130 More Coronavirus Deaths in Massachusetts, 1,952 More Test Positive

Massachusetts is one of the many states in the nation not testing their populations at the daily rate recommended by the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute and his colleagues

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Massachusetts' coronavirus-related death toll rose by another 130, health officials said Saturday, while another 1,952 people have tested positive for the virus.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health reported that 3,846 people have now died and 66,263 have tested positive for the virus.

The hospitalization rate -- the percentage of coronavirus-positive patients in the hospital -- ticked down to 5% on Saturday, following a recent trend. There are 3,601 people in the hospital, the fewest since mid-April, and 921 in intensive care units, a figure that has also been decreasing over the past few days.

The state has reported much higher daily testing numbers since April 23 than it had beforehand, and that's been accompanied by a lower percentage of people who tested positive for the virus -- one of the many statistics Gov. Charlie Baker is watching as he weighs when to ease the restrictions on movement and businesses in Massachusetts.

On Saturday, the state tested 9,358 people, and 21% had tests come back positive. Friday's 15% positive was the lowest since the end of March.

A study, led by Massachusetts General Hospital is being wrapped up, and will help doctors further look at coronavirus antibodies.

But Massachusetts is one of the many states in the nation not testing their populations at the daily rate recommended by Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, and his colleagues, according to The Associated Press. The Harvard team developed their statistics in mid-April and noted that projections for U.S. cases have increased since then.

Jha and his colleagues based their testing targets, in part, on the number of tests needed to screen enough people to push positive results below 10%, the level that the World Health Organization considers sufficient to contain the outbreak. More than 16% of U.S. tests nationwide are positive for the virus, according to figures compiled by the COVID Tracking Project website. That compares with a rate of about 3% in South Korea, a country praised for its aggressive testing.

Massachusetts is one of the epicenters of COVID-19 in the U.S., with the third-most cases and fourth-most fatalities. Baker and other health officials have said that may be due in part to a strong commitment to testing -- over 289,000 tests had been conducted as of Friday, according to the Department of Health.

While there has been talk for days about what it would take for Massachusetts to reopen, on Friday, Baker announced that all residents will be required to wear masks or other face coverings when in public and unable to maintain social distancing starting May 6.

"This is going to be a way of life," Baker said at his daily news briefing.

Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker signed an executive order requiring residents to wear face coverings. The order goes into effect on May 6.

While Middlesex County has the most deaths in Massachusetts, with 923, Hampden County has its highest death rate, 82 per 100,000 residents. That's followed by Norfolk (75 per 100,000), Suffolk (70 per 100,000) and Essex (61 per 100,000) counties.

Middlesex County continues to have the most coronavirus cases, with 15,048, followed by Suffolk at 13,606, Essex at 9,362 and Norfolk at 6,187. But Suffolk County leads the way in terms of cases per capita, with 1,679 cases per 100,000 residents. No other county has more than 1,174 cases per 100,000.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

NBC/Associated Press
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