For Immediate Release: 2/25/2022 5:23 pm
WORCESTER – The city’s seven-day average of new positive cases dropped for a sixth straight week to 44.9. Worcester’s hospitals also saw another significant decline in their total number of COVID-19-positive inpatients, with 50 overall and 11 in intensive care units.
The rate of COVID-19 test positivity has fallen below four percent, and, according to Medical Director Dr. Michael Hirsh, the virus continues to be nearly undetectable in city wastewater. Since last Friday, one more Worcester resident passed away due to COVID-19, bringing the total to 514 deaths since the pandemic began.
In the nearby towns of Shrewsbury and Grafton, the seven-day averages of new positive cases have dropped to 4.4 and 1.9, respectively.
According to the latest data, 61 percent of city residents are fully vaccinated (an increase of 710 individuals from last week), and 73 percent have received at least one dose (up one percentage point from last week). Of those fully vaccinated, 1,258 more individuals received a booster dose since last week, maintaining a rate of 45 percent that is still ahead of the state average by two percentage points.
These numbers do not yet reflect total doses administered at the city’s series of school vacation week clinics, which is scheduled to wrap up tomorrow, Saturday Feb. 26, at Gala Foods. From 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., residents can visit 664 Main Street to get their next vaccine dose or booster and be entered to win one of two Nintendo Switches and 10 $40 movies passes. Free lunch and Gala Foods gift cards will be provided. It is also the last chance for Worcester youth ages 5 – 17 to be entered to win a $3,000 college scholarship, courtesy of Blue Cross Blue Shield, by getting their first or second vaccine dose.
City officials continue to emphasize that vaccines and boosters offer the best protection from all variants of COVID-19. Clinics scheduled for today at the Mercantile Center, Girls Inc. of Worcester, and the Worcester Senior Center were canceled due to the snowstorm, but the city’s regularly scheduled clinics will resume next week. A full schedule can be found at worcesterma.gov/coronavirus/vaccination.
The UMass Memorial Health Mercantile Center clinic schedule for the month of March will be shared soon. Testing and vaccines will be offered Monday, February 28 from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Earlier this week, the CDC revised its guidance around the time between first and second doses for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. People may now wait up to 8 weeks between doses, which could increase the vaccines’ effectiveness and lower the already extremely small risk of myocarditis, particularly for males ages 12 – 39.
Today, the CDC released new community metrics to help guide local steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The new COVID-19 Community Levels are based on healthcare system status, as well as new case rates, and are categorized as Low, Medium, and High. At this time, Worcester County falls under the Medium risk level, which advises that people who are immunocompromised or at high risk for severe disease, or people in close contact with someone who is at high risk, consider wearing a mask.
Worcester will continue to follow masking guidelines set forth by the Massachusetts Department of Health state mask advisory. Currently, the state recommends that fully vaccinated individuals should wear a mask indoors if they have a weakened immune system or are at increased risk for severe disease due to age or an underlying medical condition, or if someone in their household has a weakened immune system, is at increased risk for severe disease, or is unvaccinated. Any individual who is not fully vaccinated should also wear a face covering when indoors and not in their own home.
The CDC also recently updated its list of medical conditions that put people at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19, adding certain disabilities, primary immunodeficiency, and physical inactivity. More information is available at cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-with-medical-conditions.html.
The new guidance will not impact the Worcester Board of Health’s mask mandate for the city’s K-12 public, private, parochial, and charter schools, which will remain in place until further notice.
The city’s hospitals also continue to enforce their own mask mandates, and visitors are reminded to wear face coverings and follow all posted health and safety guidelines to keep patients and medical staff safe.
For higher-risk individuals who test positive for COVID-19, the Massachusetts Department of Health issued a reminder of the state’s available treatments, which include therapeutics that can be administered orally or intravenously. Residents who think they may be eligible or have questions about potential treatment should contact their doctor or call the COVID-19 Self-Referral Treatment Line operated by Gothams at 508-213-1380, Monday – Saturday, 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. More information and a list of treatments can be found at mass.gov/news/department-of-public-health-reminds-residents-of-availability-of-covid-19-treatments-for-positive-higher-risk-individuals.