Doctors warn that pandemic is still not over
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to hang on despite the tremendous progress that has been made to control the spread of the virus.
Dr. Daniel Kuritzkes, chief of the Infectious Diseases Division at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said the number of cases is leveling off once again. “Things are slowing down, but gradually,” he said, adding that 1,000 to 2,000 cases are being reported every day for a positivity rate of two percent.
Kuritzkes was also clear about what needs to happen to move away from the plateau and continue the downward trend. “The rest of the population that hasn’t been vaccinated needs to get vaccinated,” he said.
In addition, Kuritzkes said “substantial transmission” has continued among school-age children. “They are the remaining vulnerable population,” he said.
In Everett, 52 residents in the 0-19 age group tested positive for COVID-19 during the month of October. In September, 82 cases were reported.
Regarding the vaccination rates, 64 percent of residents ages 12-19 have been fully vaccinated.
Looking ahead, Kuritzkes said he does not see COVID-19 going away completely, adding that it could eventually become endemic much like influenza. “Unfortunately, I don’t see any reason for real optimism,” said Kuritzkes.
David Cecere, spokesperson for Cambridge Health Alliance, said that while there have been significant improvements, the pandemic is not likely to go away any time soon. “While things are better than they were this time last year, we are still seeing COVID-related infections,” he said. “It’s premature to call for an approaching end to the pandemic.”
Dr. David Hamer of Boston Medical Center agreed that COVID-19 cases have been steady since early September. He also said it is safe to “mix and match” vaccines when getting a booster shot. In fact, Hamer said he advises patients who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to get their booster shot using either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.
However, he said there continues to be new waves of the virus. “There will be a constant risk of reintroduction; we’re coming down from our most recent wave,” said Hamer. “It’s still a pandemic.”
Hamer also agreed with Kuritzkes in that the virus could become endemic. “We need to learn to live with it,” said Hamer.
According to the state Department of Public Health (DPH), 4.7 million residents have been fully vaccinated and approximately 630,000 residents have received booster shots. However, the DPH also reported that 54,200 individuals have tested positive for COVID-19 despite being vaccinated.
As of November 8, the total number of cases in Massachusetts had risen to 803,165, according to the DPH. Within that figure, COVID-19 has taken the lives of 18,689 residents. Putting that in perspective, the town of Foxboro has a population of 18,618, according to the 2020 census.