Massachusetts health officials reported 2,213 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 61 more deaths on Thursday.
There have now been totals of 523,258 confirmed cases and 14,964 deaths in the Bay State, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Another 305 deaths are considered probably linked to COVID-19.
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 percentage of coronavirus tests coming back positive, on average, fell to 2.65% from 2.82%. That's down from around 7% in mid-January.
The number of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 decreased to 1,313. Of that number, 304 were listed as being in intensive care units and 185 were intubated, according to health officials.
The number of estimated active cases declined to 50,344 from 52,372 on Wednesday.
With the state's COVID-19 vaccine rollout still early in its second phase, Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday urged residents to seek the immunization when it is their turn even if they previously contracted the virus.
Baker, who faced sharp criticism Thursday from Cape Cod officials frustrated by vaccine distribution, touted the vaccine's protection against new strains of the virus that have been spreading in the United States in recent weeks.
Many health care providers, including those in communities of color that have been hardest hit, have recounted conversations with patients who believe that they are immune after recovering from COVID-19, Baker said.
"This is just not true," Baker told reporters after touring the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center. "You really should get vaccinated because, as COVID morphs into different variants, all those variants so far, based on the testing that's been done on the vaccines indicates, are effective. That's not necessarily going to be true if you just had COVID yourself."
His recommendation aligns with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's outlook. Although the federal health agency notes that reinfection appears uncommon in the first 90 days after contracting COVID-19, it emphasizes that experts do not yet have a consensus on how long that protection lasts.
Immunity developed from an infection can vary person-to-person, the CDC says on its vaccine FAQ website, and "some early evidence suggests natural immunity may not last very long."