The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in Massachusetts among confirmed cases climbed by 30 to 8,028, the state reported Wednesday. The number of confirmed cases climbed by 162, bringing the total to 104,961, as key metrics the state is using to monitor the reopening remained generally steady.
The state also reported zero new probable-case deaths, with that total remaining at 215, and an additional 102 probable cases for a total of 5,641.
On Wednesday, the state also reported that 9,133 new individuals had been given the coronavirus test, bringing the total of individuals tested to 910,354. The total number of tests administered climbed to 1,157,023. And the state reported that new antibody tests had been completed for 1,060 people, bringing that total to 77,150.
Two of the key metrics the state is monitoring as it allows businesses to reopen ticked upward, while one dropped and one remained steady.
The seven-day weighted average of positive tests rose to 2 percent as of Tuesday, up from 1.9 percent the day before. That metric has hovered between 1.8 percent and 2 percent since June 18. The current number represents a 93 percent drop from mid-April highs.
The three-day average of hospitalized coronavirus patients climbed slightly to 629 as of Tuesday, up from 620 the day before, but an 82 percent drop since mid-April.
The number of hospitals using surge capacity stayed stead at five for the second day in a row after declining for several days. Still, that represents a 76 percent decline from April 15. (Governor Charlie Baker also mentioned earlier Monday that not all hospitals using surge capacity were necessarily related to COVID, although he didn’t elaborate.)
The three-day average of deaths from confirmed coronavirus cases dropped to a new low of 16 as of Sunday — a 90 percent decrease from mid-April.
Earlier on Wednesday, Baker said the state’s COVID-19 numbers “have been pretty constant for the past several days.”
“Overall, the public health data continues to show a downward trend on many of the key metrics, and the progress we’ve had there is enabling Massachusetts to reopen on a phased basis while continuing to contain COVID,” Baker said. The state entered Phase 3 of reopening on Monday, meaning gyms, movie theaters, and casinos could reopen (except in Boston, where Phase 3 will begin Monday, July 13).
The state also released new weekly town-by-town data late Wednesday afternoon, with a change to how officials report percent positivity to the last 14 days, rather than over the course of the whole pandemic.
As it has throughout the pandemic, Chelsea had the highest rate of infections in Massachusetts. The city’s nearly 3,000 COVID-19 cases represent a rate of 7,845 per 100,000 people. But the new data show the outbreak in Chelsea has slowed considerably. Only 11 new cases were confirmed over the last week. Over the last two weeks, the city’s positive test rate — a key indicator that measures the percentage of tests that come back positive for COVID-19 — has dropped to about 7.5 percent. That’s still the highest rate in the state for any city or town with more than 2,000 residents, but is far lower than Chelsea’s nearly 35 percent rate over the duration of the pandemic.
The local data also continued to show that the virus’s impact has been felt most deeply in communities with high concentrations of poverty and large populations of people of color: Brockton, Lawrence, Everett, and Lynn.
Boston’s 14,160 cases were by far the most in the state, though the city’s rate of infection — 2,037 people per 100,000 — was barely in the 20 highest statewide.
Baker also announced Wednesday that eight hard-hit communities — Chelsea, Everett, Fall River, Lawrence, Lynn, Lowell, Marlboro, and New Bedford — will have free testing sites, starting this coming Friday and lasting for the next four or five weeks.
Baker said those eight communities make up roughly 9 percent of the state’s population, but 27 percent of all positive tests in Massachusetts have been recorded there in recent weeks.
“Testing will remain a crucial tool in the months ahead,” Baker said.
Meanwhile, a new University of Massachusetts model estimated that hundreds more will die from the coronavirus in the state in the coming weeks, with the death toll climbing to 8,651 by Aug. 1.
The UMass estimate 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 8,505 coronavirus deaths tallied by July 25.
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, offered a bleaker vision, predicting that Massachusetts will see 12,906 deaths by Nov. 1.
The latest UMass ensemble model also predicts the United States as a whole will reach a cumulative total of 147,466 deaths in the next four weeks, with a 10 percent chance that it will be lower than about 143,000 and a 10 percent chance it will be higher than about 153,000. The current US death toll is more than 131,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Reich said in a tweet that models a week ago generally agreed that deaths from the virus were going down. Now, more models are pointing to higher numbers of deaths. Virus cases have been surging in a number of states, particularly in the South and West.
Reich said that now his lab’s “best guess is that we will see a slow and steady increase in new #COVID19 deaths in the US over the next four weeks, between 3,800 and 5,000 per week. This captures declines in some states, and increases in others.”
The UW IHME model offered a devastating picture of what could happen in the months ahead. It predicted more than 208,000 coronavirus deaths in the United States by Nov. 1.