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Mass. coronavirus death toll passes 10,000 as state reports 2,482 new confirmed cases

The sun set behind a memorial bench and marker at Baker Street Memorial Park in West Roxbury that honors those who died due to COVID-19.
The sun set behind a memorial bench and marker at Baker Street Memorial Park in West Roxbury that honors those who died due to COVID-19.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

More than 10,000 Massachusetts residents have died from confirmed coronavirus cases, the state said Thursday, a grim milestone that came as cases continued to surge locally and nationwide.

The state’s death toll rose by 21 in the daily report from the Department of Public Health, reaching 10,015. The state also reported a total of 227 deaths among probable COVID-19 cases; that number did not increase Thursday.

Confirmed cases of the virus rose by 2,482, for a total of 174,953, the state said. The daily count of cases has been above 1,000 for just over a week, and the number has been above 2,000 on half those days.

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The state also said 26,201 people were estimated to have active virus cases.

As the death toll rises, fewer and fewer Massachusetts residents remain untouched by the pandemic.

Over the summer, researchers attempting to quantify the effects of widespread coronavirus deaths concluded that, on average in the US, every COVID-related death left nine close family members grieving — parents and children, siblings, spouses, grandchildren.

In Massachusetts alone, that accounts for some 90,000 people.

“There’s sort of this narrative that almost everyone who dies is quite old — and in some extent, are in nursing facilities and are left disconnected from their families,” said Ashton Verdery, an associate professor in the departments of sociology and criminology at Pennsylvania State University who worked on the study.

But “people are connected to one another, and each death is going to produce people who are left behind,” said Verdery, a Turners Falls native.

Joseph Ruggiero lll, funeral director at Ruggiero Family Memorial Home in East Boston, has seen the ebb and flow of the pandemic and its devastating toll.

“It’s scary to think this is happening again,” Ruggiero said. “People are supposed to be in celebration by Thanksgiving and Christmas, and most of them will be in mourning. If one person dies, it affects 100 people. That’s a sad thing.”

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For a funeral home that had averaged about 18 to 20 services a month, the 72 services held in April alone were startling. By the time September came around, services had evened out to about 15 a month -- seemingly back to normal.

“October started off busy, but not that busy. And then we ended up doing 40 [services],” Ruggiero said.

Since the beginning of November, the funeral home has already hosted 10 services.

In new state data Thursday, 30 cities and towns were considered to be high-risk for the virus: Brockton, Chelsea, Chicopee, Clinton, Dighton, Everett, Fall River, Fitchburg, Freetown, Holyoke, Lawrence, Leominster, Lowell, Lynn, Marion, Methuen, Milford, New Bedford, Norfolk, Plainville, Revere, Seekonk, Shirley, Somerset, Springfield, Swansea, Tisbury, Uxbridge, West Springfield, and Westport.

Last week, Governor Charlie Baker announced that the state had upgraded its metrics for determining COVID-19 transmission risks in cities and towns, dramatically reduced the number of “red zone” communities in the state with an eye toward getting more students back into schools.

Under these guidelines, communities with fewer than 10,000 residents are placed in the high-risk category if they have more than 25 cases. Cities and towns with 10,000 to 50,000 residents are considered 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 are labeled high-risk if they have 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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Thursday’s data showed that 98,075 more tests had been conducted for coronavirus. The total number of tests administered climbed to more than 7.0 million. New antigen tests had been completed for 2,449 people, bringing that total to 213,220.

The seven-day average rate of positive tests, which is calculated from the total number of tests administered, was at 2.9 percent for a second day. 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 568 to 592. The lowest that metric has been is 155.

The seven-day average of deaths from confirmed cases was at 20, down from 21; the lowest that number has been is 11.

The state recently 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 Thursday, the state said the seven-day rate would be 4.98 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.

State education officials reported that there were 191 new coronavirus cases among students and 157 among school staff members reported to the state during the week that ended Nov. 11. They estimate that about 450,000 students across the state are attending some form of in-person learning, and about 75,000 staff members are working in buildings.

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Also Thursday, tests for traces of coronavirus in the waste water continued to send disturbing signals.

Both the northern and southern sections of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority were at the highest levels yet in the recent spike. Traces of the virus in the southern section of the system, which includes communities west and south of Boston, have reached levels higher than during the devastating springtime surge.

The program, which looks for SarsCOV2 RNA copies in waste water, is a pilot that officials hope can become an early warning system for surges of the virus.

The MWRA had been testing several times a week, but in mid-October state officials, noting increases, asked the MWRA to begin testing daily, officials said. The MWRA plots individual results and seven-test average trend line on its website.

Like other coronavirus metrics maintained by the state, the waste-water tests paint a picture of a state that appeared to have wrestled the virus under control this summer but has since seen a gradual rise — and a marked acceleration in recent weeks.

Martin Finucane and Dugan Arnett of the Globe staff, and correspondent Matt Berg, contributed to this report.

Correction: Due to a reporting error, an earlier version of this story misspelled the name Ruggiero.

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Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.