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New Mass. COVID-19 cases, test positivity drops again

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The Massachusetts Department of Public Health reported an additional 18,721

confirmed COVID-19 cases on Thursday.

For the second day in a row, the state's seven-day positivity rate dropped — and now sits at 20.34%, about 3% lower than what the rate was one week ago. On Dec. 13, the state's seven-day positivity rate was 5.38%.

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The number of positive cases is lower than the 24,570 confirmed cases reported last Thursday but is based on about 20% fewer tests than reported on the same day last week.

According to Thursday's report from the DPH, 3,180 patients with confirmed coronavirus cases were hospitalized in Massachusetts, of which 484 were reported to be in an intensive care unit.

The seven-day average of hospitalizations stands at 2,871, more than double what the seven-day average was at the same time in December. The seven-day average of hospitalizations was 1,276 on Dec. 13.

State health officials said 1,505 of the patients in Massachusetts hospitals are COVID-19 breakthrough cases, or 47% of all hospitalizations.

A breakthrough case is when an individual tests positive for COVID-19 after they've been fully vaccinated against the disease.

The state is poised to release additional hospitalization data soon that will reveal if hospitalized patients are there because of COVID-19 symptoms, or tested positive for the virus after being hospitalized for other conditions.

State health officials also added 36 confirmed COVID-19-related deaths to the state's total, which is now 20,386.

More than 5.14 million of Massachusetts' 7.03 million residents are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the DPH.

Massachusetts hospitals 'at a crisis point'

Massachusetts hospitals say they were feeling the pressure of rising patient counts before the COVID-19 omicron variant. Now, there are more COVID patients as well as people who put off care vying for fewer hospital beds.

Video: 'Need more walk-in capacity': Boston Mayor Michelle Wu discusses plans to expand COVID-19 testing (WCVB Boston)


"It's just a perfect storm for emergency departments being overcrowded, backed up and not being able to move admitted patients out of the emergency department into hospital beds," Dr. Eric Dickson, president of UMass Memorial Health said.

Hospitals say they're under more strain now than ever before in the pandemic.

"What's really broken down in the state is the ability to move people from one level of care to the next," Dickson said.

The Massachusetts National Guard has been deployed to some hospitals to help. "We have some guardsmen here helping us," Dr. Helen Boucher with Tufts Medical Center said. "I hope that we won't need more, but we could. Staffing is limiting factor right now. Staff shortages are hitting hard."

There are signs of hope in the Massachusetts wastewater system. "We're seeing decreasing proportions of COVID in the wastewater, which we hope is the herald of good things to come," Boucher said.

Nursing homes struggle with staffing

Massachusetts nursing homes are struggling to deal with the number of COVID-19 cases among staff members, and methods being used to curtail possible staffing shortages are creating a new domino effect on state healthcare.

At Life Care Center of West Bridgewater, the facility is choosing to not fill up all of their beds, as they grapple with over a dozen COVID-19 cases among staff.

The decision to not open up additional beds at Life Care Center and at other facilities across Massachusetts creates a domino effect.

The stopgap measures means they won't take more patients at rehabs and nursing homes patients can't get out of the hospitals to get to rehab and long-term care which means people in the emergency room can't get to the floor in the hospital.

Massachusetts COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and fatalities

Massachusetts vaccination progress

New data is typically published weekdays around 5 p.m., with weekend data included in Monday's report. Weekly data reports are typically released on Thursdays at around 5 p.m.


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