Massachusetts coronavirus case total surges past 300,000


State House News Service

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker.

By Charlie McKenna

Massachusetts reported 5,632 new coronavirus cases Friday, up significantly from the 4,985 new infections reported Thursday. The death total rose by 53.

The state’s cumulative case total surged past 300,000 on Friday, a grim marker that comes less than a month after Massachusetts reached the 200,00 mark on Nov. 22. New cases in Massachusetts have topped 3,000 every day since Dec. 7.

The recent spike in cases prompted Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh to roll back the city’s reopening Wednesday. Boston will move out of phase three, step one, and into phase two, step two. The new restrictions bring the closure of indoor spaces that had previously reopened, including movie theaters, gyms, museums, and indoor event spaces like meeting rooms. 

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker urged residents not to gather for the December holidays, warning that Thanksgiving travel and gatherings likely drove the recent dramatic rise in cases. 

On Dec. 1, five days after Thanksgiving, the state was averaging about 2,400 new COVID-19 cases each day. A week later, squarely within the 10- to 14-day incubation period for COVID-19 transmission on Thanksgiving, the average number of daily new cases had nearly doubled to almost 4,800, Baker said.

“That’s a 96 percent increase in a little over a week. Similarly, prior to Thanksgiving, our positive test rate was pretty stable and had consistently been somewhere in the two-three percent range, under four percent. The current test rate, as most people know, is around 5.7 percent,” Baker said.

In the last three weeks, hospitalizations for COVID-19 are up 93 percent, the number of patients being treated in an intensive care unit for COVID-19 is up 73 percent and the number of patients who need a ventilator to breathe has gone up by 104 percent, Baker said. Deaths have increased by 84 percent since Thanksgiving and the virus has claimed the lives of 689 people in Massachusetts since Thanksgiving.

The state reports two COVID-19 positivity rates—with higher education testing and without. The seven day test positivity rate without higher education testing topped eight percent for the first time since that rate has been reported, sitting at 8.04 percent Friday, and 7.78 percent a week ago. 

The state reported 1,874 total hospitalizations Friday, compared to 1,605 last week.

Emerson reported three new positives out of just 55 new tests administered on Wednesday—a positive test rate of 5.45 percent. The college’s cumulative positive tests sit at 60, while the cumulative testing total rose to 50,977.  

The three new positives bring Emerson’s cumulative positivity rate up to .12 percent after it fell as low as .08 percent over the course of the semester. In the past month, Emerson has reported 28 new positives as compared to 32 between early August and late November. 

Students remaining on campus through winter break are being tested on Tuesdays each week. Administrators told The Beacon fewer than 30 students remain on campus through the break. 

Emerson shifted from a manual data reporting process to an automatic one on Oct. 13. The decision followed a Beacon investigation that revealed a string of inaccuracies in the data reported by the college. 

The college’s dashboard is updated daily Monday through Friday. When it was first launched in August, the college opted for weekly updates before eventually shifting to twice weekly and then daily updates. Tabs for hospitalizations and the number of “invalid” results received by community members have since been removed from the dashboard after testing began in August. Invalid results are typically a result of user error and require re-testing. 

Administrators have said the decision to remove hospitalizations was part of an effort to increase transparency as the college was concerned it could not accurately track the metric. Invalid results were deemed “not valuable” data by “COVID Lead” Erik Muurisepp. 

The dashboard is not updated on weekends because Emerson’s testing site at Tufts Medical Center is closed on Saturdays and Sundays.

Colin A. Young of the State House News Service contributed reporting.