What you need to know about COVID-19 breakthrough cases

Health

KCRA Sacramento 22 July, 2021 - 08:53pm 65 views

Kent Justice, Anchor/reporter

Kent Justice, Anchor/reporter

The key concern during the meeting was what’s known as the delta variant -- a highly contagious strain of the virus.

“Jacksonville, our house is on fire,” said Dr. Nancy Staats, an anesthesiologist. “And we need everybody out there to help put it out.”

The wrath of the delta variant hits close to home for people from all walks of life, including Neptune Beach Mayor Elaine Brown.

“The fact that we almost lost our son last year, and recently, we’ve had COVID positive and very sick people in our family,” Brown said. “This is so contagious and I think that is the point that is not getting through to people.”

Health experts say the delta variant is 200% more contagious than the original COVID-19 virus. They say roughly 90% of hospitalized COVID patients aren’t vaccinated.

“These COVID patients are taking up 20%, and at times, more of the hospital capacity,” said Dr. Scott Silvers with Mayo Clinic. “And that’s making it hard to render care to all of the other patients.”

News4Jax asked Silvers how effective the vaccines are at protecting against the delta variant.

“Previously, with old versions of the virus, these vaccines were 95% effective at preventing illness. So now we’re seeing vaccine failure with this delta variant. People are getting sick that have been vaccinated. Fortunately, it’s very rare for someone (who is) vaccinated to become so severely ill that they require hospitalization,” Silvers said.

Pastor John Newman hosted the event. He said he’s disappointed to hear about low vaccination numbers in Florida’s Black community.

Staats said deciding to vaccinate is a personal choice and one that prioritizes personal and public health. Newman preaches following a golden rule.

“If you love you, protect you. If you feel like, well, I’m okay. I think I’m fine, but let’s say you have a loved one you’re concerned about, you love them, then receive the vaccination because you love them,” Newman said. “And any parent would see a car careening down the street and their child in danger would immediately run out to save that child and risk their own lives to do that. Well, that’s what we’re talking about. Doing what is necessary to save not just only your life but the life of those you care for.”

There has been a higher demand for COVID testing amid the spike. Doctors say the PCR test is 90 to 95% accurate. The rapid test is more in the 65% range. They say that you can’t rely on a negative rapid test and encourage a re-test if you have symptoms.

Children under the age of 12 still can’t get the vaccine.

Adrianna Cantville, a pediatrician who attended the town hall, said she’s seen an influx of children being treated for the virus. She said the best way to protect them is by wearing masks and that those who are eligible should get vaccinated.

Younger, sicker, quicker is the mantra many doctors have when it comes to explaining the delta variant. Cantville said she recently treated a COVID patient who was 3 weeks old.

“We’re seeing more children being treated and in the hospital and long term complications,” Cantville said. “Most important thing we can do is create a cocoon of safety. Everyone in their life needs to be vaccinated so we can protect them. We still need to wear masks.”

Cantville feels with numbers on the rise that students should continue wearing masks in schools.

RELATED: Pediatricians group recommends everyone wear masks at schools

“This is the best way to keep them safe, and this is what the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended,” Cantville said. “Not just the students, but everybody in the school. Teachers, the staff, whether the teachers and staff have been vaccinated or not, that’s the recommendation.”

Copyright 2021 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.

Reports weeknights for The Ten O'Clock News and News4Jax at 11.

Kent Justice co-anchors News4Jax's 5 p.m., 10 and 11 p.m. newscasts weeknights and reports on government and politics. He also hosts "This Week in Jacksonville," Channel 4's hot topics and politics public affairs show each Sunday morning at 9 a.m.

Copyright © 2021 News4Jax.com is managed by Graham Digital and pubished by Graham Media Group, a division of Graham Holdings.

Read full article at KCRA Sacramento

More Hospitals Are Requiring Workers to Get COVID Vaccines

Yahoo! Voices 23 July, 2021 - 02:02am

Many hospitals say their efforts to immunize their employees have stalled, in much the same way the nation’s overall vaccination rates are stuck under 60%, behind many European countries and Canada. While more than 96% of doctors say they are fully vaccinated, according to the American Medical Association, health care workers, particularly in rural areas, have proved more resistant even though thousands of workers have died from the virus and countless more became sick.

