WORCESTER, MA — You have to go back almost a century to find an event that has impacted so many Worcester-area residents as the coronavirus pandemic.
City officials on Wednesday held their final pandemic press conference of 2020, giving the last update this year on case numbers and deaths. The grim tally as of Dec. 30 stood at 14,534 total cases, 469 deaths at the UMass Memorial and Saint Vincent hospitals — a death toll that includes 329 city residents.
In World War II, 1,262 Worcester County residents were either killed in combat or later died of their injuries, according to state records. During the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, Worcester counted 6,884 cases of influenza and pneumonia and 1,294 deaths, according to the University of Michigan Center for the History of Medicine.
And the pandemic is not done yet. During Wednesday's press conference, officials said Worcester added 335 cases over the last 24 hours. That large daily increase is likely the first sign of a spike in cases related to the Christmas holiday, officials said.
Hospitals were filling up too, with 43 people at the field hospital at the DCU Center, and another 276 people being treated between UMass and Saint Vincent. The field hospital population could balloon to 75 this weekend, officials said.
There is hope on the horizon. About 6,000 vaccines have been given to local healthcare workers, and Worcester is planning to open a facility to vaccinate first responders in the coming weeks.
For the first time in several weeks, Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus Jr. was back at the city's weekly press conference. He was diagnosed with coronavirus on Dec. 9. He said his symptoms were relatively mild, but did develop pneumonia, which he called a "scary period."
As usual, Augustus urged the public to be careful, and to spend the New Year's holiday only with people in your immediate household.
"Do it in a way that brings the new year in on as safe a note as possible," Augustus said. "We appreciate all the effort and sacrifices everyone is making to get us through this really challenging time."