Case rates remain low this week in Easthampton, and rates continue to decline in Hampshire and Hampden counties. There was a small increase in the percent positivity because there was a drop in the number of PCR tests performed. Given the information I've shared here about looking at the overall trend rather than specific and small changes in the metrics, I'd say community transmission in Easthampton is stably low again this week.
We do see a very slight rise in new cases last week and active cases, indicating that perhaps next week we will see a small increase in the case rate, but again, a small difference in case numbers up or down by itself isn't alarming. There also isn't anything alarming in the wastewater surveillance data at this time (I've included a visual of that data).
Last week I shared detailed information about vaccination rates in our community. Overall, this community is highly vaccinated but there are certainly gaps in coverage in some age groups, and gaps in booster coverage. If you are looking for action to take during this lull in viral activity to increase your protection if there is an increase at some point, now is a great time to get a booster dose. If you haven't been fully vaccinated yet, this is also a great time to do that and have full protection before any future increase. At this point, I expect very little I say here about the safety of the vaccines and the huge amount of protection they provide will impact vaccine decisions for those who are not yet vaccinated - but if there is something that would be reassuring to learn more about or if you are considering it and just want to have someone to talk to about it, I hope you have identified someone you trust that will discuss it with non-judgmentally. And you can always ask here in the comments and I will do my best to answer, or direct you to someone who could answer your question!
I wish I had more specific information on the timeline to share, but it's just not available yet. We've seen the EUA process move quickly before, so I am hopeful that once the submission is complete that will happen again. It's really hard to predict what that timeline will look like - it could be quite quick, and happen within a couple of weeks. It's also possible that the process could take more than a month. I hope we'll hear more concrete information later this week. For parents who are anxiously awaiting the pediatric vaccine in the youngest age group, the wait can be excruciating - but I think it's safe to say that we now have access to the pediatric vaccine within sight.
A final note on the situation in Europe, as it may relate to the US. Many countries in Europe are continuing to see an increase in cases. I've included the most recent UK / US data as a visual, as the UK has been used to predict the situation in the US previously. At this point, there are not clear indications that the US will experience a similar increase in cases, but there's also nothing to demonstrate that it won't happen. I know that's about as non-commital of a statement as possible, but it really just means that it's too soon for us to know. If we continue to see the BA.2 sub-omicron variant increase in dominance and we don't see a similar rise in cases, then we can feel pretty good. We're still in the watch and wait time period. The wastewater data is promising - 66.5% of virus particles in the wastewater are from BA.2l and we are not seeing a spike in viral concentration in wastewater. The visual of that data is included as well.
Megan W. Harvey, PhD, MS (she/her)