By Dylan Woods
Boston University News Service
Since the Omicron variant arrived last winter, COVID-19 cases in Boston have remained constant. Suffolk County reported cases ranging from 100 new cases daily to as many as over 1,000 since February, but nowhere near the figures that were being reported last December and January of 2022, according to the data by the New York Times.
However, the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) announced a few weeks ago that the level of COVID-19 in Boston’s wastewater had increased by 76.4 percent at the beginning of September.
Over the past two weeks, Boston has seen a 37.7 percent increase in COVID-19 cases overall and a 24 percent increase in COVID-19-related hospitalizations, according to the BPHC. The increase in cases is expected to be even greater since the city does not account for the results of at-home tests.
Jonathan Latino, media relations manager of the BPHC, said the rise “is to be expected with people spending more time indoors, students returning to school, and cooler temperatures.” The city also held a back-to-school vaccination event last Saturday to encourage protection against COVID-19.
As the city heads into the fall and winter months, the increase in cases could continue, and it’s not just because of time spent indoors or more gatherings for holiday festivities. The COVID-19 virus, like influenza or other viruses, is more likely to spread when it’s colder outside, said Dr. Sabrina Assoumou, a Professor of Medicine at Boston University.
“In the winter, the air is dry,” Dr. Assoumou said. “If the air is dry, then droplets [of a virus] tend to spend more time in the air compared to if there’s a lot of moisture in the air. That increases the chances of transmission, in general, for respiratory viruses.”
While there is no consensus yet on whether or not COVID-19 will follow a seasonal pattern, Dr. Assoumou believes it is expected that, at least in the Northeast, there will be a rise in cases every fall and winter.
“I can’t tell you that we’re not going to have another surge in the spring or next summer,” she said. “We may have other variants that are around the corner.”
There is a consensus on the best ways to avoid getting or spreading COVID-19 this winter. Both the Boston Public Health Commission and Dr. Assoumou recommend staying up to date with vaccinations, masking indoors, testing regularly and staying home when sick.
“It’s not all doom and gloom,” Dr. Assoumou said. “We’re in a very different place than we were in 2020. We have measures against COVID-19 that work.”