Massachusetts braces for post-Christmas coronavirus surge after post-Thanksgiving spike

After Thanksgiving gatherings sparked a surge in Massachusetts coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, state and community leaders are bracing for a post-Christmas spike that could overwhelm hospitals.
Bay State COVID-19 hospitalizations have more than doubled since Thanksgiving, a significant jump from 942 patients on the day before Thanksgiving to 2,095 patients on the day before Christmas. That is the highest amount of coronavirus patients since the spring, when there was a peak of around 4,000 patients.
After the doubling of hospitalizations following Thanksgiving, medical experts worry about a similar trajectory after Christmas.
“If we double hospitalizations again, we’ll reach spring levels, but we’re in worse shape now because we’re dealing with many more non-COVID patients,” said Todd Ellerin, director of infectious diseases at South Shore Health.
“We don’t have the capacity to double again,” he added.
Four weeks after Thanksgiving, the state continues to feel the impact of the post-holiday surge with cases surpassing 5,000 in many recent single-day reports. Case counts had never hit such a figure before Thanksgiving, including during the spring surge, though much less testing was available then.
Officials expect a similar timeline for the post-Christmas spike, with cases going up in the weeks after, followed by rising hospitalizations and deaths.
“I’m expecting an increase in cases in the few weeks after the holidays … then increases in hospitalizations a few weeks after that and deaths a few weeks after that,” Boston University epidemiology professor Matthew Fox said. “It isn’t yet clear how big it will be compared to Thanksgiving.
“Thanksgiving is a holiday where people tend to gather with family for long periods but the Christmas break is longer so there may be more of a period of risk,” he added.
Officials from Cambridge to Cape Cod said this week that their case rates have yet to return to pre-Thanksgiving levels.
“Like many communities, Cambridge has experienced an increase in COVID-19 cases among its residents following the Thanksgiving holiday and our daily case rate has not returned to pre-Thanksgiving levels,” City Manager Louis DePasquale said when announcing the city’s rollback to a modified Phase 2, Step 2. “I strongly encourage residents for the next few weeks to minimize or avoid in-person gatherings with people from outside their immediate household.”
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Vaira Harik, deputy director of Barnstable County’s health and human services, said “cases remain elevated” on the Cape.
“We’ve stabilized seemingly at a higher, certainly a higher rate than in the fall and the summer,” she said, though case rates on Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard “are in downward trends … although they are elevated.”

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