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Mass. reports 527 new coronavirus cases, 74 new deaths as key metrics continue downward trend

Father Eric Bennett (L) said a funeral mass for a man who died of COVID-19. Because his family live in Italy they weren't able to travel here for the funeral so the only other person in attendance was funeral director Joe Ruggiero III.
Father Eric Bennett (L) said a funeral mass for a man who died of COVID-19. Because his family live in Italy they weren't able to travel here for the funeral so the only other person in attendance was funeral director Joe Ruggiero III.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

The state reported Wednesday that the death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in Massachusetts had risen by 74 cases to 6,547, as Governor Charlie Baker said that key metrics for reopening continued to trend downward.

A new University of Massachusetts model also estimated the death toll from the pandemic in the state would reach 7,930 by June 20 — down from last week’s prediction of 8,106 by June 13 — but still a grim reminder that the battle against the pandemic in the state is not yet over.

The Massachusetts numbers were reported shortly after the United States surpassed 100,000 deaths due to the virus, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.

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The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Massachusetts climbed by 527 to 94,220, the Department of Public Health reported Wednesday. The agency also reported 6,663 new tests had been conducted, marking a total of 552,144 in the state.

The seven-day weighted average of positive test rates, a key metric the state is scrutinizing during the reopening process, showed a slight increase to 8.5 percent on Tuesday, up from 8.4 percent a day earlier. However, the number has generally been trending downward. It has dropped 71 percent since April 15.

Meanwhile, the three-day average of the number of coronavirus patients in the hospital dipped to 2,115 on Tuesday, down from 2,136 a day earlier. It has dropped 41 percent since April 15.

The number of hospitals using surge capacity also stayed stable at eight — a dip from early- to mid-May highs of 20 — and was down 62 percent since April 15. The three-day average of COVID-19 deaths also dropped from 62 on Saturday to 54 on Sunday. It was down 65 percent since April 15.

Baker, speaking earlier Wednesday after a tour of ongoing Blue Line construction at Maverick Station, said the recent numbers “show steady progress,” adding that officials will continue to monitor health data that will guide the state’s four-phase reopening process.

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The UMass prediction, issued Tuesday, comes from a lab headed by UMass Amherst associate professor Nicholas Reich that collects various coronavirus pandemic models and develops a combined, or ensemble, forecast that is intended to reflect their collective wisdom.

Reich’s lab releases the ensemble forecast weekly. It only creates the forecast for a four-week window ahead because it believes forecasts aren’t reliable enough after that.

Reich’s lab posts its national- and state-level data at the Reich Lab COVID-19 Forecast Hub. The lab, already an Influenza Forecasting Center of Excellence, collaborates with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on coronavirus predictions.

The closely-watched University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation model predicts Massachusetts will see 8,232 deaths by Aug. 4.

The tragic estimates may, in the end, turn out to be low. Experts are concerned that the pandemic may see a possible resurgence as states reopen. A new study from Imperial College London painted a dire picture of the state possibly seeing hundreds of deaths a day in the summer.

Experts have also also raised the possibility the official death tally in the state may actually be an undercount since virus deaths may have gone unnoticed by officials early on.

The latest UMass ensemble model predicts the United States as a whole will see a cumulative total of 123,000 deaths in four weeks, with a 10 percent chance of seeing fewer than about 117,000 and a 10 percent chance of seeing more than 130,000.

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“At this critical juncture in our nation’s COVID-19 response, when many states are making decisions to loosen restrictions on society, individual models are saying quite different things about what comes next at the state level. All COVID-19 models are learning on the go right now,” Reich said in a statement from the university. “This is why being critical consumers of these models is vital. Looking at the full range of possible futures presented by these different teams is an important tool to better understand our uncertain future.”

Travis Andersen of the Globe staff contributed to this report.


Martin finucane can be reached at martin.finucane@globe.com. Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JaclynReiss