One recent estimate indicated that one in four hospital workers were not vaccinated by the end of May, with some facilities reporting that fewer than half of their employees had gotten the shots.

Some hospitals, ranging from academic medical centers like NewYork-Presbyterian and Yale New Haven to large chains like Trinity Health, are going ahead with a mandate because they recognize that the only way to stop the virus is to vaccinate as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. A large Arizona-based chain, Banner Health, announced Tuesday that it would impose a mandate, and New York City said it would require all health care workers at city-run hospitals or clinics to be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing.

Watching cases rise prompted Trinity Health, a Catholic system with hospitals in 22 states, to become one of the first major groups to decide earlier this month that it would mandate inoculations. “We were convinced that the vaccine can save lives,” said Dr. Daniel Roth, Trinity’s chief clinical officer. “These are preventable deaths.”

At UF Health Jacksonville, in Florida, the number of COVID patients being treated has surged to levels not seen since January, and only half of its health care workers are vaccinated, said Chad Neilsen, director of infection prevention. Seventy-five employees are out sick with the virus, the vast majority of whom are unvaccinated, while more are waiting for test results. “We are absolutely struggling for staffing right now,” he said.

“It’s like déjà vu,” said Neilsen, who described growing frustration with colleagues refusing to get the shots. “We have a reason to believe this could be over if people got vaccinated.”

Despite dozens of virtual town halls, question-and-answer sessions and educational videos, many employees are wary. “We still stagnated,” Neilsen said.

Some employees want more data, while others say the process has been too rushed. Many of the same conspiracy theories and misinformation — that the vaccines will make women infertile or contain microchips — hold sway among staff members. “Our health care workers are a reflection of the general population,” he said.

Hospital leaders and others plan to meet with state officials in the coming weeks about the possibility of imposing a mandate, he said.

Unvaccinated workers also continue to care for even the sickest patients, raising concerns that they will spread the infection, especially now that the highly contagious delta variant comprises more than 80% of the nation’s cases.

“Nowhere is this more important than in hospitals, where health care personnel — who have been heroic during this pandemic — are caring for patients with a wide variety of health challenges under the assumption that the health care professionals treating them are not at risk of acquiring or transmitting COVID-19,” Dr. David Skorton, chief executive of the Association of American Medical Colleges, which represents teaching hospitals, said in a statement last Friday calling for a mandate.

On Wednesday, two more groups, including the American Hospital Association, joined the growing clamor for vaccine mandates. “We have lost too many of our caregivers to COVID-19,” said Dr. Bruce Siegel, the chief executive of America’s Essential Hospitals, which represents hospitals in underserved communities. “Vaccination can reduce the risk we lose more.”

With formal approval of the vaccines by the Food and Drug Administration potentially months away, hospitals find themselves at the center of the national debate over whether to impose mandates. While the vaccines are being offered under emergency use authorization, supporters argue there is ample evidence that the ones available in the United States are both safe and effective.

In states like Missouri, which has reported a sharp increase in cases, there is newfound urgency. “We felt we could not wait,” said Dr. Shephali Wulff, director of infectious diseases for SSM Health, a Catholic hospital system whose headquarters are in St. Louis. SSM, where about two-thirds of employees are now vaccinated, is requiring everyone to get their first dose by Sept. 1.

SSM’s decision was also motivated by concern that COVID infections could spike this fall when there could also be a surge in other respiratory infections. “We need a healthy workforce going into the flu season,” Wulff said. “We do not have the time to wait for approval.”

But some systems are already worried about staffing shortages caused by departures during the pandemic, with many employees quitting because of the stress and burnout experienced by caring for COVID patients. Hospitals are hesitant to risk losing more workers if they force the issue.

“They are afraid it could be a tipping point,” said Ann Marie Pettis, president of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, one of the professional organizations that is urging hospitals to require the vaccine.

At Mosaic Life Care, a small Missouri hospital group, executives are reluctant to adopt a mandate if other hospitals do not. “We have the potential to lose some caregivers to other systems,” said Joey Austin, a spokesperson for Mosaic, which has vaccinated about 62% of its staff.

Many hospitals already require their employees to get a flu shot, a mandate that has been in place for over a decade. While that was also met by resistance from employees skeptical of the vaccines’ safety, it is now largely accepted. Individuals can seek a medical or religious exemption, typically representing a small sliver of the workforce, which hospitals say would also apply to the COVID vaccines.

