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COVID cases on the rise around Massachusetts

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Covid-19 numbers are spiking again in Massachusetts as the holidays come to an end.

Statewide, hospitalizations are up, with the seven-day average increasing nearly 60 percent over the last month.

Cape Cod is considered Medium Risk for COVID. 11 percent of residents who recently tested had the virus, according to the latest Barnstable County data.

County health officials say that admissions of patients with COVID at the two Cape hospitals have been rising slowly since before the holidays.

Barnstable County's public health nurse Wendy Judd says that rise could be because fewer people are getting the latest COVID booster shot.

"People are doing better with the flu vaccine than they are with the COVID vaccine," Judd told CAI. "About 42 percent of people are vaccinated with the flu vaccine, which is good. They're tired of getting the COVID vaccine; they think they have the immunity based on their old vaccines. But it's not as effective with the new variants."

On Nantucket, hospital officials say that Covid-19 cases have remained low on the island during the holidays, but they expect that to change with residents coming back after traveling.

“We’re not worried, we feel that we’re very prepared, but we expect cases to rise, especially with all of the travel," said Elizabeth Harris, Infectious Disease Nurse at Nantucket Cottage Hospital. "And it seems that people are traveling even more [now], with the inability to travel over the last few years.”

Harris says it’s important to continue to take precautions like washing your hands, getting vaccinated against the flu and COVID, and staying home if you’re sick, even if you do test negative with a rapid test.

Schools in and around Boston have instituted stronger language around masking requirements.

Boston Public Schools are not mandating masks this week, but they do expect that students will be wearing them, and they'll offer free masks to anyone who doesn't have one.

On the Cape and the Islands, though, districts are not planning changes to their policies.

Nantucket Superintendent Beth Hallett says she does not anticipate reinstating a mask requirement.

"I'm not seeing anything out of the ordinary and wouldn't plan to make any changes, unless we saw a severe drop in our attendance numbers," Hallett said.

In Sandwich, the mood is similar.

Superintendent Joe Maruszczak says wearing a mask can still be a good option, but it’s not required.

“Should families think their student is susceptible or there’s a pre-existing medical condition, I do think masking is wise," he said. "However, it won’t be a mandate. It will continue as it has in the district, since March, to be strictly optional.”

The superintendent did note that there was a higher absentee rate just before the holiday break in Sandwich.

Maruszczak says that about 1 in every 10 student was absent just before vacation, but that’s minimal compared to earlier in the pandemic, when sometimes as many as 1 in every 4 students were out.

“By no means are we anywhere near where we were a year ago, or 2 years ago, it was really bad – between the illnesses but also the quarantining due to being a close contact."

Sam Houghton has been with the station since the summer of 2017. Before that, he worked at the Falmouth Enterprise, where he covered local politics.
Patrick Flanary is a dad, journalist, and host of Morning Edition.
Eve Zuckoff covers the environment and human impacts of climate change for CAI.