Massachusetts' latest weekly data on the coronavirus pandemic, including the updated community-level risk assessment map, shows 63 communities considered at the highest risk for transmitting COVID-19, a new high and an increase of 23 since last week.
For the first time since introducing the map, the commonwealth itself has climbed into the highest risk level.
The data, from the Department of Public Health, includes a breakdown of the total number of coronavirus cases in each Massachusetts city and town, as well as the new map and more data.
See the Town-by-Town Mass. Coronavirus Risk Map
The following communities are in the highest risk level as of Wednesday: Abington, Acushnet, Amherst, Attleboro, Auburn, Berkley, Boston, Brockton, Canton, Chelmsford, Chelsea, Dartmouth, East Bridgewater, East Longmeadow, Everett, Fairhaven, Fall River, Framingham, Hanover, Hanson, Haverhill, Hingham, Holbrook, Holliston, Holyoke, Hudson, Kingston, Lawrence, Leicester, Littleton, Lowell, Lynn, Malden, Marlborough, Marshfield, Methuen, Middleton, Milford, Milton, Nantucket, New Bedford, North Andover, Oxford, Pembroke, Plymouth, Randolph, Revere, Rockland, Saugus, Shrewsbury, Somerville, Southborough, Springfield, Sunderland, Tyngsborough, Wakefield, Waltham, Webster, West Newbury, Weymouth, Winthrop, Woburn and Worcester.
These 27 communities are new to the list since last week: Abington, Auburn, Berkley, Canton, East Bridgewater, East Longmeadow, Fairhaven, Fall River, Hanover, Hanson, Hingham, Holbrook, Holliston, Littleton, Marshfield, Milford, Milton, Oxford, Pembroke, Rockland, Saugus, Shrewsbury, Somerville, Tyngsborough, Wakefield, West Newbury and Weymouth.
Avon, Dracut, Dudley and Southbridge left the highest risk level since last week.
The map shows the number of cases detected on average each day over the last two weeks in each of Massachusetts' communities. More than 8 cases per 100,000 translates to a high risk and red shading, between 4 and 8 cases per 100,000 is moderate risk and any less than that is low risk.
There are 63 cities and towns shaded red in this map, an increase of 58% over last week's map, which included data from Sept. 20-Oct. 3. There were 40 communities on last week's list, which was, itself, an increase from 23 communities the previous week.
The state itself also entered the red zone Wednesday, with its average incidence rate climbing to 8.7 cases per 100,000 people. Massachusetts' average was in the yellow last week with a rate of 7.3.
Read this week's full report here, with data on communities' percent positivity, county- and state-level data and more.
Boston entered the red zone two weeks ago. Its average incidence rate rose to 11.1 coronavirus cases per 100,000 in the new Department of Public Health report.
Mayor Marty Walsh announced last week that Boston Public Schools would pause their reopening after the city’s coronavirus positivity rate climbed above the 4% cutoff it had previously outlined.
Two weeks ago, the city held off entering Step 2 of Phase 3 of Massachusetts' reopening plan because it anticipated entering the red zone.
How Massachusetts Measures Hot Spots
Massachusetts has changed how it's measured coronavirus metrics over time.
The color-coded town-by-town data was introduced in August, and the Baker administration announced that the state would focus its strongest COVID-mitigation efforts on towns in the red category. Communities can only move to Step 2 of Phase 3 of Massachusetts' reopening plan, announced late last month, if they are not consistently in the red.
Previously, the positive COVID test rate over the prior 14 days had been the standard for measuring hot spots. The Department of Public Health's weekly report still includes that information, along with other metrics like how many tests are being conducted locally and how many cases have been reported locally.
However, some of Massachusetts' smaller towns have taken issue with being categorized based on cases per capita.
They say that, when a town only has a few thousand people, an outbreak in just one household can send it into red, which is determined by 8 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents.
Asked earlier why he prefers using cases per capita instead of percent positivity, Gov. Charlie Baker said the latter doesn't take into account that some people get tested repeatedly.
"We have a lot of repeat testers in our data, many of whom are repeating for work-related reasons," Baker said.