Most of Mass. Now at High COVID Risk, CDC Says

Eleven Massachusetts counties are considered high risk, with three considered medium risk

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All but three of Massachusetts' 14 counties are now considered high risk for COVID-19, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The latest data released Thursday shows that Barnstable, Berkshire, Dukes, Essex, Franklin, Middlesex, Nantucket, Norfolk, Plymouth, Suffolk, and Worcester counties are all listed as high risk. Bristol, Hampden and Hampshire counties are medium risk, with no counties in the low risk category.



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Just one week ago, only seven Massachusetts counties were listed as high risk.

Massachusetts' COVID metrics, tracked on the Department of Public Health's interactive coronavirus dashboard, have declined since the omicron surge, but case counts and hospitalizations are starting to increase once again.

State health officials reported 5,576 new COVID-19 cases Thursday. The last time there were over 5,000 new cases reported in a single day was at the end of January. The state's seven-day average positivity rate increased to 8.24% Thursday, compared to 7.89% on Wednesday. The number of new COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts schools has also shot up significantly, rising 62.6% in the past week.

Half of the state's 14 counties are now considered a high risk for community transmission of COVID-19.

COVID levels in wastewater, as reported by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority's tracking system, are also increasing.

What about the rest of New England?

In New Hampshire, the entire state is now considered either high or medium risk. Grafton, Rockingham and Sullivan counties are designated as high risk, while the rest of the state is medium risk.

In Vermont, only Essex County remains low risk. Addison, Bennington, Chittenden, Franklin, Orange, Rutland Washington and Windsor are high risk, with Caledonia, Grand Isle, Lamoille, Orleans and Windham counties at medium risk.

Four Maine counties -- Aroostook, Hancock, Penobscot and Piscatiquis -- are considered high risk, with the remainder of the state in the medium risk category.

In Connecticut, Hartford, Litchfield, Middlesex, New Haven, Tolland and Windham counties are all high risk, with Fairfield and New London in the medium risk category.

All of Rhode Island remains in the medium risk category for the second straight week.

Residents in counties with a high risk are urged to wear masks indoors in public and on public transportation, to stay up to date with vaccines and to get tested if they have symptoms, according to the CDC.

Residents in areas with medium risk are encouraged to wear a mask if they have symptoms, a positive test or exposure to someone with COVID-19. Anyone at high risk for severe illness should also consider wearing a mask indoors in public and taking additional precautions, the CDC says.

The majority of cases in New England right now are still being attributed to the "stealth" omicron variant BA.2, although cases of the BA.2.12.1 subvariant are on the rise. Increases in cases in South Africa and other countries are raising concerns that the U.S. could soon experience another COVID-19 wave.

Despite the rising cases here, Massachusetts and the other New England states have yet to take any steps to bring back mask mandates or any other COVID-related restrictions that were relaxed following January's omicron-fueled surge.

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