Major hospitals reach a new milestone: Zero COVID patients

A clinical care technician pulls on gloves during a protective equipment training session at Tufts Medical Center in early 2020. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
A clinical care technician pulls on gloves during a protective equipment training session at Tufts Medical Center in early 2020. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

The number of COVID patients hospitalized across Massachusetts has dropped to the lowest point in over a year, and among the lowest points since the start of the pandemic in 2020.

At least two major hospitals, Tufts Medical Center and Boston Medical Center, reached new milestones in recent days: zero COVID patients.

The notable moments were temporary, as COVID-19 numbers continue to fluctuate from day to day. But they represent a remarkable change from previous periods in the pandemic when hospitals were overwhelmed with COVID patients. In more recent months, hospitals have continued to treat some COVID patients even as overall cases declined.

"It’s a great achievement," said Dr. Gabriela Andujar Vazquez, infectious disease physician and associate hospital epidemiologist at Tufts. The hospital had no COVID inpatients on Tuesday, for the first time since March 2020.

At its highest peak, Tufts had 88 COVID patients, in April 2020 — long before vaccines and treatments were available.

Andujar Vazquez said the decline in hospitalizations in recent months is a result of widespread vaccinations and immunity from past infections.

"This speaks to the multiple public health efforts that, over time, have led us to this point where we are seeing less severity of disease," she said.

COVID numbers are likely to rise and fall again, potentially in a seasonal pattern, but Andujar Vazquez said she’s hopeful that hospitalizations won’t spike to the levels seen in the past.

"It's a respiratory illness that will be affecting individuals for a foreseeable future," she said, "and we have to continue to improve in our surveillance and improve in testing, just like we do with other respiratory illnesses — influenza, RSV, other viruses."

She said COVID is becoming less of an emergency, and more a routine part of health care.

The state’s biggest hospital network, Mass General Brigham, had 46 hospitalized COVID patients this week. At peak, MGB hospitals had 922 COVID patients, spokesperson Michael Morrison said.

Beth Israel Lahey Health did not immediately respond to a request for COVID patient numbers.

State data shows about 200 people with COVID were hospitalized across Massachusetts last week. About one in four were being treated primarily for COVID, while the majority were in the hospital for other reasons and also tested positive for COVID. An even smaller fraction of patients were ill enough to require intensive care.

The drop in hospitalizations comes as state and federal officials wind down many pandemic-era policies and end the COVID public health emergency next week, on May 11.


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Priyanka Dayal McCluskey Senior Health Reporter
Priyanka Dayal McCluskey is a senior health reporter for WBUR.



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