Massachusetts has been dealing with a new surge of COVID-19 for the past several weeks, with 12 of the state's 14 counties now considered high risk for COVID-19, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Boston area's sewer system, however, is exhibiting hopeful signs, with the most recent update from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority's COVID-19 wastewater tracker showing that COVID levels are continuing to decline.
It's an "unmistakable sign that we are getting past this BA.2.12.1 wave," tweeted Joseph Allen, a professor at Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who's been keeping tabs on COVID levels in Boston's wastewater.
"It gave us the first hint that things were turning around about 10 days ago," he continued of the data, referring to the variant that's suspected to be behind the latest surge.
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Dr. Jay Schuur, professor and chair of Brown Emergency Medicine, said it's good news for the region that the wastewater data shows declining COVID levels in southern Massachusetts.
The data shows several days of falling COVID levels after a long and mostly steady rise since early March. It's not yet clear what would have caused COVID levels to fall, or if they will continue to do so.
The COVID data is pulled from water collected at Massachusetts Water Resources Authority's Deer Island wastewater treatment plant and analyzed by Cambridge-based Biobot Analytics three to seven times a week. The plant treats water from 43 eastern Massachusetts communities, including Boston, Cambridge, Framingham and Quincy. The data cannot be linked to specific cities, towns or neighborhoods.
It's among the metrics that policymakers use to judge the severity of the COVID outbreak in the Boston area and Massachusetts on the whole.
Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, the executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission, said while there are hopeful signs when looking at the 7-day COVID trend in Boston, she still strongly recommends masking indoors.