Massachusetts reports 4,985 new coronavirus cases


Photo: State House News Service

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker.

By Charlie McKenna

Massachusetts reported 4,985 new coronavirus cases Thursday, down from the 5,450 new infections reported Wednesday. The state’s death total rose by 44.

New cases in Massachusetts have topped 3,000 each 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. 

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 with higher education testing removed has seemingly plateaued—sitting at 7.90 percent Thursday, and 7.75 percent a week ago. 

Hospitalizations from COVID-19 are currently surging. On Wednesday, the state reported 1,871 total hospitalizations, compared to 1,607 last week.

Emerson reported no new positives out of 207 new tests administered on Tuesday. The college’s cumulative positive tests sit at 57, while the cumulative testing total rose to 50,922.  

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.

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