Mandates “establish a social norm and say it’s an institutional priority,” said Saad Omer, director of the Yale Institute for Global Health, who emphasized that hospitals need to strongly encourage workers to voluntarily get the vaccines to be successful.

Unions like the National Nurses United and 1199 SEIU say they want members to be vaccinated but oppose making it a condition of employment. At the first hospital to impose a mandate, Houston Methodist, a group of employees sued to challenge the requirement but the lawsuit was recently dismissed. About 150 employees ultimately resigned or were fired for refusing to meet the deadline for vaccination out of a total workforce of some 26,000 people.

Hospitals say they are working hard to dispel much of the pervasive misinformation around the vaccines, even among physicians and nurses.

“I have to remind them that reputable scientists do not publish their findings on YouTube,” Wulff said. In addition to presenting hard data about the vaccine, she and her colleagues at SSM are also sharing their personal experiences, like getting vaccinated while trying to get pregnant. “What I’m finding is people are moved by stories and anecdotes,” she said.

“Generally it’s a lot of listening and homing in on what is driving their fear,” Wulff said.

Some high-profile systems like Intermountain Healthcare and the Cleveland Clinic are waiting. The clinic, which has a sprawling network of 18 hospitals in the United States, said existing policies, like masking and closely tracking infections, protect patients and workers.

“We know if we ensure these safety precautions are in place we know we can continue to keep our patients and caregivers safe,” said K. Kelly Hancock, the Cleveland Clinic’s chief caregiver officer.

About three-quarters of employees are now vaccinated, and efforts are continuing “full force,” she said.

At Intermountain Healthcare, based in Utah, “a good majority” of employees are vaccinated, said Dr. Kristin Dascomb, medical director for infection prevention and control and employee health.

If more safety data is compelling and the FDA approves the vaccines, Intermountain may require immunization along with other hospitals in the state. “We are starting the conversation now in Utah,” she said.

The lack of full FDA approval has also influenced other hospitals. Mass General Brigham, which has vaccinated more than 85% of its workforce, said it would adopt the requirement as soon as the vaccines were approved.

Some hospitals argue a mandate is not necessary. “In my opinion, there isn’t one right answer,” said Suresh Gunasekaran, chief executive of the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics. About 90% of its workers are now vaccinated, he said, adding that he was confident that virtually everyone would be immunized by the end of the year.

The system has been “successful in chipping away” at vaccine hesitancy, Gunasekaran said, in part because Iowa was involved in the clinical trials for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Northwell Health, the large New York hospital group, does not require workers to be immunized against the flu but about 90% of its workforce is vaccinated against it, said Maxine Carrington, Northwell’s chief human resources officer. It is taking a similar approach to COVID.

“We want people to be believers,” Carrington said, so they are better able to persuade the community at large to get vaccinated. She described the system as “pounding the pavement on education, education, education.” About 76% of its workforce is currently vaccinated against COVID. Northwell will revisit the idea of a mandate after FDA approves the vaccines, she said.

Yale New Haven Health is now requiring employees to get vaccinated, as have the other hospitals in Connecticut.

“From the very beginning, we messaged that it isn’t mandatory — yet. We emphasized the yet,” said Dr. Thomas Balcezak, chief clinical officer for Yale.

“Health care has to lead,” he said.

© 2021 The New York Times Company

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After declining sharply for months, coronavirus cases in the U.S are climbing again as a result of the Delta variant. Here's what to know about the fast-spreading variant and how to stay safe and protect others.

Why Vaccinated People Are Getting ‘Breakthrough’ Infections

The New York Times 23 July, 2021 - 02:02am

The vaccines are effective at preventing serious illness and death, but they are not a golden shield against the coronavirus.

A wedding in Oklahoma leads to 15 vaccinated guests becoming infected with the coronavirus. Raucous Fourth of July celebrations disperse the virus from Provincetown, Mass., to dozens of places across the country, sometimes carried by fully vaccinated celebrants.

As the Delta variant surges across the nation, reports of infections in vaccinated people have become increasingly frequent — including, most recently, among at least six Texas Democrats, a White House aide and an aide to Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The highly contagious variant, combined with a lagging vaccination campaign and the near absence of preventive restrictions, is fueling a rapid rise in cases in all states, and hospitalizations in nearly all of them. It now accounts for about 83 percent of infections diagnosed in the United States.

