Newton reported 268 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the 14-day period from Nov. 25 to Dec. 8, a 60.5 percent jump from the previous two-week period, according to the City of Newton’s COVID-19 dashboard. In the previous two weeks from Nov. 11 to 24, the city reported 167 confirmed cases.
Shin-Yi Lao, public health manager for the City of Newton, wrote in an email to The Heights that holiday gatherings are a cause for the increase.
“The recent increase in cases is likely related to travel and gatherings for the holidays,” she wrote. “In addition, as the weather gets colder people spend more time indoors, providing more opportunities for the virus to spread.”
The COVID-19 positivity rate in Newton has jumped, too. The city reported a positivity rate of 1.1 percent on Nov. 27, a jump from 0.8 percent reported a week earlier, according to the dashboard. Lao said she expects case numbers to remain high through the holiday season.
Newton-Wellesley Hospital was caring for 28 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Tuesday, a figure double that of a week prior, according to Lao.
“The hospital reports it has not had this high a number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in more than 10 months,” she wrote. “Additionally, the number of critically ill patients with COVID-19 is rising with between five and seven patients per day over the past week.”
Although cases are up in Newton, the figures in the city display a trend milder than those reported in the state and country.
Massachusetts reported a COVID-19 positivity rate of 3.6 percent on Nov. 27, according to Newton’s dashboard. The United States reported a one-week moving average positivity rate of 6.1 percent on Nov. 27, according to Johns Hopkins University’s testing hub.
Cases in Newton Public Schools are increasing, too, despite high vaccination rates among students.
Newton reported 54 student cases of COVID-19 in public schools between Nov. 18 and Dec. 8, according to the dashboard. In the three weeks prior, from Oct. 28 to Nov. 17, the city only reported 22 cases of COVID-19 in its public schools.
The rise in public school cases comes as over half of elementary school students, more than three-fourths of middle school students, and 87.2 percent of high school students are vaccinated.
Vaccination rates in Newton as a whole are higher than the state and national averages. On the dashboard, the city reported a vaccination rate of 84 percent through Dec. 7. Massachusetts has fully vaccinated 73.2 percent of its total population, compared to 61.3 percent of the total U.S. population, according to Johns Hopkins. Vaccines serve the best protection against COVID-19, Lao wrote.
“Vaccines remain the best public health measure to protect people from all variants of COVID-19, to slow transmission, and to reduce the likelihood of new variants emerging,” she wrote. “We need to use all of the tools available (vaccines and boosters, masks, testing, staying home when sick, and avoiding crowds) as part of a layered risk reduction strategy.”
In addition to the rise in cases, an additional person died from COVID-19 in Newton between Nov. 17 and Dec. 1, bringing the total pandemic death toll in the city to 220, according to a newsletter update on Dec. 2 from Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller.
“What should be a season of joy is still tempered by the shadow of illness, concern and uncertainty,” Fuller wrote in the update.
Residents can find information about local vaccine appointments at vaxfinder.mass.gov.
Featured Graphic by Annie Corrigan / Heights Editor