COVID Transmission in Essex County and Peabody, Massachusetts

March 23, 2023. Information about transmission in Essex County and Peabody, Massachusetts.


Community transmission is moderate but still poses a danger, and the rise in wastewater counts is a danger signal. The positivity rate in Peabody is higher than in Essex; the wastewater results are trending up in both Essex and in Peabody.

Community transmission

Peabody 14-day Percent Positivity: 4.06% 

Essex County 14-day Percent Positivity: 3.64% 

SOURCE: Massachusetts Department of Public Health, COVID-19 Dashboard, Weekly Data by City and Town. Reported on:  03/23/2023  Covers: 03/05/2023 to 03/18/2023


Biobot 7-day wastewater counts for Peabody @  March 23, 2023

SESD Peabody/Salem Pump 0.808 million copies of viral RNA/L  (trending up, ~doubled)

SESD Peabody, 0.623 million copies of viral RNA/L  (trending up)


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. 

Map of Massachusetts showing community transmission levels
Essex County transmission remains moderate, less danger but not safe. Most of the state us is moderate.

Current 7-days is Thu Mar 16 2023 - Wed Mar 22 2023 for case rate and Tue Mar 14 2023 - Mon Mar 20 2023 for percent positivity. 

Source of map:… 

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.

See this excellent guide to protection for ensuring safer gatherings from People's CDC.

“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 

Comprehensive public health strategy

The People's CDC is an excellent guide to policy and action.


  • Preserve healthcare access for all. This means maintaining the State of Emergency

  • Renew Congressional funding for the pandemic response

  • Make public health policies including masking based on the CDC’s Community Transmission Map, and retire the misleading Community Levels Map

  • Support and promote a layered approach to the pandemic including:

    • Free, fast accessible PCR testing for all

    • Free access to N-95 grade masks for all

    • Free access to updated treatments for all

    • Booster access for all

    • Funding for accelerated, next generation vaccines

    • Paid sick leave for all

    • Clear and science-based quarantine and isolation policies

    • Funding for air ventilation and filtration upgrades in all public buildings

    • Funding for Long COVID treatments, and research led by Long COVID patients

More than COVID 250,000 deaths in 2022 – the third year of the pandemic – is an emergency. We have the tools to prevent more unnecessary severe and chronic illness and death. In 2023, let’s use them.

NOTE: A new variant, XBB.1.5 has spread across the US and new variants are already here.

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: The 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

"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