Massachusetts health officials reported 4,654 new COVID-19 cases and nine new deaths on Friday. This comes as health officials continue to monitor the increased case and hospitalization counts, prompting leaders to consider whether we need to revisit COVID-19 safety protocols like masking.
In total, there have been 1,663,904 cases and 19,252 deaths since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. On Thursday the state reported more than 5,000 new cases -- prior to that, the last time there were over 5,000 new cases reported in a single day was at the end of January.
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The state reported 729 people hospitalized for COVID-19 as of Friday's data release, with 223 of them being primary cases. Of the total hospitalizations, 64 are in intensive care and 22 are intubated.
Massachusetts' COVID metrics, tracked on the Department of Public Health's interactive coronavirus dashboard, have declined since the omicron surge, but case counts have been on an upward trajectory in recent weeks. For context, this is nowhere near the numbers seen at the height of the omicron surge in January, when average daily case counts reached over 28,000 and hospitalizations peaked at around 3,300.
The state's seven-day average positivity rate increased to 8.68% Friday, compared to 8.24% on Thursday.
COVID levels in wastewater, as reported by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority's tracking system are also increasing.
It's important to note that the levels of virus seen in the wastewater remain nowhere near where they were during the peak of the omicron surge. Public health officials have also said that the severity of cases is also not at the level it was during the omicron surge.
Experts have also said that case count reporting became a less accurate indicator during the omicron surge, given the difficulties in getting tested. Now, widespread use of rapid tests means that some results go unreported.
This latest increase is being attributed to subvariants of omicron -- the "stealth" omicron variant BA.2, and the BA.2. 12.1 subvariant, which health officials say appears to be up to 27% more contagious than BA.2. However, there is no data to indicate it causes more serious illness.
More than 14.6 million vaccine doses have now been administered in Massachusetts.
Health officials on Friday reported that a total of 5,371,776 Massachusetts residents have been fully vaccinated.