Massachusetts reports 5,396 new coronavirus cases


Photo: State House News Service

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker.

By Frankie Rowley, Assistant News Editor

Massachusetts reported 5,396 new coronavirus cases Sunday, down from the 7,110 new infections reported Saturday. The death toll rose by 77. 

Sunday’s total is the fifth time this week that cases have topped 5,000, a mark never before seen in the state. New cases had never topped 7,000 in a single day prior to this week. 

On Friday, 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 soaring case numbers come more than two weeks removed from 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 are likely now driving up case numbers. Thanksgiving led to the state reporting more than 4,000 new cases five days in a row.  

The state is also seeing a surge in the number of deaths caused by COVID-19. Sunday’s death total rose past the seven-day average of 55, with Massachusetts reporting 77 new deaths. 

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Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker announced the state would be extending restrictions on capacity and gathering limits Thursday. Indoor gatherings are capped at 10 people, outdoor gatherings at 25, and most industries, such as casinos, retail businesses, office spaces and restaurants are limited to 25 percent capacity. 

The state reports two COVID-19 positivity rates—one with higher education testing and one without. The seven-day test positivity rate higher education removed sat at 8.4 percent Sunday, down from the 9.28 percent reported this time last week. The rate that includes higher education sits at 7.2 percent. 

The state reported 2,225 total hospitalizations Sunday, compared to 2,291 this time last week. Hospitalizations in the state have remained relatively stagnant in recent weeks, increasing by 306 since Dec. 19, after rising by nearly 300 week over week in much of November and early December.   

Baker announced Tuesday that state officials assume the new, more contagious COVID-19 variant discovered in the United Kingdom has already reached Massachusetts. The first case of this variant in New York was reported on Monday and a subsequent case has been found in Connecticut.

Emerson reported no new positives out of just 82 new tests administered Monday, Dec. 21. The college’s COVID-19 dashboard has not been updated since Dec. 22. Administrators told The Beacon the dashboard will not be updated again until the spring semester begins, despite the fact that the college’s testing center in a Tufts Medical Center facility is still conducting testing. 

From late November to mid-December, Emerson reported 28 new positives, compared to 32 between early August and late November. 

Students remaining on campus through winter break are 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 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.

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