A total of 19 Massachusetts communities are now at the highest risk of coronavirus transmission, nine fewer than last week, health officials said Thursday. It is the seventh week in a row that the number has dropped.
Town-by-town coronavirus risk data ranks communities’ risk level on a scale from red, highest, to gray; last week, it placed 28 Massachusetts communities in the red zone. Less than two months ago, there were 229 communities in the red, reflecting a drop in the state’s COVID-19 metrics as the latest increase wanes. (See this week’s full list of red zone communities below.)
Massachusetts coronavirus metrics have been on a downward trend since about the new year, indicating that the state’s second surge is slowing. The drop in communities in the red zone appears to be another sign that the increase is slowing, although experts say the most contagious variants of coronavirus now appearing in the state could fuel a further increase.
This is where everyone is on the Massachusetts coronavirus vaccine rollout plan.
See Thursday’s town-by-town coronavirus data here.
COVID Hot Spots in Massachusetts
The following 19 communities are at the highest risk level as of Thursday: Black stone, Chicopee, Clinton, Fall river, Freetown, Hadley, Haverhill, Lawrence, Ludlow, Lynn, Methuen, New Bedford, Peabody, Plainville, Springfield, Pound sterling, Sutton, West Bridgewater Y Weymouth.
Of those communities, six are recently in the red on the list this week: Clinton, Hadley, Ludlow, Plainville, Pound sterling Y Sutton.
And 15 communities came out of the red: Acushnet, Ashburnham, Brockton, Cohasset, Lakeville, Lowell, Middleborough, Plymouth, Revere, Rutland, Southampton, Southbridge, Taunton, Templeton Y Westminster.
To qualify for the high-risk red category under the new metrics, communities with populations less than 10,000 must have more than 25 cases. For medium-sized communities of between 10,000 and 50,000 people, they should have an average of more than 10 cases per 100,000 people and a positive test rate of more than 5%. And for larger communities of more than 50,000 people, they should have more than 10 cases per 100,000 people and a positive test rate of more than 4%.
Previously, the state used the number of cases detected on average each day for two weeks to determine whether Massachusetts communities are at high risk of coronavirus transmission. The new list includes the population size and the rate of positive tests.
Read this week’s full report here, with data on the percentage of positivity from communities, data at the county and state level, and more.
The Department of Public Health no longer includes a community-level risk map in the weekly report. An official told NBC10 Boston that the map is no longer considered as useful as it once was, now that coronavirus cases are being reported in most communities.
Massachusetts Vaccine Data
As of Thursday’s daily COVID-19 vaccination report, just under 2.4 million doses of coronavirus vaccine have been shipped to Massachusetts, and 80.5%, or 1.93 million, have so far been administered. .
The state’s weekly COVID-19 vaccine report, released Thursday but covering a period from this Tuesday through the previous Wednesday, showed progress over the past week in the number of doses administered in the state: 309,340 compared to 215,571 .
Massachusetts Hot Spot Data Changes
The weekly report has a history of somewhat abrupt changes.
When Massachusetts health officials first introduced a digital coronavirus dashboard in early January, they stopped publishing coronavirus metrics town by town on a weekly basis as they are included in the “city and town” tab of the interactive dashboard. It shows the positive test rate from the communities and the overall test rate, but not other metrics that were included in the above format.
“Data that was previously in this report, including town-by-town cases and test reports, can now be found on the daily interactive dashboard,” said a note in that week’s shortened weekly report. But later that night a new version of the report was issued that brought up the data.
More major changes before that reduced the number of communities in the red zone from 121 to 16, as what was defined as a high-risk community changed. Officials said the adjustment brought Massachusetts more in line with risk levels in other states.
However, the numbers grew again as the weeks passed, eventually reaching 190 communities in the red zone before the data switched to the interactive dashboard.
That week’s report also removed the map showing coronavirus data on a town-by-town basis. It showed where in the state communities were at high, moderate or low risk of transmission, but authorities said it was no longer very informative.
In the weeks leading up to that, officials added information about the COVID-19 clusters, both about where the top clusters have been identified (they’re listed in the report with an asterisk) and about trends between clusters.
Color-coded city-by-city data was introduced in August, and the Baker administration announced that the state would focus its strongest COVID mitigation efforts on cities in the red category. Communities can only proceed to Step 2 of Phase 3 of the Massachusetts reopening plan, announced in late September, if they are not consistently in the red.
Prior to the introduction of that data, the standard for measuring hot spots had been the COVID test positive rate for the previous 14 days. The weekly report from the Department of Public Health still includes that information, along with other metrics, such as how many tests are being done locally and how many cases have been reported locally.
Some of the smaller cities in Massachusetts had objected to having their risk assessed based solely on per capita cases. They said that when a town only had a few thousand residents, an outbreak in just one household could turn it red based on the criteria at the time: 8 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents.