For the first time in months, state officials on Tuesday reported zero new deaths in Massachusetts due to the deadly coronavirus pandemic, an encouraging sign that stood in stark contrast with other states nationwide that have seen recent spikes in their numbers.
The Department of Public Health also said it was decreasing the official total of coronavirus deaths in the state due to “ongoing data cleaning which identifies and removes duplicate reports.” On Monday, the running tally of confirmed and probable deaths was 8,095; that number dropped to 8,054 on Tuesday.
A state official said the startling decline in the daily death count to zero was unrelated to the data cleanup.
The first Massachusetts death due to coronavirus was reported on Friday, March 20.
The number of deaths announced, which reflects the number reported to the state as of 10 a.m. each day, can swing dramatically from day to day. On Friday, the number was 50, on Saturday it was 28, on Sunday it was 19, and on Monday it was 35.
And although the metric might appear uplifting, officials have warned residents not to let their guard down against the virus — especially as the state heads into July 4th weekend. At a news conference earlier Tuesday, Governor Charlie Baker urged people to continue wearing face coverings, washing their hands, and practice social distancing.
“We do not want to take one step forward and two steps back as we keep climbing out of this horrific pandemic,” Baker said.
Meanwhile, the state also reported 114 new coronavirus cases — 73 confirmed and 41 probable — in Massachusetts, bringing that total tally to 108,882.
The state also reported that 5,813 new individuals had been given the coronavirus test, bringing the total number of individuals tested to 842,960. The total number of molecular tests that have been administered rose to 1,066,060.
The state also reported that new antibody tests had been completed for 918 people, bringing that total to 71,686.
Meanwhile, all four key metrics that the state is monitoring to determine the pace of reopening fell, according to Tuesday’s report.
The seven-day weighted average of positive test rates decreased slightly from 1.9 percent on Sunday to 1.8 percent on Monday. It has dropped 94 percent since April 15.
The three-day average of the number of patients hospitalized for the coronavirus also fell slightly on Monday to 748, down from from 760 a day earlier. It has dropped 79 percent since April 15.
The number of hospitals using surge capacity also dropped to one on Monday. That number is down from a high of more than 20 in early May, and has seen a 95 percent decrease since April 15.
A fourth metric, the three-day average of confirmed COVID-19 deaths by date of fatality — rather than the date reported — also fell slightly, from 18 on Friday to 16 on Saturday. It has dropped 89 percent since April 15.
Earlier Tuesday, Baker touted the state’s performance on the numbers reported Monday, particularly the metrics that are being monitored for reopening, and announced that he was relaxing the travel rules for people visiting the state from seven nearby states.
“Our public health information continues to show a downward trend in our key metrics,” Baker said. “This obviously represents solid progress as we head into July, and will continue to influence when and how we move into the next phases of reopening the Commonwealth.”
However, he warned that “COVID-19 will not be taking a summer vacation,” and pointed to other states that have seen an alarming spike in numbers recently.
“As we’ve all seen, several other states are seeing sharp increases in new cases and hospitalizations, which is a very real reminder to all of us just how contagious this virus can be,” he said.
Indeed, states like Florida, Arizona, Texas, and California have either paused or walked back reopening measures, such as closing or clamping down on bars, shutting beaches, and rolling back restaurant capacity, among other measures.
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With newly reported infections running at around 40,000 a day in the United States, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, warned Tuesday that the number could rocket to 100,000 if Americans don’t start following public health recommendations.
“Clearly, we are not in total control right now,” Fauci said during testimony at a Senate hearing that focused on reopening, citing recent news clips that showed some people congregating in crowds, often without masks. “We’re going to continue to be in a lot of trouble and there’s going to be a lot of hurt if that does not stop.”
While the drop in the number of announced deaths in Massachusetts was encouraging, models suggest there is still heartbreak ahead. A University of Massachusetts released Tuesday model estimated that the coronavirus death toll in the state will reach 8,505 by July 25.
The UMass estimate comes from a lab headed by UMass Amherst associate professor Nicholas Reich that collects various coronavirus pandemic models and develops a combined, or ensemble, forecast that is intended to reflect their collective wisdom.
Reich’s lab releases the ensemble forecast weekly. It only creates the forecast for a four-week window ahead because it believes forecasts aren’t reliable enough after that. Last week, the model estimated there would be 8,389 deaths tallied by July 18.
Reich’s lab posts its national- and state-level data at the Reich Lab COVID-19 Forecast Hub. The lab, already an Influenza Forecasting Center of Excellence, collaborates with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on coronavirus predictions.
The lab also feeds the data it has collected and its ensemble forecast to the agency, which posts the data on its own website. The data is also used to feed the fivethirtyeight.com website.
The closely-watched University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation model, looking further into the future, offered a bleaker vision, predicting that Massachusetts will see as many as 10,154 deaths by Oct. 1, with a possible range of outcomes from 9,480 to 11,402 deaths.
The latest UMass ensemble model also predicts the United States as a whole will see a cumulative total of 147,865 deaths in the next four weeks. Last week it put the four-week number at 139,276. The current US death toll is over 126,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Source: BOSTON GLOBE