Massachusetts' coronavirus death toll rose by another 167 people on Thursday as another 1,685 tested positive. But hospitals emptied of coronavirus patients at their fastest clip yet.
A total of 5,482 people with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, have now died in the state and 82,182 cases have been confirmed, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
The number of deaths reported each day has been trending down in recent weeks, though with some spikes, like Wednesday. The 174 deaths reported then more than doubled the total from the prior two days, and Thursday's figure is similarly high.
However, leaders and health officials have encouraged the public not to draw long-term conclusions from one or two days' worth of data.
Thursday's report also contained statistics with more positive implications.
The number of people hospitalized with the coronavirus dropped by 242 people in 24 hours, by far the biggest drop yet. It returned the hospital patient population to 2,859, the lowest it's been in a month, and a hopeful sign weeks after the state experienced its surge in cases.
The drop in COVID-19 patients brought the hospitalization rate -- the percentage of all people who have COVID-19 who are in the hospital -- down to 3%, after it had hovered at 4% and 5% for the past two weeks.
Gov. Charlie Baker used his daily coronavirus news conference to talk about his goals for COVID-19 testing in Massachusetts, in hopes of reining in a possible surge of cases in the fall.
Among his goals are random testing to determine how prevalent the virus is in communities and having just 5% of tests done each day return positive.
That rate was 12% in Thursday's report, holding roughly steady over the last week and down from highs in the low 30s during Massachusetts' coronavirus surge.
Testing is one of the keys to the success of Baker's four-phase plan to reopen the economy. But he has been tight-lipped about which businesses will be able to return to work on May 18, when phase 1 is set to begin.
Massachusetts has for weeks been one of the epicenters of COVID-19 in the U.S., with the fourth-most cases -- surpassed this week by Illinois, which his now experiencing its surge -- and fatalities among all states.
Baker and other health officials have said Massachusetts' high tallies may be due the state testing among the most residents per capita in the country -- more than 424,000 tests were conducted as of Thursday, according to the Department of Public Health.