Massachusetts health officials reported 4,957 new COVID-19 cases and 14 new deaths on Thursday. This comes as local doctors push to reinstate mask mandates in certain locations as case counts continue to rise.
In total, there have been 1,687,023 cases and 19,315 deaths since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Last Thursday the state reported more than 5,000 new cases -- prior to that, the last time there were over 5,000 new cases reported in a single day was at the end of January.
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The state reported 866 people hospitalized for COVID-19 as of Thursday's data release, with 277 being primary cases. Of the total hospitalizations, 74 are in intensive care and 26 are intubated.
Massachusetts' COVID metrics, tracked on the Department of Public Health's interactive coronavirus dashboard, have declined since the omicron surge, but case counts have been on an upward trajectory for several weeks.
This latest increase is being attributed to subvariants of omicron -- first, it was the "stealth" omicron variant BA.2, and more recently the BA.2. 12.1 subvariant, which health officials say appears to be up to 27% more contagious than BA.2. However, there is no data to indicate it causes more serious illness.
The state's seven-day average positivity rate was at 9.35% on Thursday, compared to 9.13% on Wednesday.
For context, the numbers are still below the types of case counts and hospitalizations seen at height of the omicron surge in January, when average daily case counts reached over 28,000 and hospitalizations peaked at around 3,300.
COVID levels in wastewater, as reported by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority's tracking system are also increasing, with current levels reflecting a range we last saw in January when we were coming down from the peak of the omicron wave.
It's important to note that the levels of virus seen in the wastewater remain nowhere near where they were during the peak of the omicron surge.
Experts have also said that case count reporting became a less accurate indicator during the omicron surge, given the difficulties in getting tested. Now, widespread use of rapid tests means that some results go unreported.
More than 14.6 million vaccine doses have now been administered in Massachusetts.
Health officials on Thursday reported that a total of 5,374,226 Massachusetts residents have been fully vaccinated.