In the last two weeks, the number of Massachusetts patients in the hospital for COVID-19 has slowly but steadily ebbed. The percentage of people testing positive has also fallen in recent days, as data from the Department of Public Health and hospitals show promising signs that social distancing efforts are working to push back the coronavirus pandemic.
“There are obviously still thousands of people still being hospitalized due to this virus, but the numbers have started to trend in the right direction,” Gov. Charlie Baker said at a press conference on Monday.
Ten percent of tests returned positive for COVID-19 on Monday, the lowest percentage since the end of March. Beth Israel Lahey Health hospitals have watched the number of patients with COVID-19 in their beds decline since April 19, when the nine hospitals in the health system had a total of 530 patients with COVID-19. Ventilator use has dropped steadily since April 12 as well, said Beth Israel Lahey Health CEO Kevin Tabb.
“I’m certainly pleased that we have fewer COVID-positive patients today than we had a few days ago, but I think it’s very premature for us to declare victory,” he said. “There are areas and hospitals that are still experiencing numbers at or near the high water mark.”
Tabb said some areas in the commonwealth continue to experience flares of new infections and hospitalizations. For example, hospitalizations are still high in Worcester, on the south coast, and have remained flat in Boston.
“We should expect to see a spotty decrease, not one that’s equal everywhere,” he said.
The minor improvement in COVID-19 hospitalizations and infections is due to public efforts at social distancing, according to Tabb. He said that, while the latest numbers are good news, the data do not mean it’s safe to begin easing social distancing measures.
“If we let up on this too early, without a doubt, those numbers will rise again,” he said.