THE STATE’S weekly COVID-19 report suggests Massachusetts has hit a plateau, as the number of communities considered high-risk for the virus held steady and cases declined slightly. Deaths, however, continued to rise.
After weeks of steady and sometimes dramatic increases, the number of high-risk, or red, communities in Massachusetts rose to 158, an increase of just one compared to last week’s report. On a percentage basis, the number of red communities in the state held steady at 53 percent.
There were 64,991 COVID-19 cases over the last two weeks, down 2.7 percent from the week before. Deaths rose to 715 over the last two weeks, a gain of 11 percent compared to the previous two-week period.
The state as a whole remained high-risk, with 63.2 cases per 100,000 people and a positive test rate (positive tests divided by total tests) of 6.14 percent. The numbers from a week ago were similar — 65.1 cases per 100,000 people and a positive test rate of 6.01 percent.
People under 40 accounted for nearly 52 percent of the positive cases and 0.7 percent of the deaths, while people over 70 accounted for 9 percent of the cases and 82 percent of the deaths.
The communities hardest hit by COVID remained fairly steady. Fifteen municipalities reported more than 100 cases per 100,000 people, led by Lawrence (172.3 cases), Middleton (159), Nantucket (141.4), Chelsea (136.18), and Revere (135.1).
Boston remained a yellow community. It had a relatively high level of cases per 100,000 people at 59.1, but its positive test rate was 3.48 percent – below the 5 percent threshold required for a community of its size. The other largest Massachusetts communities – Worcester, Springfield, and Lowell – were red, but Cambridge was yellow with 26.9 cases per 100,000 people and a positive test rate of just 1.18 percent.
Gov. Charlie Baker this past week announced he was tightening COVID-19 restrictions in the face of rising, post-Thanksgiving case counts and hospitalizations. Starting Saturday, he said gathering sizes will be limited to 10 people indoors and 25 outdoors. The capacity limits of restaurants, gyms, and retail stores is being reduced from 40 percenty to 25 percent.
Baker said hospital executives have been reporting higher COVID-19 hospitalization numbers and a sharp increase in the age of those coming into hospitals. He said the age increase suggested an intergenerational transfer of COVID-19 had occurred over the Thanksgiving holidays, with younger people infecting older people who tend to suffer greater health impacts from the virus.
The weekly report this week said the average age of those being hospitalized was 69. That was up from 67 in last week’s report, which was down from s 69 the week before that.