By Christina Hager

BOSTON (CBS) – Anxiety over rising COVID-19 numbers had the Cambridge Health Alliance vaccination clinic in Somerville packed Thursday. “Now another new prominent variant,” said Joe Mello, who got a booster.

This week’s COVID case numbers in Massachusetts are at the highest since January. The positivity rate is back where it was this time last year, at around 5%. “I just hope it doesn’t get any worse like before,” said Chuck Maxwell, as he got a booster shot.

But a closer look at the state’s data shows there is some hope when it comes to hospitalizations and deaths.

The seven-day average of COVID hospitalizations in Massachusetts is now 825. Looking at this time last year, it was 1,055. That’s almost 25% more.

Deaths have also dropped. The seven-day average now is 13. This time last year, there were almost three times that, with 34 deaths a day.

Experts credit vaccines. “People that have been vaccinated that are ending up in the hospital are much less likely to end up in the ICU compared to last year,” said Dr. Eric Dickson, president of UMass Memorial Healthcare.

He said hospitals are still stressed. “We are fuller right now today than we were last year at this time, and less of it is COVID, and more of it is other things that didn’t get cared for during the COVID surges,” Dickson said.

“I’m relieved,” said 5-year-old Zoe Lecanda’s mother, who sees progress a year after her family’s nightmare. “A year ago, my husband had COVID and my daughter and I had to quarantine from him,” she said. Zoe got her second shot Thursday. “I just want to cry,” said her mother through tears. “It’s such a relief. It’s been very stressful.”

Christina Hager