But as worrying as the trend may seem, breakthrough infections — those occurring in vaccinated people — are still relatively uncommon, experts said, and those that cause serious illness, hospitalization or death even more so. More than 97 percent of people hospitalized for Covid-19 are unvaccinated.

“The takeaway message remains, if you’re vaccinated, you are protected,” said Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York. “You are not going to end up with severe disease, hospitalization or death.”

Reports of breakthrough infections should not be taken to mean that the vaccines do not work, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the Biden administration’s top pandemic adviser, said on Thursday at a news briefing.

“By no means does that mean that you’re dealing with an unsuccessful vaccine,” he said. “The success of the vaccine is based on the prevention of illness.”

Still, vaccinated people can come down with infections, overwhelmingly asymptomatic or mild. That may come as a surprise to many vaccinated Americans, who often assume that they are completely shielded from the virus. And breakthrough infections raise the possibility, as yet unresolved, that vaccinated people may spread the virus to others.

Given the upwelling of virus across much of the country, some scientists say it is time for vaccinated people to consider wearing masks indoors and in crowded spaces like shopping malls or concert halls — a recommendation that goes beyond current guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends masking only for unvaccinated people.

The agency does not plan to change its guidelines unless there is a significant change in the science, said a federal official speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the matter.

The agency’s guidance already gives local leaders latitude to adjust their policies based on rates of transmission in their communities, he added. Citing the rise of the Delta variant, health officials in several California jurisdictions are already urging a return to indoor masking; Los Angeles County is requiring it.

“Seatbelts reduce risk, but we still need to drive carefully,” said Dr. Scott Dryden-Peterson, an infectious disease physician and epidemiologist at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston. “We’re still trying to figure out what is ‘drive carefully’ in the Delta era, and what we should be doing.”

The uncertainty about Delta results in part from how it differs from previous versions of the coronavirus. Although its mode of transmission is the same — it is inhaled, usually in indoor spaces — Delta is thought to be about twice as contagious as the original virus.

Significantly, early evidence also suggests that people infected with the Delta variant may carry roughly a thousandfold more virus than those infected with the original virus. While that does not seem to mean that they get sicker, it does probably mean that they are more contagious and for longer.

Dose also matters: A vaccinated person exposed to a low dose of the coronavirus may never become infected, or not noticeably so. A vaccinated person exposed to extremely high viral loads of the Delta variant is more likely to find his or her immune defenses overwhelmed.

The problem grows worse as community transmission rates rise, because exposures in dose and number will increase. Vaccination rates in the country have stalled, with less than half of Americans fully immunized, giving the virus plenty of room to spread.

Unvaccinated people “are not, for the most part, taking precautions, and that’s what’s driving it for everybody,” said Dr. Eric J. Rubin, the editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine. “We’re all susceptible to whatever anyone’s behavior is in this epidemic.”

Dr. Gounder likened the amount of protection offered by the vaccines to a golf umbrella that keeps people dry in a rainstorm. “But if you’re out in a hurricane, you’re still going to get wet,” she said. “That’s kind of the situation that the Delta variant has created, where there’s still a lot of community spread.”

For the average vaccinated person, a breakthrough infection is likely to be inconsequential, causing few to no symptoms. But there is concern among scientists that a few vaccinated people who become infected may go on to develop long Covid, a poorly understood constellation of symptoms that persists after the active infection is resolved.

Much has been made of Delta’s ability to sidestep immune defenses. In fact, all of the existing vaccines seem able to prevent serious illness and death from the variant. In laboratory studies, Delta actually has proved to be a milder threat than Beta, the variant first identified in South Africa.

Whether a vaccinated person ever becomes infected may depend on how high antibodies spiked after vaccination, how potent those antibodies are against the variant, and whether the level of antibodies in the person’s blood has waned since immunization.

In any case, immune defenses primed by the vaccines should recognize the virus soon after infection and destroy it before significant damage occurs.

“That is what explains why people do get infected and why people don’t get seriously ill,” said Michel C. Nussenzweig, an immunologist at Rockefeller University in New York. “It’s nearly unavoidable, unless you’re going to give people very frequent boosters.”

There is limited evidence beyond anecdotal reports to indicate whether breakthrough infections with the Delta variant are more common or more likely to fan out to other people. The C.D.C. has recorded about 5,500 hospitalizations and deaths in vaccinated people, but it is not tracking milder breakthrough infections.

