Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

January 29, 2021

'We believe the worst is over:' Worcester County COVID numbers continue decline

Photo | Grant Welker A patient room awaiting use at the former field hospital at Worcester's DCU Center.

Coronavirus case numbers continue falling a little more than a month after Christmas from what had been record highs in Massachusetts around the holidays.

A total of 3,007 new cases in Worcester County in the week ending Thursday is the lowest since early December — though still far higher than the area's first peak last spring. Massachusetts had 25,951 new cases, also the lowest since early December, according to the state Department of Public Health.

In the city of Worcester, 815 new cases in the past week was the lowest count for a full seven-day period since mid-November. A few counts were lower during shortened reporting periods in the week of Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve, when the city would have normally reported its cases those Thursdays.

Worcester has reported 18,829 cases in all since the pandemic began, along with 367 deaths. A dozen of those deaths were reported in the past week. A field hospital at the city's DCU Center has 33 patients as of Thursday, down from 51 a week prior.

Worcester County had a reported 63 new deaths for a total of 1,807, according to the DPH. The state had 434 new deaths for a total of 14,056.

As for total cases, Worcester County now stands at 58,264. Massachusetts stands at 488,861.

City and health officials in Worcester showed cautious optimism Thursday, with the good news of falling numbers tempered by the spread of new strains of the virus, including one that originated in England and was first reported in a Worcester County resident last week.

"We believe the worst is over... but we know that can change quickly," Dr. Eric Dickson, the president and CEO of UMass Memorial Health Care, said in an online informational forum, alluding to the new strains, which also include variants found in Brazil and South Africa. No evidence exists that the new strains are deadlier, and scientists are working to determine how easily they can be spread, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"It's very possible that we could see another surge," Dr. Michael Hirsh, the medical director of the Worcester Division of Public Health. "The only way is needles in arms. And we'll get there."

Hirsh's reference to vaccination comes as state officials have faced some criticism about a perceived slow rollout of vaccinations across Massachusetts. Nearly 500,000 reported doses have been administered statewide through Thursday, according to the DPH, including more than 111,000 in the past week.

In Worcester, more than 2,700 people have been vaccinated in a city-led effort that's focused primarily on police officers, firefighters and other first responders. The city is working with the state to set up a larger-scale vaccination site as has been done at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, City Manager Edward Augustus said.

UMass Memorial officials said they plan to begin providing vaccinations at the Mercantile Center in Worcester on Feb. 8. Vaccinations will be by appointment only, and for UMass Memorial primary care or specialist patients who've received care in the past two years. Between 50,000 and 75,000 patients deemed in high need are on the hospital system's database, Dickson said.

UMass Memorial, the largest employer in Central Massachusetts, has also extended employee travel restrictions by another two months, until April 1. Employees cannot travel for business outside the state and must quarantine upon return for any personal travel outside the state.

More than 18,000 doses of the vaccine have been administered to UMass Memorial's own caregivers.

The pandemic hit a new worldwide milestone this week with the 100 millionth reported case, according to Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. More than 2.1 million deaths have also been reported worldwide. In the United States, more than 431,000 deaths have been recorded and more than 25 million cases.

Sign up for Enews

WBJ Web Partners


Order a PDF