Number of high-risk communities rises sharply
Boston goes red, Nantucket stays red, Lawrence loses ground
THE NUMBER of communities considered high risk for COVID-19 increased sharply on Wednesday, with Boston, Lowell, Haverhill, North Andover, and Springfield joining the group for the first time; Nantucket cementing its position as a hotspot, and Lawrence continuing to lose ground.
Overall, 21 communities were listed as high-risk, the highest number since the Baker administration began doing community-by-community comparisons in August. A high-risk, or red, community is one with 8 or more cases per 100,000 residents over the last two weeks. There were 15 red communities last week, and the number hovered between 8 and 13 the previous four weeks.
The state as a whole also saw its per capita rate rise from 4.9 last week to 5.7 on Wednesday, the highest level since the metric was first used in August. The Baker administration defines any rate between 4 and 8 as moderate risk (identified in yellow on the map the state releases), but the governor at a press conference on Tuesday dispensed with the moderate risk category and lumped it in with low risk categories of less than 4 (green) or less than 5 cases in total (gray).
This week’s red list includes regulars like Chelsea (18.8), Lawrence (25.4), Revere (17.6), Everett (13.2), Framingham (11.1), Lynn (10.1), Winthrop (8.0), and Worcester (8.3).
Newcomers this week included Attleboro (9.3), Boston (8.5), Haverhill (14), Lowell (10.9), Middleton (12.5), North Andover (26.2, the highest rate this week), and Springfield (8.3).
The red designation became more significant this week, when Gov. Charlie Baker issued an executive order allowing all communities except those considered high-risk to move on to the next step of the state’s reopening plan, which allows, among other things, indoor venues to reopen with a maximum audience of 250. To move on to the next step, called Phase 3, Step 2, a community currently listed as red would have to move out and stay out of the high-risk category for three straight weeks.
While Gov. Charlie Baker said on Tuesday that Boston was likely to become a high-risk community because it is home to colleges and hospitals where coronavirus flareups are likely, Mayor Marty Walsh on Wednesday blamed the problem primarily on irresponsible behavior.
“I do get frustrated because here we are today laying down millions of dollars to open school, we have businesses on the verge of bankruptcy, we have restaurants that need to open up, we have arts venues that need to open up, we have people that have to come back to work and we’re in the process of [being] concerned about do we have to shut everything down again because 25 here, 25 there, 25 people over here decided to get together and have a party and raise the number in Boston to get us to the red point,” the mayor said., according to State House News Service. “That’s irresponsible, so I guess I can say I am frustrated and I’m concerned.”
Lawrence has been red since the Baker administration began using that metric. It started at 10 cases per 100,000 in August and rose, with some ups and downs, to its highest level yet – 25.4 – on Wednesday.
Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera signed an executive order this week requiring restaurants and most retail establishments to close by 10 p.m. and prohibiting restaurants from serving parties greater than six and from seating customers at the bar. The governor had loosened restrictions on dining groups, enlarging the number to 10, and allowed eating at bars.Saugus, Tyngsboro, and Wrentham, which were listed as red communities last week, moved into the yellow category this week. To move into the next phase of the state’s reopening plan, they will have to remain in one of the lower-risk categories for the next two weeks.
Any lower-risk community that moves on to the next step in the state’s reopening plan, which begins on Monday, and then sees its case rate push it into the high-risk category would have to move back a step on the reopening plan.