Number of high-risk communities doubles

Lawrence spirals while state nears red zone

THE NUMBER of Massachusetts communities considered high-risk for COVID-19 nearly doubled over the last week and the state as a whole moved much closer to the high-risk designation.

The state’s weekly breakdown of COVID-19 activity suggested the situation in Lawrence is spinning out of control, as the average daily case rate over the last two weeks rose to a high of 35.2 per 100,000 people. Lawrence has been on the state’s red list of municipalities – those with 8 or more cases per 100,000 people – since the state first began releasing the data in August.

The only community higher this week was Middleton, where the rate hit 58.1 per 100,000 people after an outbreak at the Middleton Jail and House of Correction where 139 inmates and 33 staff members tested positive. North Andover was at 34.5 per 100,000 people in its second week on the red list and Nantucket came in at 23.3 in its fourth week on the list.

The number of red communities jumped from 21 a week ago to 40. Newcomers to the red list included Amherst (16.8), Brockton (8.9 cases), Holyoke (10.7), Plymouth (9.3), Waltham (9.2), and Woburn (9.1). Other newcomers were Acushnet, Chelmsford, Dudley, Dartmouth, Hudson, Kingston, Leicester, Malden, Randolph, Southborough, Southbridge, Sunderland, and Webster.

Boston remained on the list for the second week in a row, moving up from 8.5 last week to 10 this week. Worcester, 8.3 last week, rose to 10. Springfield went from 8.3 to 14.6. And Lowell went from 10.9 to 16.3.

Other regulars on the red list included Chelsea (22.4), Everett (19.3), Haverhill (20), and Revere (17.8). Framingham was at 12.8 and Lynn hits its lowest level in weeks at 9.8.

For the state as a whole, the average daily case rate  per 100,000 people rose from 5.7 a week ago to 7.3 this week. Massachusetts was at 4 cases per 100,000 people in late August.

Cases per 100,000 people is one of the metrics the state uses to determine whether travelers from other states can visit Massachusetts without quarantining or first testing positive. The limit for other states is 6 cases per 100,000, so Massachusetts is well above that.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

The other metric used by Massachusetts is positive cases as a percentage of all tests. The limit with that metric is 5 percent. Massachusetts on Wednesday was at 1.1 percent.

Seventy-eight communities were listed in the so-called yellow, or moderate risk, category, which includes municipalities with between 4 and 8 cases per 100,000 people. Those on the border of turning red, meaning rates of 7 cases or more per 100,000 people, included Burlington (7.5), Clinton (7.1), East Bridgewater (7.7), Fall River (7.3), Holbrook (7.6), Lynnfield (7.4), Medway (7.6), Milford (7.8), Milton (7.5), Raynham (7.2), Saugus (7.5), Stoughton (7.0), Tewksbury (7.9), and Walpole (7.4).