BOSTON (State House News Service) — For the fourth consecutive day Sunday, Massachusetts public health officials reported fewer new cases of COVID-19 than they had the previous day, though the total caseload now hovers just below 78,000 and the state's COVID-19 death toll is just shy of 5,000.
The Department of Public Health reported 1,050 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, just the third day since April 1 that the state has reported fewer than 1,100 new cases of the virus. The total case count since Feb. 1, when the first positive case was confirmed, now stands at 77,793.
DPH also announced the recent deaths of 139 people due to the coronavirus-caused disease, raising the total of fatalities in Massachusetts to 4,979 individuals. In less than two months, COVID-19 has now killed more than twice as many people in Massachusetts as died of drug overdoses in Massachusetts in all of 2017, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
Gov. Charlie Baker has said the data will dictate when and how the Massachusetts economy can restart. He's said repeatedly that he wants to see consistent positive trends out of key data points, including the number of new cases, the percentage of tests that come back positive, the number of people being treated for the virus in Massachusetts hospitals and the number of deaths the virus causes.
The 1,050 new cases of COVID-19 were identified through 11,852 tests conducted during the 24-hour reporting period, meaning that the percentage of tests that come back positive dropped to 9 percent in Sunday's report. After remaining above 20 percent for most of April, that percentage has hung in the low teens most days so far in May.
Data on COVID-19 hospitalizations also showed relatively encouraging signs in Sunday's DPH report. After plateauing at around 3,850 patients, the number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Massachusetts has been on the decline for the last few days.
As of Sunday's report, there were 3,128 people hospitalized with COVID-19 -- a decrease of 101 patients from Saturday's report and a decrease of almost 500 from May 1. The number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Massachusetts has declined 10 of the last 13 days.
The number of patients in an intensive care unit also dropped Sunday, from 814 at the time of Saturday's report to 810, DPH said.
Baker's latest extension of his essential work order and stay-at-home advisory is due to expire a week from Monday and a reopening advisory panel led by Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito has been busy meeting virtually with people from various industries to try to establish the framework for a safe reopening.
It's unclear, though, just how much the state will reopen on May 18. Though Baker has eased restrictions on golf courses, car dealerships and certain retailers, he has also stressed that May 18 is merely a deadline for Polito's task force to make recommendations and that he will not allow anything to reopen unless the data tell him it is safe to do so.
By Colin A. Young, State House News Service