Ninety-seven Massachusetts cities and towns are now classified as “high risk” for coronavirus spread, according to data the Department of Public Health released on Thursday.
Those communities include: Abington, Acushnet, Attleboro, Barnstable, Bellingham, Berkley, Billerica, Blackstone, Boxford, Brockton, Charlton, Chelmsford, Chelsea, Chicopee, Clinton, Dartmouth, Dighton, Douglas, Dracut, Edgartown, Everett, Fall River, Fitchburg, Framingham, