Massachusetts health officials reported 1,316 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 46 more deaths on Sunday, as the percentage of coronavirus tests coming back positive, on average, dipped below 2%.
There have now been totals of 539,644 confirmed cases and 15,508 deaths in the Bay State, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Another 318 deaths are considered probably linked to COVID-19.
On Sunday, the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus topped 500,000, according to an NBC News tally — a milestone that underscores the grave threat the virus still poses nationwide even as more Americans get vaccinated.
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 seven-day average of percent positivity ticked down to 1.86% on Sunday, after being at 2.02% on Saturday.
The number of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 fell again, dropping to 927, from 970 on Saturday. Of that number, 234 were listed as being in intensive care units and 153 were intubated, according to health officials.
The number of estimated active cases declined to 35,874 from 36,316 in Saturday's report.
The report comes one day before Natick Mall is set to open as the state's newest mass vaccination site, joining four others already up and running for residents eligible to receive their shots.
The Natick site, served by LabCorp, will plan to start giving around 500 doses of the vaccine a day. Eventually, officials there hope to administer about 3,000 doses a day.
The Natick Mall joins Gillette Stadium, Fenway Park, the DoubleTree in Danvers and the Eastfield Mall in Springfield as the mass vaccination sites open in the state thus far. The former Circuit City in Dartmouth is slated to open on Feb. 24.
Mass vaccination sites currently account for about half of the appointments available, according to the state's vaccine finder website.
More on COVID-19 in Massachusetts:
Also Monday, the University of Massachusetts is planning to return to in-person classes Monday after a previous surge in COVID-19 cases led the school to pause campus instruction for two weeks.
University officials say recent restrictions have helped reduce the spread of COVID-19, allowing the school to decrease its risk level from "high'' to "elevated.'' The decision was made with input from the state's Department of Public Health, according to a Friday message from Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy.
Students will be allowed to attend classes on campus as long as they comply with requirements to be tested for COVID-19 twice a week. Sports teams will be allowed to resume practices and away competitions, but there will be no home games until mid-March.
Subbaswamy warned that students will be barred from holding unauthorized gatherings of any size, adding that small gatherings without masks and social distancing were "a significant cause'' of the recent surge.