For Immediate Release: 1/21/2022 4:53 pm
City officials are reviewing the latest COVID-19 numbers with some cautious optimism. They are starting to see signs that the recent surge is slowing. At the same time, the numbers are still very high, and we can’t let our guard down too early. The City must continue to take every precaution to make sure we are in fact on the downside of Omicron’s peak. And as with Omicron, things can change very quickly, and new variants could emerge, so we need to be steadfast and united in fighting the coronavirus.
By the Numbers
To date, there have been 49,033 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in the City of Worcester. That represents an increase of 3,968 cases from last Friday (482 new positive tests were added since yesterday), and we suspect the actual total to be much higher due to unreported at-home tests.
The seven day average is 566.86. This is down over 100 from last week, but still substantially higher than our peak around this time last year, which was under 200.
To date, 486 Worcester residents have died due to COVID-19 (an increase of four from last week). Saint Vincent Hospital and UMass Memorial Health Care had 328 total COVID-positive in-patients (-21 from last week) and 73 total COVID-positive ICU patients (+13 from last week). To date, their facilities have had a total of 973 COVID-related deaths (+21 from last week).
These numbers serve as a reminder that changes in hospitalizations and deaths tend to lag behind case counts, so while we may be starting to see fewer positive cases, we must still brace for continued strain on our hospitals.
In earlier stages of the pandemic, we saw daily news reports and images of our healthcare workers working around the clock to care for COVID-19 patients. They were exhausted but continued to show compassion in their care and expressed remorse every time a patient was lost to this terrible disease. While it might not be in the public’s eye as much, our healthcare workers are experiencing that cycle all over again due to the holiday surge and Omicron variant. Hospital capacity is maxed out, and hospitals and healthcare centers are short-staffed.
So please, even though transmission of the Omicron variant may be declining, do your part to support our medical professionals and keep hospital beds open and broader care possible by getting vaccinated and boosted when eligible, wearing a mask in public spaces and when around unvaccinated individuals, and following social distancing whenever possible.
Every day we see new data that people who are boosted and up to date on their vaccines are far less likely to end up in the ICU or die from COVID-19.
With regard to testing, the free, walk-up UMass Memorial Health Care Mercantile Center clinic will continue to be open four days a week through at least the end of January. Those times are Mondays from 11 to 4, Tuesdays 10 to 3, Wednesdays 9 to Noon, and Thursdays 10 to 3. In addition to testing, vaccines are available at this clinic every Friday, from noon to 3.
While there have been reports that lines and wait times are declining, we are still pursuing ways to enhance testing capacity.
This week, the federal government launched its program to distribute a billion at-home rapid antigen test kits to US residents. You can sign up to have one order of four free tests mailed to your home for free by logging on to covidtests.gov and clicking the “Order Free At-Home Tests” button. This will take you to a USPS form where you can enter your name and shipping address. It only takes a minute or two to sign up, and tests will start shipping later this month.
In addition to the Baker Administration’s plan to supply rapid COVID antigen tests to schools, it announced that child care centers will begin receiving allotments of test kits the week of January 31. The tests will enable close contacts of a COVID-19-positive individual to test daily for five consecutive days and stay in child care as long as the test is negative. They can also be used to test those who develop symptoms while attending or providing care. Centers can opt-in to one or both of these options, in addition to weekly pooled PCR testing. The new rapid testing options are available for children ages 2 and older, and child care programs affiliated with the Department of Early Education and Care that would like to participate can sign up using a form on the Mass.gov website.
People will also be able to pick up free N95 masks soon. The CDC recently updated its guidelines to emphasize that high-filtration masks and respirators like N95s and KN95s offer better protection than cloth or disposable surgical masks.
To make high-quality masks more accessible, the Biden Administration announced that it will make 400 million N95 masks available to the public at no cost. We are still awaiting further details, but we except they will be available at local pharmacies and health centers in the coming weeks.
While N95 and KN95 respirators are the ideal choice to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 – especially the highly contagious Omicron variant – the CDC continues to recommend that you wear the most protective mask you can find that fits well and that you will wear consistently.
In some good news, the City’s vaccination rate hit some milestones. Overall, 60 percent (123,001) of the total population in Worcester is now fully vaccinated (up 1 percent from last week), while 70 percent (144,940) have received at least one dose (up 1 percent from last week).
Of Worcester’s fully vaccinated population, 39 percent (48,022 people as of Jan. 18) have received a booster dose (3 percent increase from last week). That compares to 49 percent statewide and 39 percent of the country’s fully vaccinated population.
That means Worcester has caught up to the country’s average over the past week, and now it’s time to close the gap on the state. 84.62 percent of City employees and 72.83 percent of Worcester Public School staff are fully vaccinated.
826 doses were administered last week through the City’s Equity Clinics, which are open to the public and include the weekly clinics at the Senior Center, YMCA, and Worcester Public Library. Find a free clinic at worcesterma.gov