The number of Massachusetts patients hospitalized with COVID-19 has dropped over the last week for the first time since hospitalizations started surging in November.
While COVID-19 case counts have been dropping since the beginning of the month, until now, that hadn’t been reflected in hospitals, which continued to see increasing admissions.
As of Tuesday, hospitalizations due to COVID-19 fell to about 1,300 patients, down by 19% from the week before. The number of patients hospitalized for other reasons who tested positive for COVID-19 similarly dropped.
Boston Medical Center has seen that decrease in its own patient numbers, said associate hospital epidemiologist Dr. Cassandra Pierre of Boston Medical Center.
“We saw a decline of 7% [in] hospitalizations from last week,” Pierre said. “So it's a small decline, but it actually, to be honest with you, is a little faster than what I was expecting.”
Pierre said she’s optimistic that it indicates a turning point for hospitalizations in the latest surge.
“Even though we usually want to wait for consistent indicators, a sustained indication of a drop, I wouldn't be surprised, given the decreasing case numbers, if we continue to move in this direction,” she said.
But even as hospitalizations dip overall, Pierre said the number of pediatric COVID-19 patients at Boston Medical Center has slightly increased. She said those patients tend to be unvaccinated.
Massachusetts General Hospital is still extremely busy, said Dr. Jarone Lee, the medical director for one of the hospital’s intensive care units. But it has also seen a drop in its inpatient COVID-19 cases over the last week, he said.
Lee said that many of the sickest patients admitted around the peak of the surge are still in the hospital, so there could still be a rise in deaths caused by COVID-19 before that number starts coming down.
“The patients we are seeing who need the ICU and who eventually might pass are, unfortunately, folks who generally have decided not to get vaccinated,” Lee said. “So the vaccine has worked very well. But the patients who are coming in with severe COVID are very similar to the patients from the first surge and the second surge. They're still very, very ill when they need us.”