Massachusetts reports 4,283 new coronavirus cases


State House News Service

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker.

By Frankie Rowley, Content Managing Editor

Massachusetts reported 4,283 new coronavirus cases Sunday, a steep decline from the 5,657 new infections reported Saturday. The death toll rose by 67. 

Sunday marks the first time in four days that cases have dipped below 5,000. Last week, Massachusetts saw record-breaking highs, with cases surpassing 6,000 three days in a row and topping 7,000 for the first time of the pandemic. 

The soaring case numbers came about two weeks following the Christmas holiday that officials warned could drive another surge in infections. The incubation period for the virus is believed to be between two and 14 days from exposure, so holiday travel and gatherings likely drove up case numbers. Thanksgiving led to the state reporting more than 4,000 new cases five days in a row.  

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced Sunday the first confirmed case of the coronavirus variant first discovered in the United Kingdom has been identified in Massachusetts. The variant emerged in the UK in early December and was first found in the U.S. on Dec. 29. The Center for Disease Control has confirmed 88 cases of the variant in the US since its initial discovery in December. 

A CDC report on Jan. 15 warned that the variant could become the dominant strain in the U.S. as soon as early March. The U.K. variant is believed to be 50 percent more transmissive than current variants of COVID-19. 

On Jan. 8, the state surpassed 400,000 cumulative COVID-19 cases, less than a month since topping 300,000 on Dec. 18. Massachusetts did not surpass 200,000 total cases until Nov. 22.

The state is also seeing an uptick in the number of deaths caused by COVID-19. Sunday’s death total of 67 marks the seventh straight day that deaths have topped 50.

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 7.2 percent Sunday, down from the 8.4 percent reported this time last week. The rate that includes higher education sits at 5.9 percent, the lowest it’s been since Dec. 23. 

The state reported 2,165 total hospitalizations Sunday, down slightly from the 2,225 reported this time last week. Hospitalizations in the state have begun to decline in recent weeks, falling by a total of 174 since Jan. 3, after rising by nearly 300 week over week during much of November and early December.

Emerson reported one new positive out of 154 COVID-19 tests administered Thursday. The college has now reported five positives out of the 688 tests administered during the Spring 2021 testing period. 

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 dashboard was updated at 12:10 pm Friday. 

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.