‘A Much Better Place': Top Boston Doctors Explain Mass. COVID Rates, Wastewater Data

Top Boston doctors discuss declining COVID cases, rates and wastewater levels in Massachusetts and across New England

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Rates of positive COVID-19 tests and levels of the virus in wastewater are declining in Massachusetts and across New England, but top Boston doctors say that doesn't mean we're out of the woods just yet.

All of New England is now considered "low risk" for COVID-19 transmission, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Wastewater data from the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority also show decreasing levels of COVID.



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Boston Medical Center's Dr. Sabrina Assoumou, Brigham and Women's Hospital's Dr. Daniel Kuritzkes and Tufts Medical Center's Dr. Brian Chow explained what the data means during NBC10 Boston's digital series, "COVID Q&A."

"Maybe we really have reached some semblance of herd immunity between prior exposures to SARS-CoV-2 and high rates of vaccination that we see here in Massachusetts and in many of our neighboring states," Kuritzkes said. "I do think there is a real decline in the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection in the community overall. Hopefully this will persist. We never know what's going to happen."

Herd immunity relates to the idea that a high level of immunity to a virus in a population can be achieved when a lot of people form antibodies, either from fighting the virus through a natural infection, from vaccination or both. When herd immunity is reached, in theory, the virus has nowhere to go and will die out. Experts suggested that this was a possibility earlier this year.

With the federal public health emergency for COVID-19 set to expire next month, there is a push to keep mask requirements in health care settings.

"I always like objective measures and the wastewater is definitely in a much better place," Assoumou said. "I would like for it to dip a little more, I'm still looking for that — that magical summer 2021, which I didn't know at the time was our best that we could do. So we're not quite there yet, but we're definitely in a much better place."

For the first time in months, Kuritzkes said Brigham and Women's Hospital has been seeing an in-house census in the teens over the last couple of weeks, a notable decrease from steady counts closer to 30.

Chow noted that New Englanders "should be proud" of the work they've done to get to this point, including getting vaccinated and taking other safety precautions.

"I'm very encouraged," Chow said. "I think this is an inflection point. What comes next? We don't know. Will this become more of a predictable seasonal virus? That that could be the case. This is a time of year when we might see certain viruses kind of tail off just come back in the wintertime. Is this going to be a sustained low rate of transmission where we're not going to see so many peaks? I would hope that's the case. But I really don't think that's going to happen."

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