The official case rate is back down this week in Easthampton and in Hampshire County, such that Hampshire County is now back in the "low risk" COVID-19 category. Hampden County is in the medium risk category this week. Wastewater data saw a huge spike a few weeks ago, but the concentration has fallen a bit. Viral concentration is really high right now - the fourth highest level it's ever been measured! Clearly that's not reflected in the official case rate, but we know that's an underestimate. It does seem to be reflected in hospitalizations, though. The rate of new hospitalizations is slowing, but the percent of hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients continues to increase.
Overall, I think we're in the midst of a continued high plateau. A month ago we dipped back down and we rose again in the past few weeks, but the long term picture is one of stability. I hope we continue to see stability or a decrease in infectious activity, but it sure doesn't seem like the direction fall and winter have gone the past two years.
I'll be brief this week and leave you with this:
We know the vaccine prime series and boosters work very well to reduce the severity of infection and protect us from hospitalization and death. Everyone 12 and over (and soon, 5 and over!) is eligible for the omicron-specific bivalent booster, and it's been widely available for a month. Just FOUR PERCENT of Americans have received the bivalent booster. Less than 20% of Americans feel they know a lot about the booster. This fall and winter does not have to bring a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths, but if we want to minimize the impact of increased infections, we have to increase the number of people who get the bivalent booster. A few weeks ago I shared projections for COVID-19 deaths in the next four months under three different scenarios of booster uptake. Those projections were for WAY more than 4% getting the booster! In other words, even the most pessimistic projection could be an underestimate of the death toll.
Today is a great day to schedule your bivalent booster dose.
Megan W. Harvey, PhD (she/her)