Brampton’s coronavirus positivity rate more than double national average; B.C. cases soar over the weekend

For more on today’s top stories and the spread of the novel coronavirus across the country, please refer to our live updates below throughout the day, as well as our COVID-19 news hub.

‘Concerning’ number of cases over the weekend in B.C.

Dr. Réka Gustafson, British Columbia’s deputy provincial health officer, said the province is dealing with a “concerning” number of COVID-19 cases, after 1,120 new cases were reported over a three-day period.

She said the most common places of transmission are private “uncontrolled” gatherings in a private residence, with too many many and no safety protocols in place.

Health minister Adrian Dix recognized that it can be incredibly frustrating for British Columbians who are following the public health rules to see individuals who aren’t doing the same, specifically after reports of large crowds of people on Halloween.

“We’re facing COVID-19 for a long time to come, for months and months and months and months and month and months and months to come,” Dix said. “We need to follow public health guidance and public health advice.”

The health minister said it’s even more important to follow the rules in the winter months, compared to summer, and suggested that upcoming holiday gatherings will have to be virtual this year.

Dr. Gustafson also spoke about the federal COVID Alert app and why B.C. hasn’t adopted it yet. She said it was carefully reviewed with contact tracers in the province and the information that the app provides wouldn’t have any “additional benefit.”

“It isn’t able to notify and tell them…how intense that contact was,…when it occurred and what they need to do about it,” she said. “In order to act in a meaningful way…you need to have some details about it.”

‘You knew the allocations that you had so don’t overbook people’

The Ontario government announced it is increasing the hours of direct care for long-term care residents to an average of four hours per day.

“I made a promise to long-term care residents, their families and their caregivers that we would deliver better care for our seniors,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said in a statement. “Today, we are delivering on that promise and acting on the early recommendations of Ontario’s Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission.”

“By increasing the hours of daily direct care for residents, we will improve their quality of life and ensure they are more comfortable and safe.”

At a press conference on Monday, Ford called out Rexall pharmacies for overbooking influenza vaccine appointments after it was announced the chain is pausing the flu shot program due to supply issues.

“You knew the allocations that you had so don’t overbook people,” the premier said. “If you know you have X amount of flu shots, book X amount of flu shots.”

The premier also defended the decision to move Toronto, Peel, York and Ottawa into modified Stage 2 restrictions.

Ford said he would rather err on the side of caution than let everything go “hog wild” and open up.

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Virus Rate Fell to 2% From 34% in One Area. But Did Anything Change?

The urgent calls from doctors to the county department of health began in mid-October, shortly after skyrocketing coronavirus cases had brought a state-imposed lockdown to the community north of New York City.

“Some patients are refusing testing because they do not want D.O.H. bothering them,” a doctor said in a message for the county health commissioner on Oct. 13.

A day later, a caller to a state complaint hotline said in a message, “I would also like to report that there is a widespread effort from the community’s leadership to discourage Covid testing.”

Two weeks after a flurry of similar messages, the positivity rate in Kiryas Joel, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish village in Orange County, plummeted from 34 percent — the highest in the state — to just 2 percent. Last week, citing “dramatic progress” on the rate, the governor eased restrictions in the zone.

The course of events in Orange County has raised deep suspicions among some health experts about the reliability of the data, reflecting broader concerns about whether top officials in New York and around the country are tracking the outbreak in ways that may not accurately capture how much the virus is spreading.

Epidemiologists suggest that officials should rely on many factors when making decisions about reopening, including interviews with health care providers, hospital admission rates and contact tracing, as well as the positivity rate, which is the percent of people who have tested positive over a particular time period.

In New York, senior officials say they use all that data, and refer to the positivity rates as merely a lead measure and shorthand.

Still, the positivity rate has become the de facto gold standard of publicly highlighted measures. For example, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio and other officials in New York repeatedly refer to the rate in pronouncements and news releases to give the public a sense of how efforts to combat the virus are going.

The concern over misleading positivity rates has come to a head in regards to Kiryas Joel, also called the Town of Palm Tree, a densely populated Hasidic village of 26,000 people that is about 50 miles north of New York City, and among the poorest communities in the state.

