25 New Coronavirus Deaths, 226 New Cases Reported in Mass.

Key metrics for the state's continued reopening remain low

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Massachusetts reported 25 new coronavirus deaths and 226 total cases on Thursday.

Nearly 8,000 people have now died of COVID-19 in the state, according to the Department of Public Health. Thursday's deaths bring the total to 7,963. Overall, there have been 107,837 cases in Massachusetts since the beginning of the pandemic.

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 continue to hold steady, with half in a positive trend and half "in progress" since June 5.

The 7-day average of positive tests is down 94% since mid-April, and the 3-day average of COVID-19 deaths is down 86%.

The number of coronavirus patients hospitalized in Massachusetts has dropped from over 1,000 just days ago to 822. Only 174 patients are in intensive care.

"Massachusetts continues to see encouraging public health data to support our gradual and phased reopening," Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday. "We'll obviously keep monitoring this information every day."

The second step of Phase 2 of the state's 4-phased reopening plan went into effect on Monday. It allows indoor dining to begin, increases capacity at offices from 25% to 50% and allows retailers to open fitting rooms, though by appointment only.

Also on Thursday, state officials released guidelines outlining what school might look like for teachers and students in the fall.

A memo released Thursday outlined expected safety protocols at schools. Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley instructed educators to prepare for three possible scenarios: A full-scale return to school, a mix of in-person and remote learning or exclusive remote learning.

The guidance calls for students in the second grade and up -- as well as adults -- to wear masks or face coverings and maintain physical distance. Desks should be a minimum of three feet apart but ideally six feet apart. Students will also likely have to eat breakfast and lunch in their classrooms.

For months, Massachusetts has been one of the epicenters of COVID-19 in the U.S. It has the sixth-most cases among all states -- surpassed this week by Florida -- and the third-most deaths. Baker and other health officials have said Massachusetts' high tallies may be due to the state testing among the most residents per capita in the country.

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