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Worcester Health Officials Advise Precautions Against New Omicron Sub-Variants as COVID-19 Cases Plateau

For Immediate Release: 7/15/2022 3:42 pm

WORCESTER – For four consecutive weeks, the seven-day daily average of new positive COVID-19 cases in Worcester has fluctuated within the mid-30 range. Although lower than during the May surge, the rate has lingered at a level higher than 2022’s lows in March, and city officials recommend that residents take precautions outlined in Worcester’s ongoing mask advisory as COVID-19 wastewater levels rise and new Omicron sub-variants become dominant.

As of July 15, Worcester’s seven-day daily average of new positive COVID-19 cases stands at 35.0. Forty one inpatients at the city’s hospitals are COVID-19-positive, with five in intensive care units. Both counts remain at half their volume from May, although they have also generally plateaued over the past four weeks.

The city’s test positivity rate currently sits at 5.26 percent, and COVID-19 levels in wastewater saw a spike in recent days, hovering around one million copies per liter of sewage at the beginning of the month before jumping to over four million in the most recently reported sample collected on July 11. This is the highest recorded level since the winter’s original Omicron surge, and rises in wastewater concentration are usually associated with corresponding increases in COVID-19 cases.

To date, 64 percent of city residents are now fully vaccinated and 75 percent have received at least one dose. Of those fully vaccinated, 51 percent have received a booster dose. A total of 538 Worcester residents have passed away due to COVID-19.

Officials are monitoring the potential impact of Independence Day gatherings on case counts, and the city’s COVID-19 data dashboard is updated every Friday with the most recent numbers.

The seven-day daily average of new positive cases over the last week in Shrewsbury and Grafton were 6.4 and 3.6, respectively.

Worcester health officials reiterated recommendations from the city’s mask advisory established in May, strongly encouraging residents to wear face coverings when indoors and around others, being up to date on vaccines and boosters, avoiding crowded spaces when possible, and getting tested for COVID-19 when exhibiting symptoms.

High-quality masks like KN95 or N95 are recommended over surgical and cloth masks. Individuals over the age of 50 or who are immunocompromised or have other health risk factors are advised to wear a mask whenever they are in public for the next two to four weeks.

In addition to the citywide advisory, face coverings remain mandatory at Worcester hospitals. Any other business, institution, or organization may also enact its own mask requirement, and mask advisory signs remain available to download on the city’s website.

By taking precautions now, officials hope to avoid a surge due to newly dominant strains of the Omicron variant. In particular, at this time, the sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5 appear to be more contagious than previous strains due to their ability to bypass waning immunity conferred by vaccination and past COVID-19 infection.

Despite the higher rate of transmissibility, vaccines and boosters are still the best defense against hospitalization and death due to all COVID-19 variants, and new booster shots are expected to be available this fall.

To ensure continued access to free vaccines and boosters, several weekly walk-up clinics have been renewed across Worcester:

  • Central Community Branch YMCA (766 Main Street)
    Mondays, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.

  • UMass Memorial Health Mercantile Center Clinic (100 Front Street)
    Mondays, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. and Thursdays, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
    Also offering PCR testing

  • Worcester Public Library (3 Salem Square)
    Wednesdays, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. and Saturdays, 12 – 5 p.m.
    Residents are asked to note the new start time on Saturdays

A full schedule of vaccine and booster clinics around the city can be found at worcesterma.gov/coronavirus/vaccination.

Residents are reminded that individuals ages six months and older are now eligible for vaccination, and doses for all ages will be available at the city’s clinics.

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