WORCESTER (CBS) – There is no summer lull inside UMass Memorial Hospital. In fact, there is a troubling uptick. The four hospitals in the UMass Memorial System have seen a sharp increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations in the last few weeks from three or four during the 4th of July week to 32 on July 27.

“The surge seems to be happening,” said Dr. Michael Hirsh, Worcester’s Medical Director.

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UMass Memorial Infectious Disease physician Dr. Richard Ellison says most of the hospitalized patients are unvaccinated people in their fifties and sixties. The cases are being tested for the Delta variant but data suggests that roughly 80 percent of COVID-19 cases in Worcester County are caused by the highly contagious variant.

“Most of the patients are staying in the regular floor but we are seeing a substantial number, 30 to 40 percent, having to require ICU care,” Ellison said.

In the city of Worcester, roughly 60 percent of the vaccine eligible population has gotten the jab.

“We kind of hit the wall. There’s this solid 30 percent group that doesn’t want to or is waiting for some reason to get vaccinated,” said Hirsh.

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For that reason, Dr. Hirsh says indoor mask wearing for all could be in Worcester’s future as the CDC now recommends indoor mask wearing in areas of high or substantial COVID-19 transmission.

“The only way you can up our protection is to go back to masks for all which is unfair to the folks that have been vaccinated,” Hirsh said. “I don’t think we are quite a high transmission area. We are currently rated as moderate.”

The CDC also recommended, Tuesday, that all K-12 students wear masks in school, regardless of their vaccination status. Hirsh agrees that policy is sound.

“We only have 30 percent of the 12- to 16-year-olds vaccinated and we don’t have any of the elementary school kids vaccinated that return to school without masks is not going to be viable,” he said.

Some parents say they are not interested in going back to the way things were.

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“Now that the teachers and the elderly have the opportunity to be vaccinated, I think we can unmask the healthy kids,” said parent Katrina Lawton.

Louisa Moller