17 More Mass. Communities Move Back to Phase 3, Step 1 Monday

The cities and towns were designated as high-risk communities for three weeks running

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More than a dozen communities are moving back to Phase 3, Step 1 of Massachusetts' reopening plan Monday based on the data in last week's town-by-town report.

There are now 97 communities considered at the highest risk for transmitting the new coronavirus in Massachusetts, according to the latest weekly community-level data on the pandemic. It's an increase of 16 from the 81 towns and cities in the report's red zone the previous week.

Seventeen cities and towns will have to move back to Phase 3, Step 1 of Massachusetts' reopening plan after being designated as high-risk communities for three weeks running.

Those communities include Barnstable, Blackstone, Dartmouth, Douglas, Edgartown, Hampden, Lancaster, Ludlow, Lunenburg, Peabody, Rehoboth, Salisbury, Southbridge, Southwick, Sterling, Sutton and Taunton.

It means a series of new restrictions for businesses in those communities.

To qualify for the red category under the new metrics, communities with populations under 10,000 must have more than 25 cases. For mid-size communities of between 10,000 and 50,000 people, they must have an average of more than 10 cases per 100,000 people and a positive test rate of more than 5%. And for larger communities of greater than 50,000 people, they must have more than 10 cases per 100,000 people and a positive test rate of more than 4%.

Previously, the state used the number of cases detected on average each day over two weeks to determine if Massachusetts' communities are at high risk for coronavirus transmission.

Massachusetts changed which communities it considered at high risk of coronavirus transmission, which dropped the number from 121 to 16 on Friday. Officials said the change allows more schools to hold in-person classes.

Massachusetts reported 4,747 new COVID-19 cases in the state on Sunday, a decrease from Saturday's figures. The Department of Public Health also reported 48 more deaths.

As cases continue to surge and field hospitals reopen in the state, more people are calling on Gov. Charlie Baker to implement more stringent restrictions.

One of the latest health professionals to question the governor's decision is Dr. Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown University's School of Public Health.

Jha took to Twitter Saturday to voice his concerns over the ability to gamble and get a hair cut in Massachusetts despite having more cases per capita than Georgia, Florida or Texas.

Though he said he defended the governor against critics "for many months," Jha said he has gone from "uncomfortable to aghast at lack of action," in the past six weeks.

"It’s incomprehensible. They must see different data because no rational explanation for lack of action," Jha wrote on Twitter, referencing the Baker Administration.

Last week, Baker said that he's not planning any additional COVID-19 restrictions.

Baker cautioned Thursday that "one day doesn't make a trend," and said he will continue to closely monitor the data and make his decisions based on the available information. If any new restrictions were to be put into place, Baker said, the public would be given ample warning.

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