Twelve of Massachusetts’ 14 counties are now considered high risk for COVID-19, up two from last week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The latest data released Thursday shows Barnstable, Berkshire, Bristol, Dukes, Essex, Franklin, Middlesex, Nantucket, Norfolk, Plymouth, Suffolk and Worcester counties are classified as high-risk countries. Only counties Hampden and Hampshire in the western part of the state are at medium risk, with no counties in the low-risk category.
Despite the new CDC community risk data, Boston’s COVID case count, test positivity and sewage data have all declined in recent days, raising hope that the current surge may be coming to an end.
State health officials reported 3,485 new COVID-19 cases and 17 other deaths Thursday. The state’s average seven-day positivity was 8.32% on Thursday, compared to 8.33% on Wednesday. Both metrics are significantly lower than they were a week ago.
And after months of rising, the number of new cases in Massachusetts schools has been falling in recent days. The total of 12,729 cases was down about 31.9% from last Thursday’s report, when a total of 18,698 cases were identified.
The latest update from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority’s COVID-19 sewage tracker, released over the weekend, also showed COVID levels were falling somewhat.
What about the rest of New England?
New Hampshire has deteriorated decisively over the past week, moving from having one county in the low-risk category and two in the medium-risk category to having all but one county classified as high-risk. Only Strafford County along the Maine border is classified as medium risk.
Vermont, on the other hand, has seen improvement over the past week, with seven counties — Addison, Caledonia, Chittenden, Franklin, Grand Isle, Lamoille and Orleans — now in the low-risk category. Essex, Orange, Washington, Windham, and Windsor counties are at medium risk, with only Bennington and Rutland counties in the high-risk category.
Main also saw some improvement, with Sagadahoc falling to low risk and Cumberland, Kennebec, Knox, Lincoln, Piscataquis, Somerset, Waldo, Washington and York listed as medium risk. Aroostook, Androscoggin, Franklin, Hancock, Oxford, and Penobscot are all high risk.
Most of Connecticut, with the exception of New London County, is in the high-risk category.
In Rhode Island, Bristol, Kent, Providence and Washington counties remain in the medium risk category, while Newport County moved from medium to high.
Residents in high-risk counties are urged to wear masks in public and on indoor public transportation, keep up to date on vaccines, and get tested if they have symptoms, the CDC said.
Residents in medium-risk areas are urged to wear a mask if they have symptoms, test positive, or have been in contact with someone with COVID-19. Anyone at high risk of serious illness should also consider wearing a mask in public and taking extra precautions, the CDC said.
The majority of cases in New England are currently attributed to the “stealth” Omicron variant BA.2 and subvariant BA.2.12.1. But the rise of new strains like BA.4 and BA.5 in South Africa is raising concerns that the US could see another wave of COVID-19 this summer.
“As with everything else, we’ll be sure to tell you once it’s ready,” said Dr. Daniel Kuritzkes of Brigham and Women’s Hospital this week. “I don’t think we can predict right now if we’re really at the end of the omicron rise or if we’re just transitioning into a different phase of the omicron rise.”