It's hard to believe, but COVID-19 appears to be on the wane.

The number of new cases are down dramatically in New Bedford and Massachusetts overall, and mask mandates have been lifted – although if you still want to wear a mask for protection, you certainly can. It's the type of scenario that people have been hoping for for months.

So what happened to COVID, and why are people not getting sick anymore? According to New Bedford Director of Health Damon Chaplin, people are still getting sick, just at a much lower rate than they were in December and January.

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Chaplin was a guest this week on Townsquare Sunday. The primary reasons for the decline, he said, were that more people were getting vaccinated, and that others were using home test kits as a tool to prevent "cluster cases" of COVID.

Chaplin described his own experience over the holidays where people attending a family gathering agreed to be tested. Only one person tested positive and was sent home, thus averting would could have turned into a cluster of COVID cases.

Chaplin also warned not to throw your masks away. He said residents must stay "on their toes" when it comes to COVID, because another variant could quickly pop up and send infection rates soaring.

Damon Chaplin's Townsquare Sunday interview can be heard here:

Townsquare Sunday is a weekly public affairs program heard every Sunday morning at 6 and 11 a.m. on 1420 WBSM. The program highlights individuals and organizations working to make Greater New Bedford a better place to live and work.

If you would like your organization featured on Townsquare Sunday, please contact the host at jim.phillips@townsquaremedia.com.