Doctors are expressing concerns about the growing number of cases in Massachusetts, as 77 cities and towns are considered at high risk for the spread of the coronavirus.
Fourteen communities were added Thursday to the state’s list of towns and villages considered most at risk of transmitting COVID-19, according to the latest weekly community-level data on the pandemic.
“We should be concerned. This is not good data to see,” said Dr Joshua Barocas. “It’s not a blip. We can kind of say for sure now that we’re on a very strong uptrend in the number of cases.”
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Massachusetts reached the highest risk level last week, judging by the average of all communities statewide. Barocas, an assistant professor of medicine at Boston University, believes COVID-related fatigue is partly responsible for the recent spike.
The 77 towns and villages, now shaded in red on the city-by-city risk assessment map, show a 22% increase from last week. There were 63 communities on this map, which included data from September 27 to October 27. 10, an increase of 23 communities from the previous week.
This week’s report from the Department of Public Health has been redesigned to include data on isolated outbreaks for the first time. The updated report shows clusters of coronavirus in institutions like prisons, colleges and nursing homes, which have already pushed communities into this red zone.
“It is important that there is a cluster anywhere, because clusters are an opportunity for the spread of disease,” said Dr. David Rosman, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society.
Rosman added that just because there’s an epidemic on a college campus, for example, doesn’t mean the rest of the community is in the clear.
“Young adults in a college setting can go to the local store, to the local restaurant, and so their presence in a city matters, it really matters because no one ties them to their campus,” Rosman said.
Massachusetts now has 77 communities where the risk of transmission of COVID-19 is high. That’s 14 more communities than what was listed in last week’s coronavirus risk map.
Some of the small towns in Massachusetts took issue with being ranked on the basis of cases per capita.
They said that when a city has only a few thousand inhabitants, an outbreak in a single household can turn it red, which is determined by 8 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 population.
But Dr Vibha Sharma, who specializes in infectious diseases at UMass Memorial Marlborough Hospital, said: “Even though it is a cluster, it could expose other people in this same town.”
Read this week’s full report here, with percent positive community data, county and state level data and more.