By Louisa Moller

BOSTON (CBS) – Hospitals in Massachusetts are already gearing up for a rise in COVID-19 cases as the temperature drops.

Nick Duncan, the Director of Emergency Management at Tufts Medical Center, said his team has already stockpiled personal protective equipment and bolstered their testing capabilities. They have developed a four phase approach to addressing a potential “second surge” based on different metrics.

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Duncan said the goal is to avoid cancelling elective procedures, the way hospitals did during the spring surge.

“Given the deferred care that we’re trying to catch up on and every patient that needs that care now we’re going to keep our doors open as long as we can,” Duncan said.

Tufts Medical Center epidemiologist Dr. Shira Doron said it is not a matter of whether COVID cases rise but how much, as people are forced indoors due to colder weather. She said masking and social distancing has been strong in the Northeast but she worries that some people may not be willing to give up the activities they enjoyed outside during the warmer summer months like eating at restaurants or social gatherings.

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“I think that is going to contribute to some more spread of infection,” Doron said. “It’s very unlikely that we will see a surge in the sense that we did back in March, April where the rate of rise was so dramatic and that’s because the infection was really spreading undetected at that time.”

UMass Memorial infectious disease specialist Dr. Richard Ellison says there are a lot of unknowns about what could happen in the colder months.

“What we’re doing to protect ourselves against COVID is going to help blunt the amount of flu and RSV and these other viruses we normally see,” he said.

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Duncan believes Tufts is ready to weather whatever storm comes.

Louisa Moller