Uptick in COVID-19 cases classifies 30 communities in MA as ‘high-risk’ zones for virus, 115 at ‘moderate risk’

Public health data shows 23-town increase in ‘red zone’ communities since previous week

BOSTON — New COVID-19 health data issued by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health on Thursday, Nov. 12 highlighted the significant recent increase in COVID-19 cases and infection rates throughout the commonwealth.

On Thursday, the updated map showed 30 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 14 more communities were added to that list.

Last week, 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, 115 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, 92 communities were considered at moderate risk.

The new risk measurement system released last week 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 new 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: 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.

Since last week, 15 of the towns listed on this week’s list have remained as “high risk,” with the exception of Lynnfield.

Among those considered at moderate risk are: Abington, Acushnet, Agawam, Amherst, Andover, Ashland, Athol, Attleboro, Auburn, Barnstable, Bellingham, Berkley, Beverly, Billerica, Blackstone, Boston, Bourne, Braintree, Burlington, Carver , Charlton, Chelmsford, Danvers, Dartmouth, Douglas, Dracut, Dudley, East Longmeadow, Easthampton, Easton , Edgartown, Fairhaven, Foxborough, Framingham, Franklin, Gardner, Grafton, Hanover, Hanson, Haverhill , Holbrook, Holden, Holliston, Hudson, Lakeville, Lancaster, Leicester, Longmeadow, Ludlow, Lunenburg , Lynnfield, Malden, Mansfield, Marlborough, Marshfield, Mattapoisett, Medfield, Medford, Melrose, Millbury, Milton, Nantucket, Newburyport, North Andover, North Attleboro, North Reading, Northborough, Northbridge, Norton, Norwood, Oxford, Palmer, Paxton, Peabody, Pittsfield, Plymouth, Randolph, Raynham, Reading, Rehoboth, Rockland, Salem, Salisbury, Saugus, Shrewsbury, Somerville, Southbridge, Southwick, Spencer, Stoneham, Stoughton, Swampscott, Taunton, Templeton, Tewksbury, Townsend, Tyngsboro, Wakefield, Walpole, Waltham, Wareham, Watertown, Webster, Westfield, Westminster, Weymouth, Whitman, Wilbraham, Wilmington, Winchendon, Winchester, Winthrop, Woburn, Worcester and Wrentham.

As of Nov. 11, a total of 107,158 people have undergone a quarantine period (but are no longer subject to quarantining) and a total of 6,952 people are currently being monitored and undergoing quarantine. So far, 114,110 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 two 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 67 - also a number that has remained unchanged for the past two weeks. The average age of deaths among confirmed COVID-19 cases in the last three weeks was 80.

In the state as a whole, there has now been a total of 174,953 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 2,482 newly reported Thursday. An additional 21 new deaths bring the death toll to 10,015 people who died with confirmed cases of COVID-19, a dark milestone for the state.

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Since last week, 566 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 2,511.

According to Gov. Charlie Baker, part of the reason for the 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.

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