COVID Transmission in Essex County and Peabody, Massachusetts

February 2, 2023. Information about transmission and ongoing current infections in Essex County and Peabody, Massachusetts.


Reported on:  01/26/2023
Period:   01/08/2022 to 01/21/2022

Positivity rates in Peabody and Essex have dropped but the wastewater results remain high. Community transmission remains high.

Peabody 14-day Percent Positivity: 7.67% 

Essex County 14-day Percent Positivity: 8.4% (trending down from 9.9%)

Biobot 7-day wastewater counts for Peabody @  30 January, 2023,

SESD Peabody/Salem Pump 918,000 copies of viral RNA/L

SESD Peabody, 1.9 million copies of viral RNA/L


Samples are currently taken 1 - 7 times a week and analyzed by Biobot Analytics, a wastewater epidemiology company based in Cambridge, MA. The graphs represent the “7-day averages” which are the average viral copies over the past 7 days in each treatment plant. 

High wastewater RNA levels are usually followed within several days by a rise in cases. 

Although elderly people are at very high risk, simple steps can provide protection against transmission and infection. Especially when transmission levels are persistently high, your actions can protect you and everyone around you. And when you work together with your neighbors, family, and everyone you see, you can all be safer together.

It's not hard: Vaccinate; boost; ventilate; mask; hand hygiene; avoid unmasked gatherings; test.

“We should all be masking indoors, staying home when sick, and testing for COVID-19. In addition, getting boosted is the best way to protect yourself from severe illness and hospitalization.”—Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, Commissioner of Public Health and Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission. January 6, 2023

Respirators like N95 offer better protection.

Respirators (for example, N95) are made to protect you by fitting closely on the face to filter out particles, including the virus that causes COVID-19. They can also block droplets and particles you breathe, cough, or sneeze out so you do not spread them to others. Respirators (for example, N95) provide higher protection than masks.—CDC

Comparison of how well various types of mask prevent COVID infection
Comparison of how well various types of masks prevent COVID infection—CDC

If you have COVID symptoms, have been exposed, or had COVID and want to be sure you're clear, get tested. And report the results of your test at

The pandemic has become a plague of the elderly, with nearly 9 out of 10 deaths in people 65 or older.—Ariana Eunjung Cha and Dan Keating, The Washington Post, November 28, 2022 

Links to data sources included here enable the reader to learn the situation in their locality. The sources used are the CDC data on transmission; levels of COVID found in wastewater; and % positivity in Essex County and Peabody. These are all leading indicators preceding cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. Use these warnings to protect yourself.

For information about strategies for protecting yourself and your community, see The New "How to Avoid COVID"

Vaccination, past infection, or timely access to testing and treatment can help protect you from getting very sick if you get COVID-19. However, some people are more likely than others to get very sick if they get COVID-19. This includes people who are older, are immunocompromised, have certain disabilities, or have underlying health conditions. Understanding your COVID-19 risk and the risks that might affect others can help you make decisions to protect yourself and others.—CDC, October 19, 2022

Masking and protective strategies

The interventions that prevent aerosol inhalation are those that reduce the concentration of small particles in a shared space and the time someone spends in that space inhaling those small particles. Particle concentration can be reduced by having fewer people in the space, sharing space for shorter periods, using ventilation that removes particles quickly near the source, and using source controls (masks and respirators) with good filters and fit.—Lisa M Brosseau, ScD; Angela Ulrich, PhD, MPH; Kevin Escandón, MD; Cory Anderson, MPH; and Michael T. Osterholm, PhD, MPH, COMMENTARY: What can masks do? Part 1: The science behind COVID-19 protection, October 14, 2021

Map of Massachusetts showing community transmission levels
Community transmission is high in Essex County, mixed results across the state.

Current 7-days is Thu Jan 19 2023 - Wed Jan 25 2023 for case rate and Tue Jan 17 2023 - Mon Jan 23 2023 for percent positivity. 

Source of map:…

NOTE: A new variant, XBB.1.5 has more than doubled across the US in 1 week.—Eric Topol

NEW VARIANTS ARE ALMOST LIKE A NEW DISEASE, ABLE TO SLIP THROUGH IMMUNE DEFENSES, AND ARE SPREADING RAPIDLY. TAKE CARE! New boosters can help you, make sure you are fully vaccinated and boosted. Use N95 masks when indoors and when in any crowded situation. Fresh air ventilation can reduce risk. Hand hygiene is still important. Protect yourself and others from the flu as well as COVID.

Together, our findings indicate that BQ and XBB subvariants present serious threats to current COVID-19 vaccines, render inactive all authorized antibodies, and may have gained dominance in the population because of their advantage in evading antibodies.—Wang, Qian et al., CELL, December 13, 2022

On Variants: This week the new variant XBB 1.5 (Kraken) has surpassed BQ1/1.1 as the most common variant (49.1%). It continues to dominate in the Northeast and is taking a larger share as it moves west across the U.S.—People's CDC <>, January 23, 2023

Leading Indicators of COVID in the Community

COVID-19 Dashboard

Massachusetts Department of Public Health, COVID-19 Dashboard, Weekly Data by City and Town This is the source for positivity data cited in this paper.

Another source of positivity data shows current levels and change from previous week.

"Universal masking and individual masking are distinct interventions. Universal masking lowers the amount of virus exhaled into shared air, reducing the total number of cases of Covid-19 and making indoor spaces safer for populations that are vulnerable to its complications. Individual masking lowers the amount of virus that a masked person inhales from shared air, but only in environments with a relatively high amount of circulating virus and when others are unmasked. Furthermore, individual masking has little effect on population-level transmission."—Universal Masking Policies in Schools and Mitigating the Inequitable Costs of Covid-19, Raifman, Julia Sc.D.,and Tiffany Green, Ph.D, N Engl J Med 2022; 387:1993-1994
DOI: 10.1056/NEJMe2213556

The authors recommend universal masking early in the rise of a new variant.


Julia Raifman, assistant professor of Public Health at Boston University, encouraged policy leaders to consider reinstating measures that can help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory illness, such as implementing mask policies and expanding testing.— Zeina Mohammed, Boston Globe, December 2, 2022

“We need leadership to create in a virtuous cycle of caring about one another and protecting people who are disproportionately harmed by COVID and the other respiratory viruses,” she said. “That takes policy leadership, we see that nothing an individual can do is nearly as powerful as what a policymaker can do for reducing transmission.”—Julia Raifman