Massachusetts health officials reported 1,949 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 65 more deaths on Saturday, as the estimated number of active cases dropped below 50,000.
There have now been totals of 527,435 confirmed cases and 15,116 deaths in the Bay State, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Another 308 deaths are considered probably linked to COVID-19.
Generally, Massachusetts' coronavirus metrics have been trending down in the past several weeks, according to the Department of Public Health's interactive coronavirus dashboard, with the average number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths peaking in the second week of January. The testing rate peaked Jan. 1. The figures reported daily are important for tracking trends with the virus' spread, though a single-day change may not reflect a larger trend, and may reflect incomplete data.
The percentage of coronavirus tests coming back positive, on average, fell to 2.40%, while the number of estimated active cases declined to 46,413 on Saturday.
The number of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 decreased to 1,149. Of that number, 291 were listed as being in intensive care units and 196 were intubated, according to health officials.
The latest report comes one day after data from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health showed that more than one million doses of the coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the state. Also Friday, Massachusetts launched a new website to make it easier for people to book vaccination appointments. The new tool, vaxfinder.mass.gov, shows vaccine sites and appointment availability all on one page, and is also searchable by city or town.
Some Massachusetts hospital leaders and physicians have said they disagree with a plan by the administration of Gov. Charlie Baker to halt vaccine distribution to hospitals and primary care offices so they can place the focus on vaccination sites. But the state's top health official said hospitals were scheduling more vaccine appointments than the state's supply of vaccine against COVID-19 could meet.
"We all need to understand that we have a limited supply,'' said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders. "The demand is great and the supply from the federal government is flat _ 108,000 doses a week,'' she said.
"We want to ensure that we have the supply to meet scheduled appointments.''
Dr. David Rosman, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, told The Boston Globe he feared the state had chosen "efficiency at the cost of equity.''
He said some communities of color are more likely to trust their physicians.
"People have a trusting relationship with their doctor, and when their doctor says, 'This is safe and as soon as my family is eligible I will get it for them,' then patients are more willing,'' he said.
On Thursday, the state told Massachusetts hospitals to stop scheduling new vaccine appointments. The state intends to focus on mass vaccination sites, retail pharmacies and community health centers until more vaccine is available. Once the next vaccine is authorized, possibly later this month, more vaccine will be available for hospitals.