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Mass. coronavirus cases rise by 2,038; 21 deaths reported

Registered nurse Danielle Rogers conducted a test for COVID-19 at the Prince Hall Grand Lodge by the Harvard Street Neighborhood Health Center.
Registered nurse Danielle Rogers conducted a test for COVID-19 at the Prince Hall Grand Lodge by the Harvard Street Neighborhood Health Center.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Massachusetts rose by 2,038 Friday, a staggering number that recalls the heights of the pandemic in April, and brought the state’s total number of cases this week to over 7,000, according to state public health data.

The surging numbers came as the state implemented a stricter mask requirement, an overnight curfew took effect, and Governor Charlie Baker renewed his push to fully reopen public schools by announcing new criteria to determine if a community is at high-risk for COVID-19 transmission.

Friday’s case count, which brings the state’s total to 162,736, includes three days of delayed October testing data from a national laboratory, which reported almost 300 cases Friday and usually reports fewer than 50, according to the Department of Public Health.

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Still, the massive increase tops even the 1,761 cases the state reported Thursday and the 1,629 new cases it reported Wednesday. It is the highest daily count since the spring. In April the daily count repeatedly topped 2,000 and even surpassed 3,000 on April 23.

The death toll from confirmed cases increased by 21 to 9,880, the Department of Public Health reported.

The state has reported 7,076 new confirmed cases of the virus since Monday, amid a spike in infections that has epidemiologists worried.


On Friday, Baker announced that the state had upgraded its metrics for determining COVID-19 transmission risks in cities and towns with an eye toward getting more students back into schools.


According to new guidelines, communities with fewer than 10,000 residents will be placed in the high-risk category if they have more than 25 cases. Cities and towns with 10,000 to 50,000 residents will be high-risk if they average more than 10 cases per 100,000 people and a positive test rate of 5 percent or higher. Larger communities will be high-risk with an average of more than 10 cases per 100,000 residents and a positive test rate at or greater than 4 percent.

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The new guidelines dramatically reduced the number of “red zone” communities in the state from 121 cities and towns — including Boston — in last week’s report down to just 16 this week.

The cities and towns now designated high-risk are Brockton, Chelsea, Everett, Fall River, Fitchburg, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, Methuen, New Bedford, Norfolk, Revere, Seekonk, Somerset, Springfield, and Westport.

Boston’s average daily rate of infection per 100,000 residents was at 18.4, up from 15.8 last week and 12.0 the week prior, the department said. The statewide average daily rate was at 15.3, up from 11.8 last week and 9.2 the week before.

David Hamer, a Boston University epidemiologist, said the change in how the state classifies high-risk communities could confuse the public at a crucial point in the fight against COVID-19.

“I think it is helpful to have these categories to give people an idea of where things stand. It’s just confusing to suddenly change it like this, especially at a point in time when we’re just starting to work our way into a second wave,” Hamer said.

Hamer said the state may well have justifications for changing its system, such as accounting for different testing rates in various communities, but he worried that even a sensible change would ultimately communicate to people in previously red communities that they no longer need to worry about the virus.

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“There’s increased risk right now,” he said. “I’m worried that by downgrading areas, people will say, ‘Oh it’s not so bad now! I can go out. I can go to a movie ... and not worry about things the way I would’ve a week ago.’ And things haven’t changed.”

New restrictions announced Monday by Baker also took effect Friday.

The changes include a new stay-at-home advisory — though not a formal curfew — from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. each day and a requirement that all Massachusetts residents over age 5 wear a face mask while indoors or outdoors in a public location — even if they are able to maintain 6 feet of distance.

Restrictions are also being placed on businesses, including 9:30 p.m. closing times for restaurants, gyms, theaters, and casinos, and there is a 10-person limit on private indoor gatherings.

State officials also reported Friday that 86,357 more people had been tested for coronavirus. The total number of tests administered climbed to more than 6.54 million. New antigen tests had been completed for 2,513 people, bringing that total to 200,056.

The seven-day average rate of positive tests, which is calculated from the total number of tests administered, ticked up to 2.1 percent after eight days at 2.0 percent. The lowest observed figure for that metric — a number watched closely by state officials — is 0.8 percent.

The seven-day average of hospitalized coronavirus patients rose from 456 to 471 in Friday’s report. The lowest that metric has been is 155.

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The seven-day average of deaths from confirmed cases remained at 17 for a second day after dropping from 19 to 18 earlier this week; the lowest that number has been is 11.

This week, the state changed the way it reports some statistics related to positive tests, introducing a new metric that attempts to isolate the effect of public health programs undertaken by colleges, in which asymptomatic people can be tested repeatedly in an effort to rapidly identify new cases.

On Friday, the state said the seven-day rate would be 3.76 percent if not for people tested in higher-education settings. However, the state’s overall rate still includes others who might be repeatedly tested, such as health care workers, long-term care providers and residents, and first responders.

Travis Andersen and Felicia Gans of the Globe staff contributed to this report.


Dasia Moore is the Globe Magazine's staff writer. E-mail her at dasia.moore@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @daijmoore.