State health officials announced another 18 coronavirus deaths on Wednesday, bringing the number of deaths statewide to 8,547.
Officials also confirmed an additional 229 cases of COVID-19 infection, for a total of at least 113,198. That is based on 15,693 new molecular tests reported on Wednesday. There are also 2,518 new antigen tests reported.
There are currently 422 people hospitalized for the virus, including 64 patients receiving special care.
Health officials noted Wednesday that they have “streamlined”; a number of reports to show the data points considered most useful for tracking the virus at this stage of the pandemic.
“These changes include the addition of daily indicators of the number of positive and negative antigen and serological tests reported to DPH, transferring probable cases to the weekly panel. and includes new statistics on contact tracking programs in the weekly dashboard, ”they wrote.
As of Wednesday, there are at least 5,119,711 COVID-19 infections in the United States and about 163,651 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While the rate of positive tests across Massachusetts has risen over the past few weeks, the latest data shows it is starting to slow down. However, the Commonwealth of One in four states – Massachusetts, Hawaii, South Dakota and Illinois – has seen an increase in the number of cases over the past 14 days, according to the New York Times.
The latest numbers come a day after Governor Charlie Baker began publishing “advanced” town-level data to show specific case counts in every city across the state. New limits on the outdoor gathering size go into effect Tuesday as well. Any outside gatherings will be limited to 50 people, instead of 100. The limit for indoor gatherings will remain at 25.
Officials have released a color-coded map of the state showing where the infection rates are highest. The red color represents places where there are more than eight cases per 100,000 people, meaning residents are at high risk; yellow represents four to eight cases, or a moderate level of risk; green represents less than four cases per 100,000 residents; and white represents a total of less than five cases reported in the past 14 days.
Baker said his administration has reached out to city leaders in more severely affected communities to come up with strategies to reduce infections. Baker says the 318 communities in Massachusetts are at or below the national standard for virus containment, but more work remains to be done.
“No matter where your community is, COVID is not going away,” Baker said.
Thirty-three communities have a medium or high risk of transmission, officials said. Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said Chelsea, Lynn, Revere and Everett were at greatest risk.
Primary and Secondary Education Trustee Jeffrey C. Riley said the index was color-coded for the state to track possible COVID spikes should notify school districts about the plan to reopen.
“We expect that school districts’ learning models will follow this color-coded scale unless extenuating circumstances are identified after consultation with the local health board, “Riley said. “This includes looking at additional metrics, such as whether the cases are rising or falling, the positive rate of local testing, and other contextual factors.”
School districts, tasked with creating three plans for distance learning, combined and face-to-face models, are facing a Friday deadline to submit final plans to the state.
Coronavirus in series: View cases, maps, charts and resources
Below are the cases listed by county:
Barnstable County: 1,570
Berkshire County: 626
Bristol County: 8,759
Dukes and Nantucket counties: 82
Essex County: 17,074
Franklin County: 372
Hampden County: 7,367
Hampshire County: 1,070
Middlesex County: 24.207
Norfolk County: 9,179
Plymouth County: 8,760
Suffolk County: 20,899
Worcester County: 12,927
Location unspecified: 306