New Mass. COVID Reporting Guidelines: Here's What to Know

The state made a number of changes to its coronavirus reporting and restrictions this week

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Last week, 121 communities in Massachusetts were considered at the highest-risk of COVID-19 spread, according to data from Gov. Charlie Baker's office.

On Friday, 105 communities were removed from that list as part of new reporting guidelines.

The move comes as the state's COVID risk map has been changed for the third time in as many weeks. The new data accounts for population size and puts just 16 Massachusetts communities in the red category that signifies high risk for COVID-19 transmission, officials said. That's a drastic change from 121, which accounted for one third of all the state's cities and towns.

Those 16 communities are: Brockton, Chelsea, Everett, Fall River, Fitchburg, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, Methuen, New Bedford, Norfolk, Revere, Seekonk, Somerset, Springfield and Westport.

Here's a quick summary of what you need to know about the latest changes to the state's COVID-19 reporting and guidelines:

  • To qualify for the red category under the new metrics, communities with populations under 10,000 must have more than 25 cases. For communities with between 10,000 and 50,000 people, they must have an average of more than 10 cases per 100,000 people and a positive test rate of more than 5%. For larger communities of greater than 50,000 people, they must have more than 10 cases per 100,000 people and a positive test rate of more than 4%.
  • Schools are expected to go remote only if their community is in red, though control is ultimately left up to local officials. Even red schools are expected to pursue a hybrid model with the possibility of in-person learning for the students with the highest needs.
  • The Department of Public Health is no longer including a map in it's weekly COVID risk report. An official said that the map is no longer seen as being as helpful as it once was, now that coronavirus cases are being seen in most communities.
  • The new stay-at-home advisory implemented Friday is in effect from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., with residents urged to stay home except if they need to go to work, for a walk or to the grocery store or to pick up medicine.
  • Restaurants are now required to stop providing table service at 9:30 p.m., although they can continue to offer carry out after that time. Liquor sales at restaurants and package stores will also shut down at 9:30 p.m.
  • The governor also reduced the limit on indoor gatherings to 10 people and outdoor gatherings to 25 people. All gatherings regardless of size must end and disperse by 9:30 p.m.
  • Fines for violating the gathering order will be $500 for each person above the limit. The new rules give local governments more tools to end informal gatherings that violate the rules.
  • California has been added to the Massachusetts quarantine list, the Department of Public Health announced Friday. Under Massachusetts' travel order, state health officials will begin considering California at higher risk for travel starting Saturday. Those entering Massachusetts from there are required to quarantine for 24 hours.
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