Worcester medical leaders say the city’s hospital system is overwhelmed as COVID-19 cases surge again.

What You Need To Know

  • City hospitals are experiencing long wait times and labor shortages 

  • Dr. Eric Dickson says 80 to 100 beds are off line due to strike at St. V's 

  • UMASS Memorial Health Care COVID-19 testing center is seeing 10% positivity rate, up from about 1% in June 

  • Worcester's indoor private, common place mask mandate starts Monday. 

Doctors say about 130 people are hospitalized across central Massachusetts for COVID-19. At the end of June, the number was less than 10.

“We are at the position that we now have probably have 70 patients across the city waiting for beds because the beds are all full in the hospital, which is blocking patients with emergencies from being seen," said Dr. Eric Dickson, president and CEO of UMass Memorial Health. 

Dickson said to help take the pressure off the city’s hospitals, more people need to get vaccinated, especially as the highly contagious delta variant continues to spread.

“Even though its a relatively small percentage of people that are eligible that aren’t vaccinated, it's that 15 percent that is driving the hospitalizations," Dickson said.

Dickson said the ongoing nurses strike at St. Vincent Hospital is having an impact too, leaving more than 80 beds unusable.

“We are at a crisis situation. We really need to get those 600 nurses back to work and those beds back open," Dickson said. 

Doctors said kids heading back to college is also contributing to the surge, despite most students being vaccinated .

“They are seeing cases, but they are almost all breakthrough cases and they are from the seniors that are off campus. They aren’t acquiring it on campus. They are acquiring it out in the community," said Dr. Michael Hirsh, Worcester’s medical director. 

To help with the surge, the city is putting a mask mandate in place starting Monday for private indoor common areas. Some businesses downtown have been keeping a close eye on the COVID-19 case count, too.

“We’ve been wearing masks for the last three weeks just as a precaution. My entire staff is fully vaccinated," said Lynn Cheney, the owner of Maker to Main. "I said, you know what, let's just be safe. We will put masks on. So for us, the mask mandate is just part of doing business."

The city is also requiring city employees to get vaccinated by November 1 or get tested for COVID-19 weekly.