Massachusetts health officials announced 657 new coronavirus cases and 5 more deaths Saturday, noting that some of the new COVID cases should have been included in Friday's report.
The COVID-19 dashboard report was delayed about an hour due to technical issues on Saturday. Once it was published shortly before 6 p.m., the DPH said it was informed of a reporting lag from a large laboratory which resulted in a lower number of tests and cases being reported Friday. Those results were then included in Saturday's dashboard.
Even with the additional cases added from Friday, Saturday's report from the DPH marks the ninth day in a row that the newly confirmed COVID cases have been under 1,000.
The new numbers from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health pushed the state's confirmed COVID-19 death toll to 17,389 since the start of the pandemic, while its confirmed caseload rose to 656,344.
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Many of Massachusetts' COVID metrics, including the average number of coronavirus cases, average coronavirus test positivity and average number of confirmed deaths reported each day, have been falling since the end of March, according to trends posted to the Department of Public Health's interactive coronavirus dashboard.
The seven-day average of positive tests on Saturday continued to tick down, and is now at 1.03%.
The number of patients in Massachusetts hospitals with confirmed COVID-19 cases decreased to 352. Of those currently hospitalized, 97 are listed as being in intensive care units and 58 are intubated.
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Health officials' projection of active COVID-19 cases also decreased again to 14,396 Saturday, from 14,884 on Friday.
More than 7 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Massachusetts, including more than 3.9 million first doses and more than 2.9 million second doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. There have been more than 231,000 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine administered.
As more people are vaccinated, the number of Massachusetts cities and towns considered at high risk for coronavirus transmission has shrunk to just six, the fifth consecutive week the number has fallen, state health officials say.
There were 13 communities on the list a week ago, and 26 the previous week. It peaked at 229 in mid-January.
The communities that remain at high risk according to state Department of Public Health data released Thursday are Edgartown, New Bedford, Acushnet, Taunton, Lowell and Lawrence. Brockton dropped to moderate risk after spending much of the pandemic in the high-risk zone.
"The city has been devastated by COVID but it now appears that we are starting to head in the right direction," Mayor Robert F. Sullivan said in a statement. ``I strongly encourage all residents to get vaccinated and to continue to follow the guidance of public health officials in order to return to normal as safely and quickly as possible."
According to the DPH, 3,175,284 Bay State residents had been fully vaccinated as of Saturday. Gov. Charlie Baker is aiming to reach 4.1 million fully vaccinated by the beginning of June.
Baker said in a tweet Friday that he'll update the state's reopening plans early next week. Baker's comments came a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance saying that fully vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear masks indoors or out in most situations.
"The (at)CDCgov guidance is great news. We will be updating our reopening plans early next week,'' the Republican tweeted. "Massachusetts is on track to vaccinate more than 4 million residents soon. Please stay safe while we prepare next steps to return to our new normal.''
Two weeks ago, Massachusetts began to ease up on mask requirements by allowing residents to go maskless in outdoor public settings as long as they could continue to socially distance from others. Face coverings are still required at all times in indoor public places, including stores. Store owners can still refuse entry to any customer who won't put on a mask.
Face coverings also continue to be required at all times at events, whether held indoors or outdoors and whether held in a public space or private home, except when eating or drinking.
Under the state's existing reopening timetable, beginning May 29, street festivals, parades and agricultural festivals will be allowed to open at 50% of their previous capacity, and bars, beer gardens, breweries, wineries and distilleries will be subject to restaurant rules with seated service only, a 90-minute limit and no dance floors.
Beginning Aug. 1, other businesses will be allowed to open, including nightclubs, indoor water parks, ball pits, saunas, hot tubs, steam rooms at fitness centers and health clubs.