Coronavirus (COVID-19) Updates

COVID-19 Updates
Improving Infection Rates and Decreasing Risks

Norfolk’s 14-day average COVID daily infection rates have decreased during August, dropping to 8.6 new cases per day per 100,000 residents on August 25 as shown in Figure 1. This trend resembles that of the infection rates in all the cities and towns in Norfolk Country (Figure 2) and across all of Massachusetts, based on infections reported to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH). Because of the widespread use of home testing kits, actual infection rates are probably much higher than those reported to DPH, but the downward trends are still encouraging. Town of Norfolk data are based on relatively small numbers of new cases, which is why we include county-wide data in these updates to get a clearer picture of trends in infection rates.

8-29-22 Covid Update Pic 1

8-29-22 Covid Update Pic 2


Meanwhile, the concentrations of COVID RNA in wastewater processed at the MWRA treatment plant on Deer Island in Boston Harbor continued to oscillate during August, with an overall decrease in concentrations much like that observed in July as shown in Figure 3. This trend may be seen by the slope of the straight line that best fits the data points in Figure 3. It is a hopeful predictor of continued decreasing COVID infection rates in Eastern Massachusetts in the weeks ahead.  Note that concentrations in late August were still about 5 times the average value measured during late winter of 2022, which was before the emergence of Omicron subvariants that now account for essentially all of the infections and hospitalizations due to COVID in this region and across the U.S..

8-29-22 Covid Update Pic 3


The results of recent CDC assessments of the risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID, which are based on both infection and hospitalization rates, indicate that the residents of all the counties in Massachusetts were at low risk as of August 25, as highlighted in the map in Figure 4. This risk level was an improvement since early August when those of us in eastern Massachusetts counties were at medium risk. The map also shows continuing high-risk levels in much of the Southeast and Midwest where vaccination rates are below those in New England.  


8-29-22 Covid Update Pic 4

Omicron Subvariants and Booster Shots

The mid-April version of the map in Figure 4 was mostly green because the residents in over 95% of the counties in the U.S. (and in all of the counties in New England) were at low risk of serious illness from COVID. However, late spring and early summer saw a substantial increase in risk levels driven by the spread of Omicron subvariants of the COVID virus. Since early July the BA.5 subvariant has been the dominant strain of COVID, making up 89 % of new cases across the US as of August 25, followed by the BA.4.6 subvariant at 8%. The spread of these subvariants has been aided by their ability to evade immunity gained from previous COVID infections and from COVID vaccinations.

Spread of the new subvariants has led to increases in COVID infection and hospitalization rates, especially in those parts of the country with low vaccination rates. This surge has led health officials to again encourage all who are eligible to complete their primary vaccinations and get their booster shots. Those 50 and older to urged to get a second booster shot if they have not already done so.

 The science behind getting booster shots is compelling: they help restore the body’s resistance to COVID infection and they provide even more protection against serious illness. Studies have shown that the current vaccines provide somewhat less protection from infection by the latest subvariants, but they are still highly effective in protecting against serious illness and death. Unfortunately, booster vaccination rates among Norfolk residents have lagged behind their >90% primary vaccination rates. Protection provided by primary vaccinations declines over time. Therefore, all residents are strongly encouraged to get themselves and their children boosted as soon as they are eligible.  

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