MASSACHUSETTS — Amid some hope that dramatically lower virus levels found in wastewater samples in recent days could forecast the waning of the omicron spike, came a reminder of the pressure staff-strapped hospitals remain under across the state.
Coronavirus-related hospitalizations topped 3,000 in Wednesday's report from the state Department of Health for the first time during the latest surge. The 3,087 reported hospitalizations is an increase from 2,790 reported on Tuesday.
The high-water mark comes as the state is on the verge of changing the way it reports COVID-19 hospitalizations. That number will soon separate those hospitalized because of severe coronavirus symptoms and those who test positive upon admittance or during their hospital stay that is primarily for another ailment.
Gov. Charlie Baker said on Tuesday that anecdotal reports from the commonwealth and those in other Northeast states indicate that about 40 percent of hospitalizations reported as coronavirus-related are not specifically because of virus symptoms.
Still, it is all adding up for hospitals under stress from rising cases, high patient volume due to delayed care and fewer beds because of staff shortages. A South Shore Hospital nurse told Patch on Wednesday that she and her staff are "burnt out" amid the latest wave of cases, while North Shore hospitals in Beverly and Salem this week enacted more restrictive visitation policies to preserve capacity and staff health.
Yet, for the first time in many weeks, the news is not all negative when it comes to virus trends.
The state positivity rate fell once again in Wednesday's report to 21.61 percent from 22.78 percent in Tuesday's report, while the wastewater data is fueling hopes that New England's omicron spike may have peaked and could rapidly regress.
Although wastewater data does not measure specific cases, it has been considered highly predictive of trends and is not influenced by an infected person's decision to take a state-registering PCR test or seek treatment.
There were 22,184 new cases reported in Wednesday's state data and 76 additional deaths.
Hospitalizations and deaths have been lagging indicators of current case levels and community spread since the start of the coronavirus crisis in March 2020.