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Make no mistake, we are at risk for a second wave

July 02, 2020
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According to research from the nonprofit COVID Act Now, Massachusetts is on track to be one of only four states in the U.S. to contain COVID-19, along with New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. According to the report:

“Cases are steadily decreasing and Massachusetts’s COVID preparedness meets or exceeds international standards.”

Local COVID-19 Statistics Look Good

Massachusetts is reporting around 200 new cases per day, according to the state’s COVID-19 dashboards. The positive test rate is now 2.3%, which is down 94% since mid-April. And when Massachusetts offered testing to people who attended large gatherings, fewer than 3% tested positive.

At Baystate Health, we are seeing 4-8 positive patients per day, with 1-3 admitted per day. Only 1-2% of the people we are testing are positive for COVID-19. Fewer than 20 patients are currently hospitalized for COVID-19, with less than 5 in the ICU.

This is, of course, good news for Massachusetts, which is in Phase 2 of reopening. Trends across the country are less positive, however, which experts say is a concern even in our area.

Concerns about Trends across the Country

TIME reported that “23 states are continuing to see case counts grow day by day. Four of those states—Arizona, California, Mississippi and North Carolina—have yet to decline for any extended window even temporarily; the rest appear to have initially bent the curve downward and are now experiencing a second wave of infections.”

According to Dr. Doug Salvador of Baystate Health, it is important that we continue following precautions that are currently helping the state of Massachusetts control rates of infection:

“It’s not time to let up. COVID has not gone away. We still have cases. It is in the community.”

Dr. Salvador explains that, as a country, we are still in the first wave of the virus. Even in Massachusetts, where the rate of infection has significantly gone down, “Make no mistake, we are at risk for a second wave,” warns Salvador, who notices a trend of COVID-positive patients that have had family members visiting from places like Florida, where COVID cases have skyrocketed. While Massachusetts currently has a low positivity rate, around 27% of tests in Florida are now positive.

If we take action, we can decrease the chances of that second wave happening.

How We Can All Prevent the Virus from Spreading

The best ways to curb the spread of the virus continue to be social distancing (keeping a physical distance of 6 feet from people outside your household), frequent handwashing, and wearing a mask when physical distancing isn’t possible.

Because COVID-19 spreads mainly through airborne respiratory droplets, people who are close together (within about 6 feet) are the most likely to spread or catch the virus.

Wearing a Mask is Still Important

Simply put, wearing cloth face coverings can help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others – even those who don’t have any symptoms.

The CDC strongly encourages wearing cloth face coverings:

  • All people 2 years of age and older should wear a cloth face covering in public settings when around people outside of their household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
  • COVID-19 can be spread by people who do not have symptoms and do not know that they are infected. That’s why it’s important for everyone to wear cloth face coverings in public settings and practice social distancing (staying at least 6 feet away from other people).
  • There are some cases when wearing a cloth face covering may not be possible. In these instances, adaptations and alternatives should be considered.

We Know This isn't Easy, But There is Hope

While the rates of infection in Massachusetts have gone down significantly, we are still at risk due to case surges elsewhere. With summer vacations and travel across states, we could easily see a resurgence.

“How we protect each other, how we lead people to continue to do the things that have made the story in Massachusetts a successful one…will determine the magnitude of the second wave we will get, says Salvador. “We can continue to take the actions we’ve taken to minimize infections and minimize harm.”

We know it isn't easy to continue physical distancing and other safety measures. The mental health toll of isolation and distancing can be very difficult. We encourage you to be safe and seek resources to support your mental health during this time.

Here is some additional information: