As summer slides into fall and children around the state return to school, the uptick in COVID-19 that began in July is continuing, with hospitalizations now at a five-month high.
Whether you’re returning to work from vacation, getting ready for college, or sending kids off to school, here’s what to know about the current state of COVID as the cooler weather approaches.
Waste water data continues to serve as an early indicator of where COVID levels might be headed. Spikes in coronavirus levels in waste water are followed by increases in hospitalizations and other metrics that indicate COVID is on the rise. The latest waste water data indicate that COVID cases could continue to rise: after declining through much of August, levels began rising again earlier this week, according to Massachusetts Water Resources Authority data.
After hitting a two-year low earlier in the summer, the number of new hospital admissions in Massachusetts has risen through August — an uptick that Dr. Shira Doron, chief infection control officer for Tufts Medicine, called “modest” in an interview with the Globe last week. In recent days, new admissions have shown signs of leveling off.
The charts below, from the Globe’s weekly COVID dashboard, show several metrics for looking at hospitalizations, including the number of patients in ICUs and the number who are intubated. Most of these show a clear uptick from mid-summer lows, but overall, hospitalizations remain low compared to previous winter surges.
As hospitalizations and waste water levels have increased, deaths have also increased in Massachusetts in recent weeks, though they remain a fraction of what they were at the height of the most recent winter surge. The two charts below show two different ways of measuring deaths. The first represents the number of deaths reported to the state by week (regardless of when the person died). The second chart shows the number of deaths by the date of death. This chart will often appear to show a decline because of the lag in officials reporting deaths to the state ― in other words, the most recent days will usually show fewer deaths until the record keeping can catch up. Still, it’s helpful to look at the two charts together to get a full picture of the peaks and valleys.