By Louisa Moller

BOSTON (CBS) – There have been COVID testing lines lasting hours, record case counts, and the Commonwealth’s hospital system is stressed to the max. If the days going into 2022 seem like a bad rerun of 2020, one expert says do not despair yet.

“There are definitely reasons to be hopeful,” said Tufts Medical Center Epidemiologist Dr. Shira Doron.

Doron says the speed and contagiousness of the Omicron variant is disappointing, but it may come with a bright side – increased natural immunity. Doron says the more immunity a population builds up the closer we get to a point where the virus causes fewer hospitalizations and deaths.

“It is causing staffing shortages in every industry. That’s a huge problem. But it is also leaving immunity behind and maybe that’s the silver lining. New data that if you get infected with Omicron you get immunity to Omicron and Delta,” Doron said.

Case counts may also be deceiving since they do not include at home test kits and may be falsely inflated by COVID tests that are given to people who are hospitalized for some other reason. Doron says tracking case numbers may soon be unnecessary, especially if Omicron continues to cause mild illness in the vaccinated.

“I do think we are already at a point where case counts cannot be used to determine policy,” she said.

It remains to be seen when this current COVID surge will peak but Doron suspects it will happen soon and quickly.

Governor Charlie Baker also said he feels the state is well protected due to the number of vaccinated people.

“Vaccinations, boosters, by far are the most important thing people can do and people in Massachusetts have stepped up and done that,” Baker said.

Louisa Moller