BOSTON (WWLP/SHNS) – Sixteen Massachusetts cities and towns remain in the highest risk designation even after the number fell dramatically due to the Department of Public Health’s rollout of a new measurement system Friday.
This new system is designed to help cities and towns determine if they need to close down certain businesses or briefly shut down schools to get the virus under control. But some people worry the changes in the map could be confusing.
“It’s hard to plan and prepare when you don’t know what the mandate or what the numbers are or what the stats are on any given day,” said Joanne Skala of Agawam. “You want to be cautious, you want to take the right steps to protect yourself and even your community.”
Brockton, Chelsea, Everett, Fall River, Fitchburg, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, Methuen, New Bedford, Norfolk, Revere, Seekonk, Somerset, Springfield, and Westport again landed in the red when DPH updated its weekly report. Note that Springfield is currently the only western Massachusetts city listed in red.
In yellow are Agawam, Chicopee, East Longmeadow, Holyoke, Longmeadow, Ludlow, Palmer, West Springfield, West Springfield, Westfield, and Wilbraham.
Amherst, Belchertown, Easthampton, Northampton, Pittsfield, South Hadley, and Southwick are listed as green, meaning those areas are at lower-risk for COVID-19 spread.
The report released Friday indicates that the areas listed in red had more than 25 cases if the community has a population smaller than 10,000; had at least 10 cases per 100,000 and a positivity rate of at least 5 percent if the population is between 10,000 and 50,000; or had at least 10 cases per 100,000 and a positivity rate of at least 4 percent if the population is greater than 50,000.
The new system takes population and positive test rates into account rather than just the cases per 100,000 figure that featured in the old model, a change that Baker administration officials said better captures granular changes at the local level and prevents small communities from quickly escalating through the risk levels based on a small number of confirmed cases.
The change also significantly slashes the outlook: last week, 121 communities were in the red, but nearly 85 percent of those were reassigned into green or yellow this week.
The statewide incidence rate climbed to 13.3 in Friday’s update, higher than last week’s, but now falls in the yellow rather than the red because the average positive test rate over the past two weeks is 1.84 percent, health officials said.