COVID-19 cases are rising again in Massachusetts, which has some health professionals expressing concern.
State health officials reported another 236 confirmed coronavirus cases -- the most cases in a single day since early June -- and four new deaths on Thursday. The last time Massachusetts reported more than 236 new cases in one day was on June 3.
The state's COVID metrics, tracked on the Department of Public Health's interactive coronavirus dashboard, are far lower than they were several months ago, but some have been sliding up in the last few weeks. Once above 30%, Massachusetts' seven-day average of positive tests rose to 0.78% on Thursday.
“I think something’s going on. I’m worried,” Dr. David Hamer of Boston Medical Center told The Boston Globe this week. “I think that it looks like the United States is starting to have an uptick in cases on average across the whole country. ... And therefore this may be spreading into Massachusetts, so we need to increase our guard.”
Gov. Charlie Baker said he's monitoring the data, but he doesn't yet think there's cause for concern just yet.
"So the Delta variant, which is now more than half the cases in the U.S., is very, very contagious, and it first landed in the UK, which has seen a very significant rise in cases since it became visible there," he said at an event Thursday in Lawrence. "What I would say is two things. Number one, if you look at what's going on in the UK, they've seen a very significant rise in cases but because the UK has done a pretty decent job of getting their people vaccinated, they've not seen a similar increase in hospitalizations or deaths. And that is because of the power and the strength of the vaccine, which is why we're going to continue to run that program until we get as many people as we possibly can vaccinated."
"The second thing, I would say, in Massachusetts we have one of the highest vaccination rates among people over the age of 65, which is the population fundamentally most at risk and most vulnerable when it comes to COVID. Our vaccination rate for that population is over 85%, which is a very good thing. But with that said, it's critically important for people to get vaccinated if they haven't gotten vaccinated. It's the greatest and most powerful tool you can use to protect yourself and your family against the Delta variant and any other variants."
Baker said from the medical experts he's talked to, he thinks the reason for the recent rise in cases in Massachusetts is gatherings around the Fourth of July holiday weekend.
"Having talked to folks in the infectious disease community, they think the uptick is absolutely a result of the Fourth of July," he said.
Baker said a similar spike was seen last year around Thanksgiving, almost seven days after the holiday.
"Our spike is very small compared to the spike seen in other parts of the country, and we have a much higher vaccination rate," he said. "But I definitely think the Fourth of July weekend was a real issue."
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Baker said there is no set number at which he would start to get concerned and consider enacting mask mandates or other similar measures used during the height of the pandemic.
"For me, it's a combination of factors," he said. "What I would say at this point is we have seen a significant increase on a very low number in cases, driven in some extent by the Fourth of July holiday. The hospitalization number has stayed pretty flat for the past month or so, and our death data continues to be extremely low, but the vaccine is the best and most powerful way people can protect themselves and their families and friends and coworkers. If you haven't already, try to find a way to get it done."