Massachusetts

‘Rough Couple of Months': Doctors Warn of Possible Winter COVID Surge in Mass.

“I’m actually more concerned right now than I was last year,” said Dr. Eric Dickson, the president and CEO of UMass Memorial Health.

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With COVID cases climbing, concerns about a winter surge in Massachusetts are on the rise as well, and some doctors are warning the months ahead could be rough.

As the new omicron variant emerges in other parts of the country, COVID-19 cases are already climbing in Massachusetts. This week the state reported the highest COVID case numbers since January, and with hospital beds filling, doctors are warning of a winter surge.

“I’m actually more concerned right now than I was last year,” said Dr. Eric Dickson, the president and CEO of UMass Memorial Health.

At this time last year, Dickson said, they were just starting to see the positive impact of the vaccine. Now they are realizing that immunity wanes.

Dickson also said their hospital is full of non-COVID patients this year who delayed care during the peak of the pandemic, so they are struggling with capacity. UMass Memorial ran out of ICU beds this week.

“We’re not even effectively managing what we have today and we’re just getting started with this new variant. It’s going to be a rough couple of months,” Dickson said.

This week's COVID case numbers in Massachusetts have been the highest since January.

In addition to vaccines and boosters, Dickson is encouraging mask wearing when in a public place or anywhere near a crowd.

When asked if he would consider bringing back the statewide mask mandate, Gov. Charlie Baker said there are no plans to tighten restrictions at this time.

“Let’s find out what the experts think about this first of all,” Baker said when pressed about the mask mandate.

Baker said the state is looking to increase access to rapid tests in addition to opening more high-volume booster sites this month. He and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito got their booster shots at a vaccine clinic in Brockton on Friday.

“If you meet the criteria, you really should get a booster shot. It is the best way to ensure as much protection as possible for you, your friends and your family,” Baker said

According to the latest data from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, 38,594 booster shots were reported in the last two days, bringing the state’s total to more than 1.2 million.

Massachusetts hospitals are already overcrowded, and doctors are urging residents to do what they can to stay healthy as COVID cases rise and the new omicron variant spreads.