Additional data is emerging from the Covid-19 Sports and Society Workgroup, a coalition of professional sports leagues that is working closely with the C.D.C. Sports teams in the group are testing more than 10,000 people at least daily and sequencing all infections, according to Dr. Robby Sikka, a physician who worked with the N.B.A.’s Minnesota Timberwolves.

Breakthrough infections in the leagues seem to be more common with the Delta variant than with Alpha, the variant first identified in Britain, he said. As would be predicted, the vaccines cut down the severity and duration of illness significantly, with players returning less than two weeks after becoming infected, compared with nearly three weeks earlier in the pandemic.

But while they are infected, the players carry very high amounts of virus for seven to 10 days, compared with two or three days in those infected with Alpha, Dr. Sikka said. Infected players are required to quarantine, so the project has not been able to track whether they spread the virus to others — but it’s likely that they would, he added.

“If they’re put just willy-nilly back into society, I think you’re going to have spread from vaccinated individuals,” he added. “They don’t even recognize they have Covid because they think they’re vaccinated.”

Elyse Freitas was shocked to discover that 15 vaccinated people became infected at her wedding. Dr. Freitas, 34, a biologist at the University of Oklahoma, said she had been very cautious throughout the pandemic, and had already postponed her wedding once. But after much deliberation, she celebrated the wedding indoors on July 10.

Based on the symptoms, Dr. Freitas believes that the initial infection was at a bachelorette party two days before the wedding, when a dozen vaccinated people went unmasked to bars in downtown Oklahoma City; seven of them later tested positive. Eventually, 17 guests at the wedding became infected, nearly all with mild symptoms.

“In hindsight, I should have paid more attention to the vaccination rates in Oklahoma and the emergence of the Delta variant and adjusted my plans accordingly,” she said.

An outbreak in Provincetown, Mass., illustrates how quickly a cluster can grow, given the right conditions. During its famed Fourth of July celebrations, the small town hosted more than 60,000 unmasked revelers, dancing and mingling in crowded bars and house parties.

The crowds this year were much larger than usual, said Adam Hunt, 55, an advertising executive who has lived in Provincetown part time for about 20 years. But the bars and clubs didn’t open until they were allowed to, Mr. Hunt noted: “We thought we were doing the right thing. We thought we were OK.”

Mr. Hunt did not become infected with the virus, but several of his vaccinated friends who had flown in from places as far as Hawaii and Alabama tested positive after their return. In all, the cluster has grown to at least 256 cases — including 66 visitors from other states — about two-thirds in vaccinated people.

“I did not expect that people who were vaccinated would be becoming positive at the rate that they were,” said Steve Katsurinis, chair of the Provincetown Board of Health. Provincetown has moved swiftly to contain the outbreak, reinstating a mask advisory and stepping up testing. It is conducting 250 tests a day, compared with about eight a day before July 1, Mr. Katsurinis said.

Health officials should also help the public understand that vaccines are doing what they are supposed to — preventing people from getting seriously ill, said Kristen Panthagani, a geneticist at Baylor College of Medicine who runs a blog explaining complex scientific concepts.

“Vaccine efficacy isn’t 100 percent — it never is,” she said. “We shouldn’t expect Covid vaccines to be perfect, either. That’s too high an expectation.”

It doesn't have to be this way: COVID-19 is now a vaccine-preventable disease

The Hill 22 July, 2021 - 05:30pm

In medicine, we talk about certain conditions as “vaccine-preventable diseases.” These are, as the term implies, illnesses and diseases that can be prevented by the acceptance of an available, effective immunization against the referenced condition. When the first COVID-19 vaccines became available in December 2020 and were quickly available widely and free to the American public, it became a vaccine-preventable illness.

Sadly, it was also at that point when millions of people made the decision not to receive the vaccine. Some for reasons of deep-seated, historical mistrust in the medical system, but many others because of intentional misinformation spread by dishonest media sources, politicians and on social media platforms, with some overlapping into both categories. Sadly, this decision will likely cost lives. And this is where we are in America at this point in the pandemic, the current fork that we just passed is quickly fading into our rearview mirror. In a predictable turn of events, this has now become the pandemic of the unvaccinated. 

