Massachusetts health officials reported 5,576 new COVID-19 cases and 16 new deaths on Thursday. 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 1,659,250 cases and 19,243 deaths since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. 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 728 people hospitalized for COVID-19 as of Thursday's data release, with 230 of them being primary cases. Of the total hospitalizations, 66 are in intensive care and 27 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 8.24% Thursday, compared to 7.89% on Wednesday.
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 said that case count reporting may have become a less accurate indicator during the omicron surge, given the difficulties in getting tested and widespread use of rapid tests where 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 Thursday reported that a total of 5,370,727 Massachusetts residents have been fully vaccinated.