Last week, Gov. Charlie Baker introduced new protocols to combat the recent increase in COVID-19 positive cases, including a statewide mask advisory, and National Guard assistance at hospitals across the state.
These protocols came as the state has been reporting the highest levels of COVID-19 positive cases since January of 2021, nearly a year ago.
As of December 27, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health reported that there were 13,791 new cases of COVID-19, with 25 new deaths. The seven day average of cases was 7,090 with 30 deaths.
In Westford, 109 people were recorded as COVID-19 positive as of last week, which is lower than the state average.
However, a total of 1.07 million Massachusetts residents have been infected with the virus since the first case was reported in the state in 2020, and over 20,000 have died.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently stated that the omicron variant now makes up 73% of all new COVID-19 cases across the country.
In Massachusetts, hospilizations amongst those infected with the virus have become increasingly more common, with hospitals beginning to get overwhelmed. Massachusetts state health officials believe that the rates will continue to rise as a result of people getting together during the holidays.
According to a December 21 press release by the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, “the Baker-Polito Administration announced additional measures to address a recent rise in COVID-19 cases and to ensure acute care hospitals have sufficient capacity to care for both COVID and non-COVID patients.”
These measures include the deployment of “up to 500 members of the Massachusetts National Guard” and “an updated mask advisory, recommending that all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask or face covering in indoor, public spaces.”
However, in a press conference at the State House last week, Baker stated that he would not implement a mask mandate. “I have no interest in putting a mandate on this issue given all the tools that are available on a statewide basis. If locals wish to pursue alternative options, they can do so,” Baker told reporters at the State House during the press conference.
“We issued a mask mandate last fall because we had no other options available to us. At this point in time, we have vaccines, rapid tests, we have our testing sites and people know a lot more about what works and what doesn’t with respect to combating the virus,” he added.
Due to a critical staffing shortage in the state’s healthcare system, Baker hopes that the new mask advisory and deployment of the National Guard will help contain the recent spike in COVID-19 positive cases.
Massachusetts Department of Public Health officials reported that 300 of the National Guard members have been training through the past week and are ready to support 55 acute care hospitals, as well as 12 ambulance service providers across the state, with deployment beginning on December 27.
The DPH also released new data showing that “97% of COVID-19 cases amongst vaccinated individuals in Massachusetts have not resulted in hospitalization or death.” The report also stated that unvaccinated individuals are “five times more likely to contract COVID-19 than fully vaccinated individuals and 31 times more likely to contract COVID-19 than individuals who have a booster.”
“Massachusetts is a national leader in COVID-19 vaccinations, with over 94% of eligible residents having received at least one dose,” according to the Executive Office of Health and Human Services. “Over 89% of the entire Massachusetts population has at least one dose, and 74% of the entire population is fully vaccinated.”