The case rate in Easthampton held steady this week. It remains higher than the Hampshire county average but lower than the Hampden county average. All of Massachusetts is now designated as high transmission according to the CDC county tracker. Pediatric and young adult cases make up about half of the active cases in Easthampton, which is a larger proportion than we are used to seeing (pre-delta variant) in this age range.
Hospitalizations have increased in Western Massachusetts in the past several weeks. ICU capacity is not overwhelmed at this time and hopefully will stay that way. We know increased COVID-19 cases will result in increased hospitalizations, lagging about 3-4 weeks behind the rise in case rate. Hopefully the relatively high vaccination rates in this area will allow for our health care system to bend as needed (rather than break). Still, health care providers are exhausted.
The vaccine remains our best protection. Vaccine rates increased very slightly in Easthampton this week, with 69.5% of folks in the 01027 zip code now vaccinated. There was good news this week from Pfizer, who released information indicating they may apply for emergency use authorization for ages 5-11 by the end of September. If all goes according to plan, we might have vaccines available for this age group in November. The ability to vaccinate children over age 5 before a holiday surge will be incredibly important in protecting all children.
While we wait, remember that the delta variant is much more contagious than the variants we were dealing with before. Wear a high-quality well-fitting mask when indoors in public locations. KN94 masks are readily available and offer a high level of protection. Well-fitting surgical masks are also a good choice. Consider wearing one of these masks or double-masking, particularly if unvaccinated.