Massachusetts surpasses 500,000 coronavirus cases one year after virus first discovered in state


Ashley Green/Telegram & Gazette via SHNS

Gov. Charlie Baker provides a COVID-19 update while touring the first responder vaccination site at the Worcester Senior Center on Tuesday, January 12, 2021.

By Frankie Rowley, Content Managing Editor

Massachusetts reported 2,270 new coronavirus cases Monday, a slim decrease from the 2,546 new infections reported Sunday and enough to push the state’s cumulative total past 500,000 in the year since the first confirmed case was reported. The death toll rose by 30, a decline from Sunday’s 46. 

The cumulative total topping 500,000 comes just weeks after the total topped 400,000 on Jan. 8. Massachusetts surpassed 300,000 cases on Dec. 18 and 200,000 cases on Nov. 22. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that two confirmed cases of the B.1.1.7 variant had been reported in Massachusetts on Sunday. The state has reported a total of five cases of B.1.1.7 in a three-week period. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report on Jan. 15 warned that the variant could become the dominant strain in the U.S. as early March. The U.K. variant is believed to be 50 percent more transmissive than current variants of COVID-19.

The only other New England state to report cases of the B.1.1.7 variant is Connecticut, which has a total of 8 confirmed cases. 

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 5.3 percent Monday, down from the 6.4 percent reported this time last week. The rate that includes higher education sits at 3.5 percent, the lowest it’s been since Nov. 25. 

The state reported 1,676 total hospitalizations Monday, down from the 1,995 reported this time last week. Hospitalizations in the state have declined in recent weeks, falling by a total of 537 since Jan. 18, after rising by nearly 300 week over week during much of November and early December.

Emerson reported six new positive COVID-19 tests Monday, out of 2,200 tests administered from Jan. 28 to Jan. 30, bringing the cumulative total of positives since testing began to 102. The college’s cumulative testing total sits at 60,150. 

The six new positives reported Monday bring the spring semester total to 42, after just three full weeks of testing. In the fall, the college reported 60 positives across the four months testing was administered. 

In the spring, Emerson’s test positivity rate sits at .46. In the fall, that rate was .12 percent. 

The college reported 23 new positive tests last week, the highest figure across any week of testing across either the fall or spring. In the fall, when the college reported 12 new positives overnight all non-academic in-person activities were cancelled. 

Emerson’s testing site at a Tufts Medical Center facility was closed on Monday due to a snowstorm blanketing New England. Students who usually get tested on Mondays will be able to reschedule their test depending on their cohort. 

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.