In Orange County, the local health commissioner, Dr. Irina Gelman, said she was concerned about easing restrictions because she had serious doubts about whether the suggested decline in virus cases was real. She said that even though more people in the ultra-Orthodox community were reporting to doctors with symptoms or exposure to the virus, fewer of them were agreeing to be tested, reducing the positivity rate.

“This is an alarming trend,” Dr. Gelman said. “Refusing tests, clearly, makes it very difficult as far as gauging the infection prevalence rate within the community.”

“To go from a 34 percent positivity rate down to a 4 percent positivity rate when the “micro-cluster/ hot zone” schools did not actually shut down — and just converted to “child care”— is something many

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Will-Kankakee Coronavirus Positivity Rate Reaches 10.5 Percent

JOLIET, IL — Coronavirus positivity rates and the number of new hospitalizations of people with symptoms of COVID-19 rose sharply across nearly every region of Illinois during the final week in October. All but one of the state’s 11 mitigation regions now have restrictions on indoor service at bars and restaurants and gatherings of more than 25 people.

In Region 7 — Will and Kankakee counties — indoor dining was again halted after the region’s seven-day rolling average positivity rate remained above 8 percent for three days last week.

For the week ending Tuesday, the percentage of specimens tested that came back positive for the virus rose by 1.3 percentage points to 10.5 percent in the two-county region — a new record for the region since state public health officials began reporting the data in June. The next day, the seven-day rolling average rose again to 10.8 percent, setting another record.

New hospitalizations in the south suburban region also rose during the week, according to the rounded seven-day rolling average of daily hospital admissions of patients with what state public health officials classify as “COVID-like illnesses,” or CLI.

The rate has more than tripled since the start of October. As of Tuesday, an average of 21 people were newly hospitalized with symptoms of the virus every day, up from 16 a week earlier.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said the state needs everyone to do their part to change the trend.

“We are on the precipice of the entire state entering into mitigation,” Ezike said Friday, announcing the new mitigation measures for Region 6 in East Central Illinois.

RELATED: Coronavirus Indoor Dining Ban Imposed On Lake, McHenry Counties

Restrictions were added to 10 of Illinois' 11 COVID-19 resurgence mitigation regions in October after coronavirus metrics triggered fail-safe measures established over the summer by state public health officials. (Illinois Department of Public Health)
Restrictions were added to 10 of Illinois’ 11 COVID-19 resurgence mitigation regions in October after coronavirus metrics triggered fail-safe measures established over the summer by state public health officials. (Illinois Department of Public Health)

RELATED: Illinois Restaurant Association To Vote On Indoor Dining Ban Suit

“These last few regions have seen rapid increases in test positivity, one right after another, because of increasing disease spread throughout our communities,” Ezike said. “We need all people to adhere to both the community mitigation measures and well as personal and family measures so we can swiftly turn our entire state around.”

As of Friday, there were 49 counties across the state, including several in the Chicago area, that are considered to be at the “orange” warning level, which means two or more countywide risk indicators suggest a heightened risk of the virus.

They include: Adams, Alexander, Bond, Boone, Clark, Clay, Clinton, Coles, Crawford, Cumberland, DeKalb, Douglas, DuPage, Effingham, Ford, Franklin, Greene, Grundy, Hamilton, Henderson, Jackson, Jo Daviess, Johnson, Kane, Kendall, Knox, Lee, Macon, Marion, McHenry, Mercer, Morgan, Ogle, Perry, Pike, Randolph, Rock Island, Saline, Sangamon, Shelby, Stephenson, Wabash, Warren, Washington, Wayne, Whiteside, Will, Williamson and Winnebago counties.

RELATED: Pritzker Defends Coronavirus Data Used To Ban Indoor Dining

On Friday, public health officials announced 6,943 new confirmed cases

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Here are the hospitals with the highest rate of COVID patients

Health workers wearing full personal protective equipment (PPE) on the intensive care unit (ICU) at Whiston Hospital in Merseyside as they continue deal with the increasing number of coronavirus patients. (Photo by Peter Byrne/PA Images via Getty Images)
Health workers wearing full personal protective equipment (PPE) on the intensive care unit (ICU) at Whiston Hospital in Merseyside. (Getty)

Several hospitals across England have seen the number of coronavirus admissions surge past levels seen in the first wave of the pandemic, newly released data shows.

