The state reported Wednesday that the death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in Massachusetts had risen by 68 and that the number of cases had climbed by 429.
The numbers reflect both confirmed and probable cases, a move state officials announced Monday that they would be making in accordance with guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The state reported combined totals of 7,152 deaths and 101,592 cases. When confirmed cases only are included, the tally is 7,012 deaths and 97,964 cases.
The state on Wednesday reported 425 new confirmed cases, plus four probable cases. The state also reported 68 new confirmed-case deaths, but no new probable deaths.
Meanwhile, two of four key metrics that the state is monitoring to determine the pace of its four-phase reopening plan saw a decrease in Wednesday’s report, while one stayed stable and one slightly increased.
The seven-day weighted average of positive test rates showed a slight decrease to 5.9 percent on Tuesday, down from 6.4 percent a day earlier. It has dropped 79 percent since April 15.
Meanwhile, the three-day average of the number of coronavirus patients in the hospital dipped to 1,696 on Tuesday, down from 1,743 a day earlier. It has dropped 53 percent since April 15.
However, the number of hospitals using surge capacity increased slightly from four on Monday to six on Tuesday — although those numbers were still down from early May highs of 21, and have fallen 71 percent since April 15.
The fourth metric, the three-day average of COVID-19 deaths, stayed stable for the second day in a row on Sunday at 53. It has dropped 66 percent since April 15.
Governor Charlie Baker signaled cautious optimism during his news briefing Wednesday afternoon.
“Massachusetts has now conducted over 600,000 COVID 19 tests,” he said. “Around 5 percent of the tests reported yesterday came back positive. In mid-April, 27 percent of the cases were coming back positive every day. This is a drop of 77 percent in positive tests since the beginning of May. This is obviously a very significant drop, and an important piece of data that we’re paying close attention to.”
However, he also noted that people shouldn’t let up on washing their hands, covering their faces, and keeping physical distance from others.
“Massachusetts, as we all know, is one of the states that has been hardest hit by COVID-19, and has had the third highest number of positive COVID-19 cases per capita in the country. It’s important that we stay on top of testing to expand access and to monitor for outbreaks,” he said.
Meanwhile, a University of Massachusetts model estimates that the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic in the state will reach 8,032 by June 27, underlining the grim reality that, even as the economy gradually reopens, the battle against the virus is not yet over.
The UMass estimate, 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. Last week, the model estimated there would be 7,930 deaths tallied by June 20.
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, looking further into the future, predicts Massachusetts will see 9,003 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 study from Imperial College London painted a dire picture of the state possibly seeing hundreds of deaths a day in the summer.
Experts have recently raised concerns about possible spread of the virus in the large crowds that have taken to the streets to protest the deaths of Black people at the hands of police.
Experts have also also raised the possibility that 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 also predicts the United States as a whole will see a cumulative total of 127,230 deaths in four weeks. There is a 10 percent chance of seeing fewer than 121,000 and a 10 percent chance of seeing more than 137,000, UMass said in a statement. The current US death toll is over 106,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.
“There is quite a bit of increased uncertainty right now, with social distancing measures being relaxed in many states and with protests potentially leading to increased exposure risk in many locations. It continues to be vitally important to monitor multiple models, as they each rely on different data sources and methodologies for detecting changes in the growth rate of new COVID-19 cases,” Reich said in a statement.