Coronavirus stays under control in Massachusetts, while infections continue to surge in the south

Coronavirus infections are continuing to surge among young people in southern states, which will keep rising “for sometime” while spikes in the northeast remain mostly under control, according to a Harvard epidemiologist.

“We do not have a pandemic in the same stage in all parts of the country,” said William Hanage during a Tuesday webcast with The Forum at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The Harvard epidemiologist said infections in younger age groups, such as the current surge in the South can leak to other, more vulnerable populations and cause serious outcomes, as previously seen in the spring.

Hanage said he expects to see those case counts continue to tick up in the South, and while the death toll associated with the new surge is low right now, it’s still early to to call it a victory.

“Deaths tend to follow about three or four weeks after the initial infection,” said Hanage.

On the other hand, Hanage said, “We have experienced an initial surge of infection in the northeast of the country, which has been pretty much brought under control.”

The seven-day test positive rate in Massachusetts as of Monday was just 1.9% according to public health data, whereas in Florida, that figure was nearly 19% as of Sunday.

Hanage said, “One of the best ways to protect the most vulnerable individuals is not to have uncontrolled rates of community transmission.”

As many aspects of life start to reopen in Massachusetts and other states, Hanage said maintaining community spread at low levels, especially when reopening schools, is crucial.

“What we want to achieve is low rates of community transmission in order to prevent and control the pandemic,” said Hanage, adding that if that goal is not maintained, schools may wind up closing again anyway.

Hanage said children are less likely to be infected with coronavirus, but they may make twice as many contacts with others at school in comparison to adults in an office space.

He added that high schoolers and young adults seem to transmit COVID-19 the same way that adults do, but are less likely to practice social distancing.

“Those groups are quite important and I think we need to be thinking about that very much moving forward,” said Hanage.

When it comes to travel, Hanage said to keep the trusty transmission rates in mind yet again. If you are as likely to be infected in your home state as you are in a different state, travel restrictions won’t make much difference.

He explained that a minority of people do a majority of infecting others, therefore, just a few infected patients can make a large impact in areas where the virus isn’t as present.

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