Massachusetts reports 7,136 new coronavirus cases, highest single-day total of the pandemic


State House News Service

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker.

By Frankie Rowley, Content Managing Editor

Massachusetts reported 7,136 new coronavirus cases Thursday, marking the highest single-day total since the pandemic began and a drastic rise from the 6,419 new infections reported Wednesday. The death toll rose by 71.

Thursday’s total is the third time this week new cases have topped 6,000. 

The soaring case numbers come nearly 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 seeing a surge in the number of deaths caused by COVID-19. The death total surged past the seven-day average of 61 for the fourth time this week on Thursday, with Massachusetts reporting 71 new deaths Thursday, 99 deaths Wednesday, 63 deaths Tuesday, and 105 new deaths Sunday. 

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 without higher education sat at 9.1 percent Thursday, compared to 9.35 percent reported this time last week. The rate that includes higher education, sits at 7.8 percent. 

The state reported 2,386 total hospitalizations Thursday, compared to 2,271 this time last week. The rate at which hospitalizations are increasing is slowly declining. In past weeks, hospitalizations grew by about 300 week over week.

Baker announced Tuesday that state officials assume the new, more contagious COVID-19 variant discovered in the United Kingdom has 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 in over two weeks. 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.