COVID tracker: As some of us debate boosters, signs that the latest surge may have peaked

Monitor staff
Published: 9/26/2021 5:00:05 PM

I am not an epidemiologist but I do play one on newsprint, so I shouldn’t be flustered by the arrival of yet another coping-with-COVID variable: booster shots.

But flustered I am.

Just as July felt like an unpleasant repeat of last fall’s surge when new cases started rising, today feels like an unpleasant repeat of early spring as people in my age group debate whether to get a booster.

For over-65-ers like me who got the Pfizer vaccine, don’t have health issues and aren’t in a high-risk job, is a booster necessary? Optional? Pointless? Selfish? This is exactly the discussion we were having in March as vaccines were first rolled out, but today I’m much more uncertain about what to do.

The health experts that I look to for guidance – the state DHHS, federal CDC, local infectious-care doctors – are split at the moment about boosters and I can’t blame them.

There isn’t a ton of epidemiological data about the need and value of a booster shot because the pandemic hasn’t been around long enough. Some assumptions need to be made based on studies and experience with similar diseases, which leaves room for debate.

As time goes on and more information is gathered, agreement will solidify among informed folks. As it does, I’m going to wait for the time being, since working from home means I’m pretty low risk. But if advice from the knowledgeable changes, I’ll change with it.

And of course I’ll continue to wear a mask in public when indoors or out in crowded spaces, and also of course I’ll continue to urge everybody who hasn’t gotten vaccinated to do so – including the 5-to-11-year-olds when that vaccine becomes available. Universal jabs are still are best bet to ending the pandemic’s unmerry-go-round.

For coronavirus-related information and updates throughout the week, visit In the meantime, let’s get an update on how we’re doing:

How are we doing on vaccinations? No better than all summer.

Despite all the hope that companies requiring vaccinations would bring the hesitant to the doctor’s office, the state’s official number remains flat: About 20 people a day, roughly the same rate it has been since early July. In a state with 1.35 million people, that’s pretty much nothing.

What’s the trend on the spread and impact of the disease? The latest surge seems to have peaked, although it’s too soon to be sure.

The state says the number of new cases has fallen in the past week, from 477 per 7 days to 389. It’s too early to say if this is the start of a real change: it doesn’t show up in my tally, which extends over two weeks, and the positivity rate in PCR tests remains around the troubling 5% point. But at least the number is no longer rising, as it had done for the previous two months.

Hospitalizations haven’t changed for a month, running between 130 and 150 in the hospital statewide, nor have deaths at about two a day, but they always lag behind changes in the new-case load. One good sign is that the percentage of available hospital beds and ICU beds, especially in the state’s most populated areas, seem to have stopped shrinking.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)
David Brooks bio photo

David Brooks is a reporter and the writer of the sci/tech column Granite Geek and blog, as well as moderator of the monthly Science Cafe Concord events. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics he became a newspaperman, working in Virginia and Tennessee before spending 28 years at the Nashua Telegraph . He joined the Monitor in 2015.

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