Officials in Massachusetts are worried about a possible surge of COVID-19 during the holiday season after the number of new cases in a single day reached its highest point since February.
Health officials reported 3,196 new cases on Thursday. Education officials reported 3,257 new cases among public school students and 558 among staff members for the week that ended Wednesday, a record high for a single week.
Massachusetts' seven-day average of positive tests rose to 3.04% Thursday. It was once above 30%, but had dropped under 0.5% until the delta variant began surging in the state. The last time it was at exactly 3% was Feb. 7, according to the state's COVID dashboard.
A Boston Medical Center epidemiologist, Dr. Cassandra Pierre, told The Boston Globe she’s now more worried about Thanksgiving celebrations.
“This is the week right before … a national holiday where people traditionally gather together with their families and loved ones in indoor spaces,” she told The Globe. “That will be, unfortunately, a setup for the perpetuation of this … increase in cases that we’re seeing.”
Dr. Shira Doron of Tufts Medical Center said ultimately it's going to come down to personal risk tolerance.
"I had somebody say to me, 'Oh no, I have tickets to go to Florida -- should I go?' Of course you should go to Florida. You're way better off in Florida today than you are in Massachusetts," said Dr. Shira Doron of Tufts Medical Center. "You know, blink your eyes and the safe places become the dangerous places, and vice versa. So, you know, I don't put as much emphasis on travel anymore."
"The question becomes when do we no longer care about cases?" she added. "At some point we have to accept that even high rates of vaccination are not going to control cases and that cases aren't the main thing to care about, it's serious illness."
The spike in COVID-19 cases comes as Gov. Charlie Baker announced Thursday that he is opening booster shots to all residents of Massachusetts.
On Friday morning, the Food and Drug Administration followed suit and authorized both Pfizer and Moderna boosters for all. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to give its sign-off later in the day.
All Massachusetts residents age 18 and up are now eligible to get a booster six months after receiving the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or two months after receiving a Johnson & Johnson single dose vaccine.
Massachusetts leads the nation in vaccine administration, with over 94% of adults having received at least one dose, and over 81% of the total population fully vaccinated, over 4.8 million individuals. Over 800,000 residents have received a COVID booster.
How to get a booster shot in Massachusetts
- Visit the Vaxfinder tool at vaxfinder.mass.gov for a full list of locations to receive a booster. Residents are now able to narrow results to search for locations that are offering boosters. Many locations will be booking appointments out weeks in advance.
- For individuals who are unable to use Vaxfinder or have difficulty accessing the internet, the COVID-19 Vaccine Resource Line (Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.) by calling 2-1-1 and following the prompts is available for assistance. The COVID-19 Vaccine Resource Line is available in English and Spanish and has translators available in approximately 100 additional languages.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.