For Immediate Release: 2/11/2022 4:29 pm
WORCESTER – Amid rapidly declining new positive COVID-19 cases, city and public health officials are planning for the next steps in the two-year long pandemic.
As of today, Worcester’s seven-day average of positive cases has dropped to 71.6, falling for four straight weeks and down over 90 percent since its peak of 837.4 on Jan. 11. The average is also at its lowest point since Nov. 30, before the Omicron variant was officially detected in Massachusetts.
Cases of COVID-19-positive inpatients—both in Intensive Care Units and overall—have dipped to their lowest number in two months, and according to City Medical Director Dr. Michael Hirsh, the virus has become almost undetectable in the city’s wastewater.
This continued downward trajectory encourages officials as they plan for the city’s mask mandate to be lifted in workplaces and indoor spaces open to the public on Feb. 18, pending the Board of Health’s vote on Feb. 16. At that time, Worcester will defer to the state Department of Health’s ongoing mask advisory that encourages all residents, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a mask or face covering when indoors and not in their own home.
Under the advisory, masking is specifically recommended for individuals with a weakened immune system, at increased risk for severe disease because of age or an underlying medical condition, and who share a household with someone who has a weakened immune system, is at increased risk for severe disease, or is unvaccinated.
Any other individual who wishes to continue to wear a mask is encouraged to do so, and any establishment may still enact its own mask requirement. Worcester hospitals in particular have their own mask mandates in place, and visitors are reminded to adhere to all hospital guidelines to protect the health and safety of patients and medical staff.
The Board of Health’s mask mandate for Worcester’s K-12 public, private, parochial, and charter schools remains in place until further notice.
In other cases, federal and state regulations may still require face coverings. For example, masks will continue to be required on WRTA busses and all means of public transportation and ride shares as per the CDC. Masks are also mandatory on all flights and while inside Worcester Regional Airport.
Last week, City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. announced that he would amend his Jan. 3 Executive Order to restore full public access to buildings, allow boards and commissions to meet in person, and reopen the Senior Center to in-person programming effective Monday, Feb. 14. The City employee booster mandate enacted in that Executive Order will remain in place.
City medical officials emphasize that being fully up-to-date on vaccines, including boosters, is the best way for individuals to protect themselves from severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. To date, 61 percent of city residents are fully vaccinated, and 72 percent have received at least one dose. Of those fully vaccinated, 44 percent have received a booster dose, up one percent since last week and ahead of the state average by two percent.
For a current schedule of weekly walk-up testing, vaccination, and booster clinics open to the entire eligible population, visit worcesterma.gov.
A special lineup of clinics has been planned for school vacation week (Feb. 21 – 26), which will include family activities, raffles, and gift card giveaways: