45,029 New Breakthrough Cases in Mass., More Than Doubling Week Over Week

Also Tuesday, Massachusetts' seven-day average of positive tests rose above 20%, to the highest it's been since April 24, 2020

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Massachusetts health officials on Tuesday reported more than 45,000 new breakthrough COVID cases over the past week, more than doubling last week's total, and 88 more deaths in people with breakthrough cases.

In the last week, 45,029 new breakthrough cases -- infections in people who have been vaccinated -- were reported, with 370 more vaccinated people hospitalized, Massachusetts Department of Public Health officials said Tuesday. It's a 122% increase in the rate of new breakthrough cases in Massachusetts -- last week saw 20,247 new COVID infections in vaccinated people.

The new report brings the total number of breakthrough cases to 179,594, and the death toll among people with breakthrough infections to 942.

Both figures remain a tiny percentage of the total number of all people who have been vaccinated.

The equivalent of just 0.08% of vaccinated people have been hospitalized with COVID and 3.5% have had confirmed infections. An even smaller percentage has died: 0.02%. The report also doesn't indicate how many of the breakthrough cases are in people with underlying conditions, though it also notes that "may be undercounted due to discrepancies" in records.

We should shift how we track the severity of the coronavirus pandemic, says Dr. Monica Gandhi at University of California San Francisco. Since Omicron is more infectious, it can cause higher case numbers. But with many people vaccinated or having some level of immunity, each case may not be a cause for panic - hospitalizations and deaths are better measurements of how severe the virus is, Gandhi says.

While vaccinated people are getting COVID-19, the virus' effects are severely blunted in them, and breakthrough cases rarely lead to hospitalizations or deaths. Last month, Massachusetts Department of Public Health officials released a study that found that 97% of breakthrough cases in the state did not become severely ill and rarely led to deaths, especially among young people.

That's why public health officials worldwide continue to stress the importance of vaccination and booster shots. (If you still need to be vaccinated, here's a tool to find the closest vaccination provider to your home.)

Also Tuesday, another 16,621 confirmed coronavirus cases and 94 new deaths were reported, pushing the state's number of confirmed COVID-19 cases to 1,007,768 since the start of the pandemic and its death toll to 19,954.

Massachusetts' COVID metrics, tracked on the Department of Public Health's interactive coronavirus dashboard, dashboard, have been spiking to heights not seen since previous surges, thought to be driven at least in part by the omicron variant.

Massachusetts' seven-day average of positive tests rose from 19.87% Monday to 21.62% Tuesday, the highest it's been since April 24, 2020. The metric was once above 30%, but had dropped under 0.5% until the delta variant began surging in the state.

The number of patients in Massachusetts hospitals with confirmed COVID-19 cases rose to 2,372, the most since Jan. 6, 2021. The figure was once nearly 4,000, but reached under an average of 85 at one point in July.

Of those currently hospitalized, 878 are fully vaccinated, 441 are in intensive care units and 262 are intubated.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu is implementing proof of vaccination protocols. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker is activating the National Guard, issuing an indoor mask advisory and ordering all hospitals to postpone nonessential elective procedures. President Joe Biden is mailing out free at-home testing kits to Americans. And the omicron variant is now the dominant strain in Massachusetts. Top Boston doctors unpack the latest developments on NBC10 Boston’s weekly “COVID Q&A” series.

More than 12.8 million vaccine doses have now been administered in Massachusetts.

That includes, from the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, shy of 5.6 million first shots, nearly 4.8 million second shots and nearly 2.2 million booster shots. There have been more than 335,000 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine administered.

Health officials on Monday reported that a total of 5,097,188 Massachusetts residents have been fully vaccinated.

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