Most of Mass. now in ‘red’ over spread of COVID-19

COVID-19

Only three counties are not at a “high” community level as designated by the CDC.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The US Centers for Disease Control has issued the majority of Massachusetts counties with “high” community COVID levels, up from half of all counties designated as such last week.

Suffolk, Middlesex, Norfolk, Worcester, Franklin and Berkshire counties remained in the red, or at a “high” community level, an updated CDC map shows Thursday.

Barnstable, Dukes, Nantucket, Essex and Plymouth counties all hit the “high” level this week, while Bristol, Hampshire and Hampden counties were designated “medium.” No county is currently in a “low” tier.

The community levels are intended to help prevent strain on the health care system by providing communities and individuals with contextualized virus risk to help them make decisions.

The CDC combines three metrics to determine the levels: new COVID hospital admissions per 100,000 population in the last seven days; the percentage of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID patients; and new cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last week, according to the agency.

Cases and hospitalizations have steadily increased in the Bay State in recent weeks.

On Thursday, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health reported 5,576 new cases, 16 newly reported deaths and 728 hospitalized patients.

People residing in “high” communities should wear a “well-fitting” mask when in public places, regardless of vaccination status, according to the CDC. The agency also advises people to “maintain enhanced ventilation in all interior spaces where possible.”

People who are immunocompromised or at high risk for severe illness should wear a mask or respirator that offers stronger protection and should consider avoiding nonessential indoor activities, among other guidelines, the CDC says.

At the broader community level, the CDC is also recommending that cities and towns issue “setting-specific” guidance to help prevent the spread of the virus, as one of several steps officials could take.

Material from a previous Boston.com report was used in this story.

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