This Thanksgiving is coming at the same time as coronavirus indicators are ticking up in Massachusetts.
Data from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health shows between Nov. 12 and Nov. 19, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 went up 27%. Since the start of the month, the seven-day rate for people testing positive for the virus is up a full percentage point to over 3%. Each day, around a dozen people are dying in Massachusetts because of COVID-19. (Here are our charts and map tracking COVID case trends in the state.)
For a look at where the state is positioned in the pandemic at the start of the winter holiday season, WBUR's Morning Edition spoke with Dr. Sabrina Assoumou, an infectious diseases expert at Boston Medical Center and an assistant professor at the Boston University School of Medicine.
Highlights from this interview have been lightly edited for clarity.
Does the uptick in the state's coronavirus numbers concern you?
These are definitely numbers that we should be paying attention to. We kind of expected this: when the weather gets colder, we tend to spend more time indoors, and this often leads to to increase in cases. So this is definitely a time when we need to be vigilant.
But here's some positive news: when you compare to other times when you had surges, it's been associated with a higher number of deaths. The reason why we're sort of in a different place this year is because we have the solution and it's called vaccinations, and we've done a relatively good job in Massachusetts vaccinating people.
What should families gathering for Thanksgiving do when it comes to younger children or other adults who are not vaccinated?
I would say if you have little children who are not yet able to get vaccinated, what you can do is mask in indoor public spaces before the holiday. Also, make sure that the elderly relatives are vaccinated and that they're boosted. The other thing is to make sure that your children don't have any symptoms.
We now have access to rapid testing. We can find out our status within 15 minutes.
I often recommend improving ventilation inside. It's a little hard because we're in Massachusetts and it's cold. Can we open the windows to have some good airflow?
We're not doing this inside on Thanksgiving, but when we go outside in public spaces, we always wear masks. These are the recommendations that I would give to everyone.
Last week, the state approved booster shots for anyone over the age of 18 who has received their initial dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Do you think that was the right call?
I think that given all the criteria that we had prior to last week, it was really hard for people to determine whether or not they needed boosters. So I think that simplifying the message was very critical.
The other thing we've had since the last time the recommendations were made is more data that was supportive of the boosters. So I would recommend if you have anyone around you who is eligible to encourage them to get boosted.
Last year, the Thanksgiving holiday was the start of a very large spike in coronavirus cases and deaths. Are you optimistic we can prevent another surge?
In general, my outlook is positive because in Massachusetts, every other surge that we've had has not been as bad because we've really mobilized the population and gotten people vaccinated. So my outlook is we have the solution to get out of this pandemic: we just need to keep going and vaccinating as many people as possible.
This article was originally published on November 22, 2021.
This segment aired on November 22, 2021.