Statistics compiled by Public Health England (PHE), shown to cabinet ministers last week ahead of Saturday’s lockdown announcement, shows there are currently scores of hospitals dealing with over 100 COVID positive inpatients.

The graph shows that the number of coronavirus patients at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Trust in Yorkshire and Blackpool Hospital Trust exceeded their first wave peak on 19 October.

Liverpool University Hospital Foundation Trust was next worst hit, with patients passing the highest first wave levels a day later on 20 October.

A Public Health England heat map shows hospital admissions for COVID have risen sharply. (PHE)
A Public Health England heat map shows hospital admissions for COVID have risen sharply. (PHE)
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a virtual press conference inside 10 Downing Street in central London on October 31, 2020 to announce new lockdown restrictions in an effort to curb rising infections of the novel coronavirus. - UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday announced a new four-week coronavirus lockdown across England, a dramatic strategy shift following warnings hospitals would become overwhelmed under his current system of localised restrictions. (Photo by Alberto Pezzali / POOL / AFP) (Photo by ALBERTO PEZZALI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
The PM announced a second nationwide lockdown on Saturday. (Getty)

Several other hospitals, mainly in the north of England, have reported exceedingly high levels of coronavirus in the past week.

In total, 24 hospitals reported COVID patient levels at over half their previous peak during the first wave of the pandemic.

Read more: ‘Terrifying’ projections and concern over NHS capacity at heart of push for new lockdown

On Friday, figures released by the government showed that more than 10,000 Covid-19 patients are now being treated in hospitals across the UK.

But the number has yet to reach the 20,000 seen at the height of the first wave of the pandemic earlier this year.

Liverpool University Hospitals Foundation Trust had the highest number of beds occupied by coronavirus patients in England on Tuesday at 450, according to NHS England data.

Watch: Starmer blasts delay in imposing second nationwide lockdown

Pennine Acute Hospitals Trust in Greater Manchester was second on the list with 290 inpatients.

In Nottinghamshire, which has been subject to Tier 3 lockdown restrictions, the number of hospitalisations is 40 per cent higher than those seen in April.

And in Greater Manchester, most hospital trusts there will reportedly exceed their critical care capacity by next week due to high COVID-19 hospital admissions.

The county’s public health director Jonathan Gribbin said “even a well-organised NHS and care system will struggle to cope” with the sharp rise in patients in the county’s hospitals.

It comes as advisors from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) said on Friday that England has breached its “reasonable worst-case” scenario for COVID-19 infections and hospital admissions.

Sage also warned that the number of daily deaths in England is in line with that scenario, but “is almost certain to exceed this within the next two weeks”.

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Boston COVID-19 positive rate is a “wildfire” close to becoming an “inferno”

Boston’s COVID-19 positive test rate is a “wildfire” that is close to becoming an “inferno” if officials fail to take more precautions, according to one expert.

The city’s positive test rate has doubled in a month and a half to 7.8%, and shows no sign of dropping.

And Boston is not alone. Last week, 121 of the state’s cities and towns — more than a third of the 351 total Massachusetts municipalities — are in the high-risk “red zone.”

“7.8 % is a wildfire. We’re getting close to an inferno,” said Dr. Todd Ellerin, director of infectious diseases at South Shore Health. “The time is now to take our foot completely off the accelerator and onto the brakes; otherwise the governor, his leadership team and the state Department of Public Health will be forced to put their foot on the emergency brake. It may already be too late to avoid that.”

Boston Health Chief Marty Martinez told reporters on Friday that the city is considering stopping indoor dining or rolling back other restrictions as coronavirus cases continue to mount.

The city shut down both indoor and outdoor dining, as well as a range of other businesses, at the start of the pandemic before gradually allowing them to reopen over the summer.

