Another 7 people with the new coronavirus have died and 182 new cases were confirmed, public health officials reported Monday, as the governor issued a new warning over the rising positive COVID-19 test rate.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has now confirmed 8,317 deaths and 108,562 cases. The number of coronavirus tests coming back positive, on average, is at 1.9%, up from 1.7% a week ago.
There are an additional 107 probable cases listed in the department's daily COVID-19 report for Monday, adding to a total of 7,364 probable cases that have not yet been confirmed. The report listed no deaths among the probable cases -- there have been 219 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 roughly 90% lower.
But the rise in positive testing rate, coupled with a pair of coronavirus clusters recently identified in Massachusetts, prompted Gov. Charlie Baker to warn Monday that, "if we let our guard down, COVID will take advantage of that."
Each of the prior four COVID-19 reports from Massachusetts found over 200 new coronavirus tests had returned positive. Noting that the last time that happened was in June, the head of the Massachusetts Medical Society tweeted Sunday that it could indicate a resurgence of the coronavirus.
"We should consider backing down a phase," he said.
Monday's report showed the average positive test rate held steady at 1.9%. Before Sunday, the last time Massachusetts had that many tests return positive was in the July 8 report. And while the number of newly confirmed cases was below 200 on Monday, the Department of Public Health's COVID-19 reports often show lower numbers on Mondays, since they largely reflect testing that took place over the weekend.
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
This graph shows how the number of coronavirus cases have grown in Massachusetts, in the context of the other U.S. states, dating to the early days of the pandemic. It shows how many cases have been diagnosed each day in each state since their 500th cases. Select a state from the dropdown to highlight its track.
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.