scorecardresearch Skip to main content

Number of Mass. counties with high COVID levels has dropped to 5, per CDC

Commuters at South Station in April wearing masks. About half of Massachusetts residents live in counties where the CDC recommends masking in indoor public spaces.Matthew J Lee/Globe staff

Five of Massachusetts’ 14 counties have high community levels of COVID-19 and people there should wear masks in indoor public spaces, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But that number is down from as high as 11 counties last month.

The counties that still have high levels are: Suffolk, Middlesex, Franklin, Norfolk, and Barnstable, according to the CDC. The counties account for just under half the population of the state.

The CDC determines community COVID-19 levels each week by reviewing the number of hospital beds being used, hospital admissions, and new COVID-19 cases in an area.


The health protection agency recommends greater precautions as indicators worsen. Masking in indoor public spaces, including schools, regardless of vaccination status, is only recommended by the CDC when communities reach a high level, though the agency notes that people can wear masks at any level based on personal preference.

The rest of Massachusetts’ counties are now rated as having medium levels, except for Bristol County, which is at a low level.

Massachusetts has seen declining case numbers in the past couple of weeks, and hospitalizations have also been dropping in recent days.

Pandemic models have suggested that the wave of COVID-19 infections in the state, which had been gradually rising since March, would slow around now. Experts said they thought that would happen for a variety of reasons, including the immune protection people had gotten from vaccinations and previous infections, and the arrival of warmer weather.

“It is great to see such progress, and suggests this summer could be fairly quiet,” Andrew Lover, an assistant professor of epidemiology in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, said in an e-mail. “However, hospitalizations in the state are still elevated, and COVID will be with us for a while yet. It’s likely we may see some increased transmission in the fall, unfortunately.”


Matthew Fox, a professor of epidemiology and global health at the Boston University School of Public Health, said that, barring the arrival of a new variant, “We generally have quiet summers up here in the North” and people should take advantage of a break from COVID-19.

“Of course, we should always be keeping an eye on whether there is an uptick and adjust accordingly,” he said in an e-mail, noting that people should also “prepare for the fact that cases tend to go up again in late summer/early fall as people come back to school and cooler weather.”

Material from prior Globe stories was used in this report.

Martin Finucane can be reached at