Massachusetts reports 3,627 new coronavirus cases


Photo: State House News Service

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker.

By Charlie McKenna and Katie Lannan

Massachusetts reported 3,627 new coronavirus cases Tuesday, a steep rise from the 2,463 new infections reported Monday. The state’s death total rose by 40.

The recent spike in cases prompted Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker to roll back the state’s reopening Tuesday. Baker announced the state would be moving from phase three, step two back to step one of phase three. 

“The rate Massachusetts residents are getting infected and the rate at which they are needing medical care, if all continues to move at this pace, is simply not sustainable over time, and our health care system will be put at risk,” Baker said.

Baker said the new measures are aimed at preventing infection and viral spread, especially in indoor settings, reducing mobility and fostering “stronger mask compliance, more social distancing, and limits on the time spent with people outside of your immediate household.”

The move will lower maximum capacity levels from 50 percent to 40 percent for houses of worship, offices, libraries and businesses including retail shops, health clubs, museums, arcades, golf facilities and movie theaters.

The cap on attendance at outdoor gatherings at event venues will be lowered from 100 to 50 people, and venues hosting outdoor gatherings with more than 25 people will be required to notify their local board of health in advance.

The Baker administration’s reopening model, which launched in May, includes four phases, and a transition to the fourth is dependent on a vaccine. The first step of Phase 3 — when movie theaters, fitness centers, museums and more were allowed to reopen — began on July 6, when there were 603 COVID-19 patients in hospitals and the rolling average positive test rate was below 2 percent.

Experts have said the surge in recent days is likely not a result of Thanksgiving travel and gatherings. New cases related to the holiday will begin showing up over the next two weeks, they said.

The state recently changed the way it reports COVID-19 positivity rates, separating higher education testing into its own category. The seven-day test positivity rate with higher education testing removed sits at 7.76 percent, up from 4.61 percent just a week ago.  

Hospitalizations from COVID-19 are currently surging. On Tuesday, the state reported 1,552 total hospitalizations, compared to 1,191 last week.

Emerson reported two new positives Tuesday, from tests administered on Dec. 4. 

The two positives bring Emerson’s total for last week to four, the second week in a row the college has reported four positives, bringing the college’s cumulative positive tests to 56. Emerson’s cumulative testing total sits at 50,374

Over the course of the past three weeks, Emerson has reported 24 positive tests on 6,494 tests—a positivity rate of .37 percent. The positivity rate for a three week period never exceeded .2 percent during the semester. 

Students remaining on campus through winter break will be 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.