Another 17 coronavirus deaths and 290 new cases were reported Friday in Massachusetts as people prepare to celebrate July Fourth weekend in the middle of a pandemic.
The numbers are far lower than what the state was experiencing at the height of the coronavirus surge and were released by the Department of Public Health one day after Gov. Charlie Baker announced the state would be moving to Phase 3 of its reopening plan on Monday.
This week also saw Massachusetts' first day without reporting any coronavirus deaths.
As of Friday, the death toll in Massachusetts stands at 8,149 and the number of COVID-19 cases detected at 109,628, according to the Department of Public Health.
On Monday, July 6, Phase 3 will go into place for everywhere in Massachusetts except Boston -- which will join the rest of the state one week later. Gov. Baker made the announcement Thursday, noting that its the riskiest phase yet, and it will be the last phase we enter for a long time, since Phase 4, the last one, will only be possible when a vaccine or effective treatment is ready.
Moving to Phase 3 allows even more businesses to open up, as they have slowly been doing for months as the state hopes to prevent any outbreaks from risking the progress its made.
Baker on Thursday urged residents to keep up social distancing measures and wearing face coverings where that's not possible in order to keep the spread of the virus low -- other states around the country are experiencing huge outbreaks; experts have said they reopened too fast.
More than 50,000 new cases were confirmed in the United States on Thursday alone, with numerous states hitting record single-day COVID-19 highs in the past week.
How Coronavirus Has Grown in Each State — in 1 Chart
New York quickly became the epicenter of the American coronavirus outbreak, along with New Jersey. Only those states had more cases than Massachusetts early on in the pandemic. But after more time passed, all three found stability while others spiked to higher case counts.
Source: The COVID Tracking Project
Credit: Amy O’Kruk/NBC
White House Health Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday that the coronavirus has mutated in a way that might help the pathogen spread more easily. Research is underway to confirm the possible mutation and its implications, Fauci said, adding that "there’s a little dispute about it."
The six indicators informing how fast Massachusetts can move through the four phases of reopening the state are: the COVID-19 positive test rate, the number of individuals who died from COVID-19, the number of patients with COVID-19 in hospitals, the health care system's readiness, testing capacity, contact tracing capabilities. Their statuses have held steady, with half in a positive trend and half "in progress" since June 5.