Mask up and stay apart again, the World Health Organization says.

This week, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged people to take the typical COVID-19 mitigation measures.

“Even if you’re vaccinated, continue to take precautions to prevent becoming infected yourself, and to infecting someone else who could die,” Tedros said. “That means wearing a mask, maintaining distance, avoiding crowds and meeting others outside if you can, or in a well-ventilated space inside.”

He was largely talking about Europe, which he called the current “epicenter” of the pandemic, but warned that other countries face serious risks too.

That announcement comes as cases mount in the U.S., with a particularly rapid surge in New England. It also arrives just as a new, concerning variant has prompted the country to institute new travel restrictions.

What does that mean for you, reader?

There’s not a lot of cohesive, broad messaging in the U.S. on what individuals should do at this moment. But federal officials and health experts are pretty clear on one thing: adults should be getting boosters.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease specialist, has said the “overwhelming majority” of Americans should get a booster shot.

Do you really need one? That depends on how protected you want to be from the virus.

Studies are already showing that the vaccine’s effectiveness against the Delta variant drops over time. One study from England found that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 90 percent effective at preventing symptomatic infection shortly after vaccination, but only 70 percent effective after five months.

A U.S. study had even worse news. That one showed that Pfizer efficacy in preventing against symptomatic infection dropped to around 50 percent.

It’s still impossible to say just how many more breakthrough cases will happen in people five to six months out from their shots, compared to the newly vaccinated. But the baseline message is clear: The longer it’s been since your COVID-19 vaccine, the more likely it is the vaccine will fail you, at least when it comes to getting infected. (Several studies showed the vaccines were still quite effective at preventing against hospitalization.)

That’s where the booster comes in.

Pfizer’s data, which the company submitted to federal officials back when it wanted to get the boosters approved, showed that boosters basically restored protection back to 95 percent.

A study out of Israel showed that older people with a booster were 11 times less likely to be infected with COVID-19 than people who had just received two doses.

The protection seems to set in quickly, too – within a week of that third shot, per some early research.

Could the vaccine’s efficacy drop off again? If so, when? Those are the big, unanswered questions that scientists have already turned their attention toward.

But with cases rising, the weather turning frigid and holiday gatherings taking place, experts say even temporary protection could prevent infections, slow transmission and save lives.

KEY STATS: Berkshire County saw one new COVID-19 death during the past week. To date, the county has 331 reported deaths. The confirmed case count rose by 502 over the past week, to 10,476.

The seven-day rolling average of new cases in the county was 72 cases per day as of Friday.

STATE PICTURE: The state Department of Public Health said 83 new confirmed deaths were reported during the past week, pushing the statewide total to 18,939. Over the past week, confirmed cases rose by 17,453, to 847,030.

VACCINATIONS: According to the state’s latest report, 82 percent of Berkshire County residents have received at least one shot and 68 percent are vaccinated fully.

Note that this data, while the best available estimate, still might not accurately reflect the county’s vaccination rates for several reasons.

Part-time residents who moved to the county during the pandemic, or who left and received their shots elsewhere, might be artificially raising or lowering the rate. People who got vaccinated in other states are not counted in the data. The rates provided by the state also rely on census estimates, rather than new census data.

Town-by-town rates provided by the state also are inaccurate in many cases, since the state collects that data by ZIP code, and many Berkshire County municipalities share ZIP codes.

COMMUNITY DATA: Here are this week’s figures from the DPH on confirmed coronavirus cases by city and town. The first number is the total number of cases during the pandemic. The second is the number of new cases during the past 14 days. These data are accurate as of Nov. 20.

Adams: 679; 68

Alford: 5; fewer than 5

Becket: 121; 12

Cheshire: 250; 38

Clarksburg: 130; 23

Dalton: 486; 27

Egremont: 32; fewer than 5

Florida: 35; fewer than 5

Great Barrington: 608; 29

Hancock: 24; fewer than 5

Hinsdale: 128; 16

Lanesborough: 215; 28

Lee: 456; 22

Lenox: 336; 14

Monterey: 31; 0

Mount Washington: 7; 0

New Ashford: 9; fewer than 5

New Marlborough: 42; fewer than 5

North Adams: 1,100, 101

Otis: 101; 6

Peru: 19; fewer than 5

Pittsfield: 4,527; 325

Richmond: 58; fewer than 5

Sandisfield: 81; 5

Savoy: 49; 10

Sheffield: 151; 6

Stockbridge: 89; fewer than 5

Tyringham: 14; 0

Washington: 22; fewer than 5

West Stockbridge: 68; 7

Williamstown: 402; 21

Windsor: 35; fewer than 5

WIDER WORLD OF COVID: Global cases top 260 million, with almost 5.2 million deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. has seen at least 48.1 million cases and more than 776,000 deaths.

Across the world, more than 7.5 billion vaccine doses have been administered, Johns Hopkins reports. More than 454 million of those have been administered in the U.S.

HOSPITAL CHECK: Berkshire Health Systems reported caring for 14 COVID-19 patients as of Wednesday. Statewide, 771 people are hospitalized, 156 are in intensive care units and 84 are intubated.

COVID-19 VACCINES: You can get vaccinated at many local pharmacies, in addition to the following locations:

• Pittsfield COVID-19 Testing Center at 505 East St. is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

• The North Adams COVID-19 Testing Center at 98 Church St. is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

• Fairview Hospital at 29 Lewis Ave. in Great Barrington is open Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Appointments are required at all locations. Call 855-262-5465 or visit berkshirepatientportal.com.

Also, Community Health Programs’ Mobile Health Unit provides appointment-only vaccines at various locations around the county. Visit chpberkshires.org/mobile for information and schedule. Call 413-528-0457 for an appointment.

TESTING: “Stop the Spread” testing sites are open at three Berkshire Health Systems locations. Tests will be conducted for any reason, with the state picking up the cost. To schedule a test, call the toll-free hotline, 855-262-5465, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily.

Locations are: Pittsfield, 505 East St., St Luke’s Square, adjacent to BHS Urgent Care Center; North Adams, 98 Church St., next to the city library; Great Barrington: 475 Main St.

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Francesca Paris can be reached at fparis@berkshireeagle.com

and 413-447-7311, ext. 239.

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