Consider our home state of Tennessee, a state of almost 7 million people where 1 in 542 citizens have died from COVID-19. With only 38 percent of the state fully vaccinated, the Tennessee Department of Health abruptly stopped vaccine outreach efforts after it became a political hot button for some legislators. This disappointing turn of events came at a time when many children are behind on their routine childhood immunizations due to the collateral effects of the pandemic.  Keep in mind children are returning to camps, sports and in a short time school — and only 19 percent of those 16 to 20 years of age are fully immunized against COVID-19. We simply cannot afford to allow public health to be politicized. Too many lives have been lost and we have many more that we need to and can protect through public health outreach and efforts.

As COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths begin to rise once again in our country, with cases among children rising as well, the Delta variant is taking hold, more transmissible and perhaps more deadly than before. There continues to be an avalanche of misinformation on the vaccine.

Those who are currently being hospitalized and dying from COVID-19 are unvaccinated in almost 99 percent of cases. Yet, the misinformation, high rates of unvaccinated people and the new variants threaten the health of all of us. When we talk about those who are unvaccinated, in addition to those who remain skeptical, we also must consider children, low-income communities, communities of color, rural areas and others. While vaccine information may seem to be primarily targeted to people of certain political demographics, it often reaches, or even targets, Black, Latino and Native American communities. Perhaps this is an additional motive for many of these operatives, to target communities who are already vaccine hesitant due to years of distrust in the medical system and who are suffering higher rates of illness and death from COVID-19. 

It is time for our country to not only turn the wheel and get vaccinated in large numbers, but it’s also time for us to reexamine the entire system. The World Health Organization has named vaccine hesitancy as one of the top 10 global health threats. We must rely on the evidence, the science and public health experts to guide us through the vast amounts of information, guidelines and ongoing research through the pandemic and for all public health issues. The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. They perform very well against severe disease and death, even against the variants. We must condemn and stop sources of misinformation, relying instead on the healthcare providers and experts in their fields, like pediatricians who deal with vaccines and provide education and guidance on these topics as part of our daily work. We encourage all who are eligible, including children and adolescents ages 12 years and older, to be vaccinated for COVID-19 and for parents to ensure that their child’s routine immunizations are up to date also. The last thing we need now is an outbreak of another vaccine-preventable illness.

It doesn’t have to be this way in our country. There is still time to get the COVID-19 vaccine, to turn around and head down the right path, so that we can no longer talk about a pandemic of the vaccinated or unvaccinated and put this era in our rearview mirror. Otherwise, buckle up for a continued bumpy ride.

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Cambridge urges all residents to mask up after breakthrough infections reported, Massachusetts reports jump of 477 new cases

Boston Herald 22 July, 2021 - 04:44pm

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Cambridge health officials are urging all residents, whether vaccinated or not, to mask up after the city reported more than 30 coronavirus breakthrough infections this month, as Massachusetts officials on Thursday reported a spike of 477 new cases.

Infections have been rising in recent weeks amid the more highly contagious delta variant. The Bay State’s seven-day average is now 271 daily COVID-19 cases, which is a significant increase from the pandemic low of 64 daily cases in late June.

Thursday was the second straight day of more than 400 cases. Before Wednesday, the last time the state had reported more than 400 cases was May 22.

New infections among Cambridge residents have ticked up in July, with 83 cases reported this month. Of these 83 cases, 42% were breakthrough cases, meaning the person was fully vaccinated but still got infected.

“The Cambridge Public Health Department urges residents — vaccinated and not — to wear a mask and practice physical distancing in situations where transmission is likely and when around unvaccinated people, including young children,” Cambridge health officials wrote in an advisory.

“The best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 is to get vaccinated,” they added. “Even among people with breakthrough infections, the vaccines have proven to be extremely effective at preventing serious illness and death. It is important to remember that no vaccine offers 100% protection against illness.”

Massachusetts health officials on Thursday also reported six new virus deaths, bringing the state’s total recorded death toll to 18,041.

The seven-day average of COVID-19 deaths is now 2.3, up from the record low of 1.1 last week.

There are now 118 COVID-19 patients in hospitals across the state, an increase of 11 patients from Wednesday’s 107 patients. There are now 36 patients in intensive care units, and 12 patients are intubated.

The seven-day average of COVID-19 hospitalizations is now 109, up from the record low of 85 patients two weeks ago.

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