Ashish Jha says Mass. needs to ‘pull back’ on indoor dining as the state heads in the ‘wrong direction’ with COVID-19

Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, has been monitoring the wastewater data from Massachusetts, and he does not like what he’s seeing.

Recent sewer samples from the Greater Boston area are showing evidence of a coronavirus spike in the region.

“Every day, I stare at this wastewater data from Massachusetts and get more and more concerned,” Jha wrote on Twitter Saturday. “This is not about testing or cases. This is about how much infection there is in the community.”

Researchers and public health officials have been using wastewater to monitor for the spread of COVID-19 during the pandemic. Since people infected can shed virus particles through their waste — whether or not they are experiencing symptoms — the wastewater provides an opportunity for officials to catch an outbreak early, according to NPR.

Wastewater samples taken last week from the weekly study by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority revealed the highest amounts of the virus since the pandemic’s surge in the spring.

In recent weeks, Massachusetts has seen the daily number of coronavirus cases increase, with the state reporting 1,097 new cases on Sunday. Hospitalizations, too, are up.

As far as what is driving the rise in cases in the state, Jha pointed to gatherings in homes, parties, the expansion of indoor dining, and complacency.

The doctor praised Gov. Charlie Baker for his leadership during the pandemic, but stressed the Bay State is heading in the “wrong direction.”

“It’s time to redouble efforts to curtail spread,” Jha wrote. “Pull back on indoor gatherings including dining. More testing. And let’s do better communicating what is high risk and how to avoid it.”

Last week, 77 communities in the state were designated as being at high risk for the virus, with 14 new municipalities gaining the designation from the previous week. Those communities designated as high risk, or “red” on the state’s map of coronavirus risk, have seen more than eight COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents on average per day in the previous two weeks.

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