But stopping indoor dining will not be enough to reverse the infection rate, Ellerin said. Because 80% of the coronavirus clusters have been in people’s homes, he said, they should wear masks at home, as well as elsewhere, and everyone who can work from home should.

Because people need ventilation, they also should open windows about 6 inches when they’re in a room, Ellerin said, and they should think twice about having people with whom they don’t live over for Thanksgiving.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said shutdowns or stay-at-home orders are not the solution.

“What you have to do is look at what’s driving the increase; is it restaurants, is it bars, is it sports activities?” Adalja said. “You can fix it. … It always boils down to testing, tracing and isolating.”

Dr. Jeffrey Singer, a Phoenix-based general surgeon and senior fellow at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, agreed that lockdowns are not the answer, nor, he added is “micromanaging.”

“It’s a fool’s errand to think that if you lock down long enough, the virus is going to disappear,” Singer said. “We should give people who run businesses the freedom to come up with their own solutions, based on CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines. One size does not fit all. The more flexibility you have, the more compliance your’e going to get.”

But Ellerin said it’s unclear if individual behaviors will be enough to reverse the positivity rate.

“This virus can be unforgiving and relentless,” he said. “We have to act aggressively now because before we blink, the positive test rate could be 10 to 15%. Everything should be on the table because we are

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Belgium Becomes EU Nation With Highest Rate of COVID-19 Infections | World News

By Yves Herman and Marine Strauss

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The Belgian government will convene on Friday to decide on a potential new national lockdown with the country now suffering the highest rate of coronavirus infections per 100,000 citizens, according to official data.

The nation of 11 million people had 1,390 new COVID-19 infections per 100,000 residents over the past two weeks, data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control showed on Tuesday.

The Czech Republic is next with 1,379 per 100,000, while many other European countries are reporting soaring infection rates in a second wave of the global pandemic abetted by the onset of cold, damp winter weather.

New daily infections in Belgium, where the European Union and NATO have their headquarters, hit a peak of more than 18,000 on Oct. 20, almost a 10-fold rise from the high of a spring wave of the pandemic.

The number of patients in intensive care units (ICUs) is doubling every eight days – to 809 as of Monday – with 5,260 people in hospitals, which risk running out of beds. Belgian foreign affairs minister and former PM Sophie Wilmes was still in intensive care in Brussels, after testing positive to COVID-19 last week.

In Liege, the Belgian city with the highest number of COVID-19 infections, hundreds of patients are admitted daily, its main hospital said in a Facebook post.

If the rate of hospitalisation continues at this rhythm, the hospital said it would head “straight into a wall,” according to the Facebook post.

“What’s complicated is that we constantly have to open new units, put in place new teams of nurses and doctors, to take care of those patients, and this flow of patients is in the end continuous,” Christelle Meuris, an infectious disease specialist who oversees a COVID-19 unit at the hospital, told Reuters.

With 10,899 total deaths, Belgium has one of the highest per capita COVID-19 fatality rates in the world.

The federal cabinet will meet on Friday to further tighten measures to curb COVID-19 contagion, a week after tightening curbs on social contacts by banning fans from sports matches and limiting numbers in cultural spaces.

The government of the Wallonia region imposed a longer night curfew while in the capital Brussels, all sport and cultural facilities were ordered on Saturday to close and residents were subjected to a longer curfew from Monday.

(Reporting by Yves Herman and Marine Strauss with additional reporting by Kate Abnett; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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New Hampshire COVID-19 Positivity Test Rate At 1.6%: Data

CONCORD, NH — Two more elderly men have died due to or from COVID-19, according to New Hampshire health officials.

The men both lived in long-term care settings in Hillsborough County and were 80 years of age or older. The State Joint Information Center offered sympathies to family members and friends of the men. The state said 475 deaths are related to COVID-19 exposure.

Another 77 people in the Granite State tested positive for the coronavirus including eight children after more than 5,200 specimens were collected Sunday. Slightly more than half the cases were male. About 800 tests are pending for a polymerase chain reaction test positivity rate of 1.6 percent Monday. About two-thirds of the new positive test results were discovered by PCR rests.

