With coronavirus cases at relatively high levels nationwide, experts have warned of the possibility of a winter surge for multiple reasons, including people gathering indoors because of cooler weather, people refusing to receive vaccines, and immunity to the shots fired. to decrease.
Outbreaks of coronavirus in Massachusetts have made headlines recently, including one that forced the closure of Boston’s Curley K-8 School and one that hit the Essex County Jail in Middleton.
The latest numbers are a reminder that “it’s not over until it’s over,” said Dr. Howard Koh, a former US Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services and Massachusetts Commissioner of Health.
“These state trends are troubling, but not surprising, as national declines in COVID cases have stalled in recent weeks. We need to be extra vigilant and careful as the winter season approaches. We need to push the state’s vaccination rates even higher, resist suggestions to drop mask requirements too early and eliminate inequalities,” Koh, who is now a professor at Harvard’s TH Chan School of Public Health, said in an email. -mail.
dr. Sabrina Assoumou, an infectious disease physician at Boston Medical Center and an assistant professor at Boston University School of Medicine, said, “We definitely need to pay attention” to the new numbers.
“We kind of knew this was going to happen,” because colder weather causes people to spend more time indoors, “when COVID tends to be transmitted more efficiently,” she said.
“We should use it as a warning signal to double down on the measures we know have worked,” she said.
“The best way to go about this,” she said, “is to vaccinate as many people as possible so we can stop transmission in the community. Vaccination is still our best way out of this pandemic.”
She said the recent approval of COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 5 to 11, a cohort of 515,000 in Massachusetts, would be of great help in the fight against the pandemic. “We now have a new group of people who qualify for this. Let’s use that and let’s vaccinate them.” She said it is also important to increase the number of teenagers aged 12 to 17 who are vaccinated.
She also said: “We need to decide if now is the time to encourage more masking in indoor public areas. It’s probably time to think about that.”
Other important measures to tackle the pandemic include improving ventilation and using rapid home testing, she said.
Society has tools to deal with the pandemic, and “these numbers are a reminder that we really need to use them to the best of our ability,” she said.
Massachusetts is already a national leader in vaccinations, and experts say that as cases increase here, the number of people who become seriously ill and die will likely be lower than in other less-vaccinated places.
“We’re probably in one of the regions of the country that has the least cause for concern,” said William Hanage, a professor of epidemiology at Harvard’s Chan School.
But he said people should make sure they get their vaccinations and booster shots. “The pandemic is not over yet. People need to act responsibly,” he said.
He also warned: “It is very important to note that the Delta variant will find you. You won’t be able to avoid Delta. What you want to do is make sure you have the best preparation.”
Martin Finucane can be reached at [email protected]