Massachusetts

With COVID Cases Rising in Mass., Experts Stress Importance of Vaccines, Testing

Dr. Shira Doron says vaccines are protecting people from hospitalization, but the virus is trying to stay alive

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With COVID cases on the rise in Massachusetts, more people are turning to testing and booster shots.

The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows all but three of Massachusetts' 14 counties are now considered high risk for COVID-19.

On Thursday, almost 5,600 COVID cases were reported in Massachusetts -- the state's highest amount since late January -- and COVID cases in schools rose by more than 62-percent last week.

Brit MacFarland is one of a rising number of people infected with COVID as a new Omicron subvariant of the virus, B.A.2.12.1, has been detected.

Though MacFarland is vaccinated and boosted, he's also recovering from COVID.

“I’m still feeling a little flush," he said. “I decided it was time to take a vacation again, decided to go on a cruise ship. I’m fairly certain that cruise got me COVID.”

Brit MacFarland is one of a rising number of people infected with COVID as a new Omicron subvariant of the virus, B.A.2.12.1, is detected.

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Dr. Shira Doron, an infectious disease physician and hospital epidemiologist at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, said, "People who are vaccinated, people who are boosted, people who double boosted can still very much get infected by Omicron."

Doron says vaccines are protecting people from hospitalization, but the virus is trying to stay alive.

“There are different reasons why it could be more contiguous, but even if it’s just more immune invasive, than it can affect more people so that makes it spread more easily,” she said.

At the Whittier Street Health Center in Boston, nurses say there are more people coming in testing positive and getting boosted.

“At first there were no cases, then one or two a day and that has gone up to three or four,” said Melissa Leaston, the community center’s director of nursing.

And nurses say they're seeing people of all ages, though with varying degrees of sickness.

“Its definitely affecting the children, as well," said Leaston. "We’re not seeing them as sick as some of the adults are.”

Doron says youth appears to be protecting children from severe complications.

“Children are at very low risk. Lower risk than a vaccinated adult,” she said, adding that an increase in cases means higher risk for everyone, and precautions should still be taken -- even as we try to get back to life as we knew it.

“I personally am going to be wearing a mask going forward, like I have been,” MacFarland said.

"We to have to accept that the new normal is cases will go up and cases will go down,” Doron adds.

That’s why taking precautions -- like masking, testing and vaccinations -- are still so important, she says. Yet even with the uptick in cases, Doron says we’re in a much better place tackling COVID with the vaccines and treatments that are available today.

Griselda Smith is a caretaker for a sick relative, so she’s getting her second COVID booster shot.

"I’m not trying to wipe out my family with this disease,” she said.

Nurses at the Whittier Street Health Center say they're not surprise more people are testing positive.

“We’re seeing a slow uptick,” Leaston said.

“When the mask mandate went down....it was anticipated,” said nurse Jennifer Cox.

But Cox says seeing more faces is promising.

“I feel good just seeing people coming in to get vaccine or talk about it because they have questions," she said.

One big question is, how are vaccinated people still testing positive?

“That seems to be what Omicron does, it splits off into subvariants and subvariants of subvariants and a new more advantageous version takes over,” Doron said.

Nurses at the Whittier Street Health Center say it's never a bad idea to get tested, especially if you have plans. Walk-ins are welcome there and you can also test for and get treated for COVID -- all free of charge.

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