Massachusetts reported 15 people with the new coronavirus have died along with 304 new cases of the virus Thursday.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has now confirmed 8,375 deaths and 109,400 cases. The percentage of coronavirus tests coming back positive, on average, is at 2%, up from 1.7% last week.
On Wednesday, that rate reached 2%, the first time it had been there since June 25. As with that day's report, Thursday's said newly confirmed cases includes some that were "assigned retrospectively to the appropriate date of test" after a hospital group's reporting error.
There are an additional 110 probable cases listed in the department's daily COVID-19 report for Thursday, adding to a total of 7,698 probable cases that have not yet been confirmed. The report listed no new deaths among the probable cases -- there have been 220 in the state.
Massachusetts' coronavirus outbreak is much less severe than it was in mid-April, at the height of the virus' surge. Closely watched metrics like the testing rate and the average number of hospital patients with COVID-19 remain dramatically lower.
But as new coronavirus clusters appear and planning for the resumption of in-person schooling gets into full swing, questions have been raised over whether Massachusetts will continue this stretch with relatively few cases of the virus, or if a second surge will flare up.
Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday said he is having his administration review the rules on gatherings in Massachusetts as coronavirus clusters have been popping up in connection with parties.
"The reality of COVID-19 is it does not follow any rules," Baker said. "It can spread rapidly if people don't take the appropriate precautions. … To all our residents, I can't express this enough -- don't be careless or complacent."
Other states have been contending with massive new outbreaks that are straining their systems and prompting new shutdowns. Baker last week ordered that all travelers coming from outside the Northeast or Hawaii must quarantine for 14 days or show they've tested negative for the virus.
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
With a few exceptions, Massachusetts is now in Phase 3, the final step in its reopening plan before the so-called "new normal" is reached, when a vaccine or effective treatment will allow all COVID-19 restrictions to be eased. The state has been slowly reopening for months, monitoring for any outbreaks that would risk the progress made so far.
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.