Another 252 people in Massachusetts have died after testing positive for the new coronavirus, making Wednesday the state's deadliest day yet in the pandemic, as the total number of confirmed cases topped 60,000.
The death toll rose to 3,405 as of Wednesday, according to the Department of Public Health. Another 1,963 people tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, bringing the total to 60,265.
The numbers are one key factor in when Gov. Charlie Baker will begin to ease the restrictions on movement and businesses in Massachusetts. He has repeatedly said he's waiting to see a distinct downward trend in the number of people testing positive before he can start to reopen the state.
"We have not yet seen the downward trend that virtually every analyst, public health expert and CDC official has said is a critical part of moving to reopen," Baker said earlier Wednesday as he defended his decision to extend Massachusetts' stay-at-home advisory through May 18.
The numbers reported Wednesday don't appear to show anything conclusive -- and officials have warned against reading into data from one or several days.
While it's the highest number of deaths in Massachusetts reported in a single day, the deaths were reported over several prior days, so it's unclear what the trend shows.
The number of people who tested positive for COVID-19 was higher than the prior three days, but more tests were conducted as well, meaning roughly the same percentage of people who were tested were infected.
The percentage of people with the coronavirus who are in the hospital ticked down Wednesday, to 6%, continuing a slow decline over the past week. But 48% of the hospital beds in the state are occupied, slightly higher than a week ago.
The numbers will be considered by an advisory board working to deliver a report on how to reopen Massachusetts' economy to the governor by May 18.
Coronavirus Infection Rates in Mass. Cities and Towns
For weeks, Massachusetts had more coronavirus cases than almost every state in the nation. On Wednesday, as the nationwide death toll topped 60,000, the commonwealth had the third-highest death toll and fourth-highest number of cases, according to NBC News.
Baker and other health officials have said that may be due in part to a strong commitment to testing -- over 260,000 tests have been conducted as of Wednesday, according to the Department of Health.
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While Middlesex County has the most deaths in Massachusetts, with 802, Hampden County has its highest death rate, 75 per 100,000 residents. That's followed by Norfolk (68 per 100,000), Suffolk (62 per 100,000) and Essex (53 per 100,000) counties.
Middlesex County continues to have the most coronavirus cases, with 13,799, followed by Suffolk at 12,539, Essex at 8,380 and Norfolk at 5,700. But Suffolk County leads the way in terms of cases per capita, with 1,544 cases per 100,000 residents. No other county has more than 1,050 cases per 100,000.