Mass. Coronavirus Death Toll Rises by 29 as 356 More Cases Are Confirmed

The number of coronavirus tests coming back positive, on average, is at 2%, up from 1.7% earlier this week.

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Another 29 people with the new coronavirus have died and 356 new cases were confirmed Wednesday, public health officials said, as the state monitors a slight uptick in key virus metrics.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has now confirmed 8,360 deaths and 109,096 cases. The percentage of coronavirus tests coming back positive, on average, is at 2%, up from 1.7% earlier this week. The last time the rate was at 2% was June 25.

Wednesday's newly confirmed cases includes some that were "assigned retrospectively to the appropriate date of test" after a hospital group's reporting error, a note in the report said.

There are an additional 146 probable cases listed in the department's daily COVID-19 report for Wednesday, adding to a total of 7,588 probable cases that have not yet been confirmed. The report listed one death 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 roughly 90% lower.

But as new coronavirus clusters appear and planning for the resumption of classes 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.

The Topsfield Fair was canceled Wednesday over safety concerns connected to the virus.

Other states have been contending with massive new outbreaks that are straining their systems and prompting new shutdowns. Gov. Charlie 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.

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