The new positive test results bring the accumulative county to 10.397 with 8,920 or about 86 percent recovered.

Most of the new cases were from Rockingham County — 18, while 15 live in Merrimack County, 10 reside in Hillsborough County outside of Manchester and Nashua, and seven live in Nashua.

Twenty-five people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 and 1,002 people are current cases.

The state said Monday that 333,115 people have been tested via PCR tests and 32,015 have been tested by antibody lab tests. More than 585,000 PCR tests have been administered in New Hampshire.

About 4,450 residents are under public health monitoring.

Editor’s note: Due to technical problems with the state’s COVID-19 charts, more data and information was not available at post time.

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Stop The Spread Of COVID-19

The COVID-19 virus is spread through respiratory droplets, usually through coughing and sneezing, and exposure to others who are sick or might be showing symptoms.

Health officials emphasize residents should follow these recommendations:

  • Avoid any domestic and international travel, especially on public transportation such as buses, trains, and airplanes.

  • Practice social distancing. Stay at least 6 feet from other people, including distancing while in waiting areas or lines.

  • When you can’t practice 6 feet of social distancing, wear a face covering.

  • Anyone who is told to self-quarantine and stay at home due to exposure to a person with confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 needs to stay home and not go out into public places.

  • If you are 60 years or older or have chronic and underlying health conditions, you need to stay home and not go out.

  • Avoid gatherings of 10 people or more.

  • Employers should work from home as much as possible.

  • There is increasing evidence that the virus can survive for hours or possibly days on surfaces. People should clean frequently touched surfaces, including door handles, grocery carts and grocery basket handles, etc.

Take the same precautions as you would if you were sick:

  • Stay home and avoid public places.

  • Wear a face covering.

  • Cover mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing.

  • Wash hands frequently.

  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces.

More information from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services about coronavirus can be found here on

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In Alabama, positivity rate for coronavirus tests is rising: Week in review

In Alabama, the positivity rate for coronavirus tests reached 16.9 percent as of Thursday – the highest it’s been since mid-September.

But it’s hard to compare that rate over time, because data backlogs and changes in reporting here have made comparisons difficult. State data is messy and getting messier.

On Sept. 1, for instance, the state changed the way it reports tests and removed about 27,000 tests from the logs. And this week, roughly 2,500 new probable cases in Mobile weren’t accompanied by a similar increase in tests.

The data issues can make it difficult to monitor progress in Alabama. For example, this week the Alabama Department of Public Health reported more than 10,000 coronavirus cases in the state, but that includes those 2,500 from a backlog at a local lab in Mobile County. Those cases were from some time between June and October 18. And maybe some came from other counties near Mobile.

Prior to the large influx on Friday from that backlog, the state was seeing a rise in new cases. The 7-day average for total new virus cases reached 1,128 in Alabama on Thursday. That’s the highest it’s been since Sept. 5.

[Can’t see the chart? Click here.]

But the increase in new cases hasn’t been accompanied by an equal increase in tests. Between Oct. 1 and Oct. 22, the 7-day average for new cases has gone up by about five percent. Over the same span, the 7-day average for daily tests has done down by 23 percent.

The World Health Organization in May suggested countries should have positivity rates lower than 5 percent for at least 14 days before reopening.

Within Alabama, from county to county, positivity rates are all over the map.

[Can’t see the map? Click here.]

As of Thursday, Lamar County in northwest Alabama had the highest rate in the state at 45 percent. In the week leading up to Thursday, 37 cases were reported in Lamar County, and just 83 tests.

DeKalb County, in northeast Alabama, had a similar positivity rate with nearly 10 times the test numbers. More than 42 percent of the 720 tests performed there over that span came back positive.

No Alabama counties were below 5 percent positivity rate as of Thursday.

[Can’t see the chart? Click here.]

Probable cases primarily include those found through antigen testing, and also those without any confirmed test but where the person has symptoms and has been in close contact with a confirmed case. The large increase in probables, along with confirmed cases, made this week’s total the highest since early August.

But that’s probably not a fair representation. Clicking on the ‘confirmed cases’ tab on the chart above controls for backlogs of probable cases and better shows the rise over recent weeks.

