Increase in COVID-19 cases classifies 62 Mass. communities as ‘red zones’, 131 as ‘yellow zones’

Uptick in coronavirus cases classifies 32 more towns as high risk compared to last week

BOSTON — Its no secret new data suggests Massachusetts has already entered its second wave of COVID-19 cases as both infections and hospitalizations are on the way up.

New COVID-19 health data issued by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health on Thursday, Nov. 19 highlighted the significant recent increase in COVID-19 cases and infection rates throughout the commonwealth.

On Thursday, the updated map showed 62 communities are now considered “red zones” for COVID-19, meaning these cities and towns are at higher risk of contracting the virus than anywhere else in the state. For this week, health officials noted 32 more communities were added to the list, which, last week, showed only 30 towns were in red.

Recently, Governor Baker and his administration announced improvements were being made to the metrics used to track the town-by-town COVID-19 health data. Part of the new improvements to the map include new color-coded distinctions based off of individual cities and towns’ demographics.

Also this week, 131 communities were designated as being “yellow zones,” which means they’re not at as much risk as red towns, but are still being monitored for their higher than ideal infection rates. Last week, 115 communities were considered at moderate risk, which means Massachusetts saw 16 more cities and towns added to that list this week.

The risk measurement system for cities and towns in Massachusetts raises the cases required per 100,000 threshold for the “red” designation while adding variables for community size and positive test rate.

The system breaks down cities and towns into three categories based on population: those with fewer than 10,000 residents, those with between 10,000 and 50,000 residents, and those with more than 50,000 residents.

The criteria for labeling towns has changed to include gray, along with the existing red, yellow and green designations of how prevalent cases of the virus are in any given city or town.

Towns and cities in red this week include: Abington, Acushnet, Attleboro, Barnstable, Blackstone, Brockton, Chelsea, Chicopee, Clinton, Dartmouth, Dighton, Douglas, Dracut, Edgartown, Everett, Fairhaven, Fall River, Fitchburg, Framingham, Freetown, Hampden, Holyoke, Lancaster, Lawrence, Leominster, Lowell, Ludlow, Lunenburg, Lynn, Malden, Marion, Methuen, Milford, Nantucket, New Bedford, Norfolk, Northbridge, Peabody, Rehoboth, Revere, Rockland, Salisbury, Saugus, Seekonk, Shirley, Somerset, Southbridge, Southwick, Springfield, Sterling, Sutton, Swansea, Taunton, Templeton, Tisbury, Townsend, Tyngsboro, Uxbridge, West Springfield, Westport, Winchendon and Woburn.

Since last week, 29 of the towns listed on this week’s list have remained as “high risk,” with the exception of Plainville, which is now considered at moderate risk.

Among those considered at moderate risk are: Athol, Auburn, Avon, Belchertown, Bellingham, Berkley, Beverly, Billerica, Boston, Bourne, Braintree, Bridgewater, Brookline, Burlington, Cambridge, Canton, Carver, Charlton, Chelmsford, Concord, Dalton, Danvers, Dedham, Dudley, Duxbury, East Longmeadow, Easthampton, Easton, Foxborough, Franklin, Gardner, Georgetown, Grafton, Hanover, Hanson, Hatfield, Haverhill, Hingham, Holbrook, Holden, Holliston, Hopedale, Hopkinton, Hudson, Hull, Ipswich, Kingston, Lakeville, Lee, Leicester, Littleton, Longmeadow, Lynnfield, Mansfield, Marblehead, Marlborough, Marshfield, Mattapoisett, Maynard, Medfield, Medford, Medway, Melrose, Mendon, Merrimac, Middleborough, Middleton, Millbury, Millis, Milton, Monson, Nahant, Newbury, Newburyport, North Andover, North Attleboro, North Reading, Northampton, Northborough, Norton, Norwell, Norwood, Oak Bluffs, Oxford, Palmer, Paxton, Pittsfield, Plainville, Plymouth, Quincy, Randolph, Raynham, Reading, Rutland, Salem, Scituate, Sharon, Shrewsbury, Somerville, South Hadley, Spencer, Stoneham, Stoughton, Stow, Sturbridge, Swampscott, Tewksbury, Upton, Wakefield, Walpole, Waltham, Ware, Wareham, Watertown, Webster, Wellesley, Westborough, Westfield, Westford, Westminster, Weston, Westwood, Weymouth, Whitman, Wilbraham, Wilmington, Winchester, Winthrop, Worcester, Wrentham and Yarmouth.

As of Nov. 18, a total of 112,228 people have undergone a quarantine period (but are no longer subject to quarantining) and a total of 8,187 people are currently being monitored and undergoing quarantine. So far, 120,415 Massachusetts residents in total have been subject to quarantine since the outbreak began locally.

Last week saw 14 new communities added to the high-risk category.

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According to the new town-by-town data, for the past three weeks, the average age of COVID-19 cases has been 38 - number that remains unchanged from the previous two dashboards - but the average age of cases that had to be hospitalized was 66. The average age of deaths among confirmed COVID-19 cases is 81.

In the state as a whole, there have now been a total of 192,050 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 2,532 newly reported Thursday. An additional 27 new deaths bring the death toll to 10,204 people who died with confirmed cases of COVID-19.

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Since last week, 772 new COVID-19 cases have been reported among higher education testing since last week, bringing the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases associated with higher education to 3,283.

According to Gov. Charlie Baker, part of the reason for the recent change to the weekly dashboard is that very few cities towns in Massachusetts have a population over 100,000.

Baker believes previous metrics were not as fair to small towns.

“I happen to think this is a more nuanced and more accurate way to test how communities are doing, not just in their cases per 100,000, but how they’re doing with respect to testing and practices and policies,” Baker said.

Massachusetts Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said new and better information from around the country helped inform the changes, and it will also help determine when a community will move forward or backward in a phase.

“Communities currently in Step 1 of Phase 3 will need to have 3 weeks of data where the community is designated yellow, green or grey to move to the next phase,” Sudders said.

Baker stressed that the more information the better adding that testing remains an important component.

“And we want communities to test. I don’t want some communities to say I’m not going to test because I’m worried about increasing my numbers. I want people to test,” Baker said.

The state is now worried that, as cases continue to grow, the Thanksgiving holiday is going to contribute to numbers skyrocketing even more.

A new survey from the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University, which surveyed more than 2,000 people across the country, found 38 percent—nearly two in five people—admitted they will probably attend a gathering of more than ten people this Thanksgiving.

Twenty-one percent said they will spend the holiday with people outside their family. Seventy-three percent said they will practice social distancing before and after dinner.

A third of those surveyed said they are not going to ask their guests to wear a mask.

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