Boston public health officials sounded a hopeful note Friday, saying COVID-19 metrics in the city had shown some improvement.
But COVID-19 data from other sources last week continued to paint a picture of a pandemic that was refusing to fade in Massachusetts, thanks to the arrival of the highly transmissible BA.5 Omicron subvariant.
And national headlines about President Biden’s positive test — and subsequent rebound case — highlighted that the virus can reach anyone.
Here’s how the state is faring against the disease.
As of last Tuesday, 616 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state, including 171 who were primarily hospitalized for COVID-19-related illnesses, according to the Department of Public Health.
The total was up from the previous week, when 589 were hospitalized. In a bit of good news, the number primarily hospitalized for COVID-19 was down from 189.
The numbers have been trending up for about six weeks, but they’re down from a bump in May and still far below the Omicron peak early this year, when more than 3,300 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, including nearly 1,700 who were primarily hospitalized for COVID-19.
The weekly reported confirmed and probable death toll was 49, down from 59 in the week before.
The weekly number of reported confirmed and probable coronavirus cases as of last Thursday ticked downward to 11,075 from 11,525 the week before, the DPH reported.
The numbers were down from a bump in May and far below the Omicron weekly peak of 160,848 early this year, according to data from DPH, which now updates many of its closely watched numbers weekly, on Thursday.
The coronavirus levels detected in the waste water that flows into the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority’s Deer Island treatment plant continued to fluctuate in the week ending last Thursday, the agency reported.
The numbers are considered a key indicator of the prevalence of COVID-19 infections in greater Boston. They’ve become even more important as more people are using rapid, at-home tests that don’t get reported and reflected in official case counts.
The tests measure the number of SARS-CoV-2 RNA copies per milliliter of waste water.
The results for the northern and southern regions of the MWRA system, like the first two metrics, show a bump in May, but they’re still far below the peak reached earlier in the year. There’s no clear sign of the virus taking off, but neither is there a clear sign of a much-desired plunge in the numbers, either.
CDC community levels
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week designated 7 of the state’s 14 counties as having moderate community levels of COVID-19. The list of counties was the same as the week before.
Suffolk, Middlesex, Norfolk, Plymouth, Barnstable, Dukes, and Nantucket were designated as having moderate levels. The remaining counties had low levels.
As recently as June 23, all the state’s counties had been seeing low levels, except for Dukes, which was at medium.
The CDC calculates community COVID-19 levels each week by reviewing the number of hospital beds being used, hospital admissions, and new COVID-19 cases in an area.
The CDC recommends an increasing number of precautions, depending on how high the COVID-19 community level is, beginning with basics such as getting vaccinated and staying up to date on boosters, improving ventilation, and getting tested if you’ve been exposed to COVID-19 or have virus symptoms.
In communities that have high levels, people should wear masks in indoor public spaces, the CDC recommends, while noting that people can wear masks at any level based on personal preference.
Boston health officials, who urged people to keep taking precautions despite the city’s downtick in COVID-19 numbers, have recommended that people wear masks indoors, including on public transportation, even though the city is only at a medium level on the CDC map.
“The risk of transmission is still significant, and we all need to continue to take proper precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our communities,” Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, the executive director of the city’s public health commission, said Friday in a statement.
Martin Finucane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.