New data shed more light on source of coronavirus clusters around Mass.

Of the 28 COVID-19 clusters linked to child care from Sept. 27 through Oct. 24, just 70 confirmed infections were identified, along with 253 close contacts that required additional tracing and testing.

Similarly, just 70 confirmed cases were identified from 19 clusters in restaurants and food courts, the data show.

In posting the new data, Massachusetts joins a handful of other states that are sharing such information.

Health departments in some states, including Louisiana, post reports from their contact-tracing programs that specify the businesses, schools, or other facilities where outbreaks are occurring. Others, such as Vermont and Colorado, post the occupations, industries, or settings — such as bars, casinos, or food processing plants — with the highest number or percentages of infections in their states.

Massachusetts’ new data show 2,707 clusters involving 6,830 new cases linked to households. That accounts for about a third of all the new infections in the past month.

“A large amount of transmission is occurring in households, a place where people let their guard down and feel safe,” said Tory Mazzola, a spokesman for the state’s coronavirus command center. ”It’s critical that residents are aware of this and — especially those living in multi-generational homes or with family members who have underlying conditions — take precautions even in their home, such as wearing a mask, washing hands and not sharing utensils, as a few examples.”

Carlene Pavlos, executive director of the Massachusetts Public Health Association, said the household data leaves too many unanswered questions.

“What we really want to understand is how is the spread getting into the community,” she said. “Residents living in the same household, we know they are likely to spread it to each other.”

Earlier this week, Governor Charlie Baker said workplace infections are not driving the state’s surge in cases, but the new data suggests that’s an open question.

The data do not identify whether the cases and clusters identified in nursing homes, hospitals, and other health care settings are among workers or patients. But it does show that about 16 percent of the confirmed cases linked to clusters in the past month are from various sites, including health care, restaurants, retail stores, and other settings.

As the holidays approach, Baker has urged residents to be cautious about social gatherings, but the new data suggest those gatherings are not necessarily fueling the latest surge in coronavirus infections.

The new numbers show 11 new clusters traced to social gatherings in the last month. Yet those clusters accounted for just 67 new confirmed cases, along with 50 other people considered close contacts who may have been infected.

“Clearly that is not what is driving this latest spike of over 1,000 new cases a day,” Pavlos said.

Kay Lazar can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKayLazar.

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Newsom tells Calif. to not expect ‘mass availability’ of vaccine until 2021

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday under the best-case scenario, an extremely limited supply of a COVID-19 vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration will be available by November or December, countering President Donald Trump’s repeated assurance to the American people that a vaccine could be widely available before the year’s end.

Newsom expects California to receive 1 to 2 million doses in the first vaccine delivery, and this would be the amount needed to inoculate people working in the health care system.

A major inoculation effort — where anyone could go to their local pharmacy for a vaccine — is highly unlikely until next year, he said.

“It is simply unrealistic,” said Newsom. “We don’t anticipate mass availability until 2021.”

The governor said the big question now is whether vaccines will be widely available in the first, second or third quarter of 2021.

Newsom also announced at his regular Monday press briefing the state has created a task force made up of 11 scientists to conduct an independent medical review of the safety of any FDA-approved vaccine before administering it to Californians.

“We don’t take anyone’s word for it,” said Newsom, noting that experts on the review committee hail from top universities such as UC Berkeley and Stanford.

The state is 1 of 5 jurisdictions to submit an advance plan for vaccine distribution and as a result received $29 million from the federal government, the governor said. Under the state plan, the first phase of vaccine distribution would prioritize high-risk individuals including health care workers, seniors age 65-plus and long-term care, essential workers, those with disabilities, racial and ethnic minority groups, rural populations and incarcerated and detained individuals.

The state is also preparing to procure and distribute vaccine supplies such as syringes, alcohol pads and bandages. Other pieces of the plan look at vaccine storage that requires cold conditions, data management and public education.

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Mass. reports 827 new confirmed coronavirus cases, 15 new deaths

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases climbed by 827 on Monday, bringing the total to 141,474, the Department of Public Health reported Monday.

The death toll from confirmed cases rose by 15 to 9,532.

State officials also reported that 17,654 more people had been tested for coronavirus, bringing the total to more than 2.53 million. The number of administered tests climbed to more than 5.23 million. New antibody tests were completed for 186 people, bringing that total to 124,340.

The seven-day average of positive tests per total tests administered, was at 1.2 percent. The lowest observed figure for that metric — a number watched closely by state officials — is 0.8 percent.

The state also offers on its dashboard a different measure of test positivity: daily positive tests per people tested. That number was 2.9 percent. Some experts have suggested that positive tests per people tested is a better measure of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the three-day average of hospitalized coronavirus patients dropped slightly from 499 to 494. The lowest that metric has been is 302.

The number of hospitals using surge capacity was zero, and the three-day average of deaths from confirmed cases was 18; the lowest that number has been is nine.

The number of new cases announced Monday was the highest single-day total since late May.

The seven-day average of daily coronavirus cases also climbed to 649 on Monday, the highest it’s been since late May. The average bottomed out at 138 on July 5.

Dr. Marc Lipsitch, a professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said Massachusetts was “certainly in better shape” than many other states.

“That’s because of a very relatively cautious approach to reopening and aggressive efforts to contact trace and otherwise reduce transmission” such as by stepped-up testing in hot spots, he said in a media briefing Monday.

But Lipsitch said, “We are going to have the same challenges as everybody else.”

As the weather gets worse, he said, it will be harder to socialize outdoors and people will be driven indoors. People are also getting weary of pandemic restrictions.

He said, “All of these things are real and understandable . . . It’s just that they will lead to more virus transmission.”

Governor Charlie Baker has acknowledged an increase in cases, but has said the state is prepared to deal with them.

The latest data from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, which is looking for traces of the virus in wastewater at the Deer Island treatment plant, also adds to a picture of a state that got the virus under control over the summer but has seen it creeping back upward since.

This chart shows the results of tests looking for traces of coronavirus in the wastewater at the Deer Island treatment plant.
This chart shows the results of tests looking for traces of coronavirus in the wastewater at the Deer Island treatment plant.MWRA

Martin finucane can be reached at [email protected] John Hilliard can be reached at [email protected]

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