Experts are warning of a surge in coronavirus cases this winter as data shows the number of infections continues to rise.
With the colder winter months nearly upon us, doctors are monitoring COVID case numbers closely to try to avoid a repeat of last year.
“We expect that uptick, but we are cautious and very vigilant to those cases and numbers every day, to make sure that we are doing everything we can to slow the spread, and make sure that we’re not back in a surge like last winter,” said Dr. Gabriela Andujar Vazquez with Tufts Medical Center.
Vazquez says we’re in a much better place already with vaccines widely available for everyone ages five and up. But COVID case numbers are rising in 17 states across the country, including Massachusetts, where breakthrough cases are up 44%.
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In the last week, 4,608 new breakthrough cases -- infections in people who have been vaccinated -- have been reported. That's up 44% from 3,192 the previous week and marks the second straight week of increased breakthrough cases, Massachusetts Public Health data shows.
“It’s because Massachusetts is a highly vaccinated state,” said Vazquez, “and so the more vaccinated people there are the more likely you’ll have vaccinated individuals that may have a breakthrough infection.”
Vazquez says as we move into the holidays, doctors are cautiously optimistic that travel and gatherings can be possible, with the proper precautions.
“I think that we have to balance that risk of traveling,” said Vazquez, “but also that we also have a vaccine that protects us very well.”
Experts are watching the data closely, warning that there could be more cases because COVID-19 seems to spike in waves over two to three-month periods.
“It’s obviously not the news that we want to hear, but it’s not unexpected," Boston Children’s Hospital's Dr. Rick Malley said. "As the weather turns a little bit colder, as the daylight is a little bit shorter, people are spending more time indoors, kids are interacting more with one another within four walls, and that’s always going to be associated with a greater risk of transmission of any virus, including this one.”
Getting vaccinated is more important than ever, experts said, including a booster for those who are eligible.
“We are seeing more breakthrough infections simply because the coronavirus comes back in waves and we do see that protection does wane over time with the vaccine," said Dr. Taison Bell, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Virginia. "But having vaccination, having that protection is the best way to protect yourself.”