Massachusetts reports 2,546 new cases, 46 deaths

By Ann E. Matica

Massachusetts reported 2,546 new coronavirus cases Sunday, a sharp decrease from the 3,957 new infections reported Saturday. The death toll rose by 46, a decline from Saturday’s 87.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced in a press conference Tuesday that Boston would be moving up to Phase Three, Step One of reopening on Monday Feb. 1, the same day that in-person classes begin. The new phase allows businesses, such as gyms, museums, and movie theaters to reopen.

Boston regressed to Phase Two, Step Two on Dec. 15. Cases were averaging around 5,000 per day at the end of November and into December. In the last three weeks, cases have dropped to a daily average of 2,426.

The state reports two COVID-19 positivity rates—one with higher education testing and one without. The seven-day test positivity rate with higher education removed sits at 3.6 percent Sunday, down from the 6.4 percent reported this time last week. The rate that includes higher education sits at 3.6 percent, the lowest it’s been since Nov. 29.

The state reported 1,676 total hospitalizations Sunday, down from the 1,946 reported this time last week. Hospitalizations in the state have declined in recent weeks, falling by a total of 489 since Jan. 17, after rising by nearly 300 week over week during much of November and early December.

Three cases of the highly contagious variant of COVID-19 first found in the United Kingdom, B-117, have been reported in Massachusetts over the past two weeks. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report on Jan. 15 warned that the variant could become the dominant strain in the U.S. as early March. The U.K. variant is believed to be 50 percent more transmissive than current variants of COVID-19.

Emerson’s last dashboard update revealed 5 new positive COVID-19 tests on 774 tests administered on Jan. 27. Data for Jan. 28 and Jan. 29 have not yet been reported, as the dashboard does not update on weekends. The spring semester cumulative totals sit at 36 positives on 6,893 tests.

Emerson reported six new positive COVID-19 tests Thursday, out of 1,000 tests administered Tuesday, bringing the cumulative number of positives to 91. The college’s cumulative testing total sits at 57,128.

The college has now reported 31 positive tests within the first two and a half weeks of the spring semester testing cycle, bringing the cumulative positivity rate to .51 percent. The last month of Emerson’s fall semester testing brought 28 new positives, compared to 32 over the course of the first three months of testing. The fall testing cycle’s overall positivity rate stood at 0.12 percent. That rate now sits at .16 percent.

Assistant Vice President of Campus Life and “COVID Lead” Erik Muurisepp said Wednesday the 25 positive tests have come from a mixture of faculty, staff, vendors, on-campus students, and off-campus students. The college has not identified any on-campus transmission from these positive tests.

“Most of the cases, as to be expected, have all been caught in baseline testing,” he said. “So [its] people coming to campus already positive.”

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 said in August 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.