Massachusetts reports 5,192 new coronavirus cases


State House News Service

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker.

By Charlie McKenna

Massachusetts reported 5,192 new coronavirus cases Friday, a steep fall from the 6,477 new infections reported Thursday but still just the second time cases have topped 5,000 for a single day over the course of the pandemic. The state’s death total rose by 37.

Thursday’s total included 680 positive results identified at a Massachusetts laboratory prior to Dec. 1, which were delayed due to a software error. Even excluding the 680 late results, Thursday’s case total is the highest mark the state has ever hit. Daily case numbers are now surpassing totals reported at the virus’ first peak in April. Even then, new cases did not surpass 4,000 three days in a row. 

New infections in the state have steadily risen since mid-September, but have exploded in recent days. Now in the midst of a second wave, city and state officials are warning against holiday travel and gatherings, which experts say could accelerate the spread of the virus. 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.

Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday that the uptick in cases reflects “widespread” community transmission.

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 7.48 percent, up from 4.86 percent just a week ago. 

Hospitalizations from COVID-19 are currently surging. On Thursday, the state reported 1,394 total hospitalizations, compared to 502 this time last month.

Emerson reported no new positives on 45 tests administered on Thursday leaving the college’s cumulative positive test total to 54. Emerson’s cumulative testing total sits at 50,161. 

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.