Confirmed cases are those with a positive molecular test, which takes longer but is considered more accurate. And though confirmed cases are slightly up, reported deaths are down significantly this week. The state reported 73 total virus deaths this

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US suicide rate fell last year after decade of steady rise

The U.S. suicide rate fell slightly last year, the first annual decline in more than a decade

NEW YORK — The U.S. suicide rate fell slightly last year, the first annual decline in more than a decade, according to new government data.

It’s a small decrease and the data is preliminary, but the decline is “really exciting,” said Dr. Christine Moutier, chief medical officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

The fall may be partly due to years of suicide prevention efforts, like increasing mental health screenings, she said. Other factors, like the pre-pandemic economy, might also have played a role, she added.

Suicides had been on the rise since 2005. In 2018, the national suicide rate hit its highest level since 1941 — 14.2 per 100,000 people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted new death rate data this week showing that for 2019, it dropped to 13.9.

Drug overdoses rose in 2019, and deaths from falls were up, too. But death rates for the nation’s two biggest killers — heart disease and cancer — were down, as were death rates for flu, chronic lung disease and Alzheimer’s disease. The firearm death rate was flat, probably because the small decline in suicides was offset by a slight uptick in gun homicides.

When all that is factored together, the U.S. life expectancy calculation for 2019 should stay the same as it was in 2018 or maybe even increase slightly, said Robert Anderson, who oversees death data for the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.

“I think 2019 will turn out to be a pretty good year for mortality, relatively speaking,” Anderson said. “2020 will not.”

There have been at least 300,000 more deaths this year than expected, the CDC said this week in a separate report. About two-thirds of those are being attributed directly to COVID-19, but many of the others are believed to be related to the pandemic.

It’s not yet clear whether suicides are up this year.

The pandemic sparked a wave of business closures, some temporary and some permanent. Millions of people were forced to stay at home, many of them alone. Surveys suggest more Americans are reporting depression, anxiety and drug and alcohol use. Adding to that dangerous mix, firearm purchases rose 85% in March, when the virus was first surging.

“There are clear forces pressing suicide risk factors in a negative direction,” Moutier said, but that’s doesn’t mean suicide rates will automatically rise.

There are some “silver linings” to the pandemic, she added. One is increasing acceptance that mental health distress is normal, and that it’s OK to seek counseling. Another is increasing availability of telemedicine.

Anderson noted many COVID-19 deaths have been in the same set of late-middle-aged white people who are considered at high risk for

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Wakefield Coronavirus Rate Rises, Risk Level Remains High

WAKEFIELD, MA — Wakefield is still considered a high-risk community for the coronavirus, according to weekly state data released Thursday. It was among 77 cities and towns across the Commonwealth labeled high risk, or “red,” up from 63 from last week.

Wakefield had 59 confirmed cases over the last two weeks, with an average daily rate of 15.6 cases per 100,000. That was a significant increase from 9 cases per 100,000 last week, when the town attributed a spike in cases to a cluster at one location.

State officials have said that high-risk communities, along with those considered high risk in the past two updates, cannot move on to the next phase of reopening. Towns were marked high risk, or “red,” if they reported more than eight confirmed COVID-19 cases per day per 100,000 residents over the past two weeks.

Statewide, the positive test rate rose to 1.4 percent, the highest level since mid-August and up from 0.8 percent in mid-September. In Wakefield, the positive rate rose to 3 percent from 1.57 percent last week.

Health officials say positive test results need to stay below 5 percent for two weeks or longer and, preferably, be closer to 2 percent, for states to safely ease restrictions.

The state reported 986 confirmed cases and 30 deaths associated with the virus Thursday. There have been 9,589 deaths and 143,927 confirmed cases statewide since the pandemic reached the Bay State in March.

In Wakefield, 434 people have tested positive for the virus during that time.

Statewide, there were 9 average daily cases per 100,000 residents, keeping the state above the high-risk threshold for the second week in a row.

View the state’s interactive COVID-19 map.

This article originally appeared on the Wakefield Patch

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