What rising COVID cases mean for you


“It’s a funny thing: we’re literally all at risk… but also, #VaccinesWork.”

A dose of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine is prepared. Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

With COVID-19 cases rising both nationwide and in Massachusetts, you may know more and more people who are testing positive.

Responding to the increasing case trends, Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency room physician and academic dean at the Brown University School of Public Health, is sharing some advice for the public to navigate the current moment of the pandemic.

As has always been true with coronavirus, no protective measure is 100% effective, and everything comes with a caveat, but Ranney emphasized Tuesday on Twitter how important testing and being vaccinated still are if you want to avoid contracting COVID-19 and becoming seriously ill.

How at risk of catching COVID are you?

Ranney pointed to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found when no one in a household is vaccinated or isolating, about two-thirds of people living with someone who has omicron get infected.

Being vaccinated and boosted reduces that risk by about 30 to 50%, Ranney said, which leaves you with about a 30% risk of infection if someone in your household has COVID.

That might be even lower, however, Ranney said, if the infected person masks and isolates.

“It’s a funny thing: we’re literally all at risk… but also, #VaccinesWork,” Ranney tweeted.

Ranney said new omicron variants, which are spreading quickly, may change the game since different strains of the virus have different levels of transmissibility.

What to do if you test positive?

If you do test positive, isolating is key, Ranney said.

Ideally, the emergency room doctor said you should isolate until you have a negative rapid test or for at least 5 days. Any close contacts need to quarantine if they are not vaccinated, and if they are vaccinated they should test five or more days after exposure just to be sure.

Ranney said masking is recommended and “the right thing to do” for everyone for 5-10 days.

The doctor said the risks associated with testing positive are less than earlier in the pandemic. She said many people — those who are vaccinated, boosted and healthy — would likely feel crappy for days or weeks due to the virus, but the risk of long COVID is lower and they “will almost certainly be ok.”

While BA.2 cases have been rising “dramatically” for more than a month (and, as Ranney points out, are still being undercounted because of at-home tests), one note of good news is that hospitalizations and deaths are only rising slightly .

The seven-day average of positive cases in Massachusetts was at 2,605.7 as of May 9, up from below 1,000 in early March. Hospitalizations didn’t start rising consistently until partway through April, a month after cases did. Now, the seven-day average for hospitalizations is around 600. Deaths, on the other hand, haven’t shown a substantial increase in the state, hovering under 7 for the seven-day average of confirmed deaths since mid-March.

Ranney said one “caveat” for the risk of catching COVID is that for people who aren’t vaccinated and boosted; are immunosuppressed; or have several chronic diseases, the virus can still be dangerous.

If you are immunosuppressed, Ranney recommended asking your doctor about Evusheld, a prevention therapy that can help protect people from future COVID-19 infections.

Read through Ranney’s full thread of advice below:

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