indoor spaces, testing is accessible, a booster shot campaign goes well, and shots are approved and administered for children 5 to 11 years old.
“I think we’re at a precarious point right now,” said Dr. Sabrina Assoumou, an infectious disease physician at Boston Medical Center.
“We have the solution, which is vaccination,” she said. “If we combine the solution of vaccination with indoor masking in public spaces, it should hopefully help us be in a better place while we’re handling this Delta surge.”
“The vaccines are remarkable and provide a very high level of protection, especially against severe disease, hospitalization, and death,” she said. “Let’s just vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate right now so we’re in a better position in the fall for whatever is to come.”