Local doctor seeing evidence of early second surge says it’s too soon to continue reopening Mass. economy

BOSTON — On Tuesday, Governor Charlie Baker assessed the state’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, saying we have learned so much since the spring surge.

“We’re going to be living with Covid until there is a vaccine or treatment,” Baker said Tuesday afternoon during a news conference. “But the Commonwealth’s response to this pandemic has been transformational since last spring in nearly every aspect of our daily lives.”

As was predicted, cases of the novel coronavirus are slowly creeping up in Massachusetts this fall. They’re numbers that health care systems across the state are constantly tracking.

“We’re definitely seeing a rise in the number of cases and we’re watching it very closely,” said Dr. Eric Dickson, president and CEO of UMass Memorial Health Care in Worcester.

“I think we’re seeing early signs that we could be going into a second surge,” Dickson told Boston 25 News Anchor Kerry Kavanaugh. “And I always think about this in terms of doubling rates. We have a percent positive rate of 1% and it went to 2% now it’s up to 4%.”

If that number sounds higher than what you’ve been hearing lately, it’s because it is. The state tracks cases of coronavirus cases in a few different ways.

A principle number the state relies on, particularly for tracking community spread, is the seven-day weighted positive test rate. As of Tuesday, Oct. 13, that number stood at 1.2%.

But, Dickson says the medical community looks at the day to day positive test rate. On Tuesday, the percent of tested individuals who are positive stood at 3.5%.

Throughout October alone, it has been between 3.5% to 4.4%.

Despite the growing positive cases, the state says we are better able to face down COVID-19.

The governor says hospital capacity right now is at 68%. Massachusetts, Baker says, has a PPE stockpile to get us through 2021 and the state is conducting tens of thousands of COVID-19 tests a day.

Dickson agrees the state is in a much stronger position now to battle the virus. And he echoed warnings that we not discount this virus just yet, especially as we examine the next steps with the state’s economy.

“We’re clearly seeing a link to reopening and mask fatigue, for lack of a better term, with an increase in the positive rate,” Dickson said. “So I think if anything we stop, we take a breath, and we wait to see is that rate going to continue to go up rather than reopen things and then having to close it all down because we got into that second surge.”

Dickson and Baker both stressed the importance of wearing a mask and social distancing right now, especially as we head into flu season.

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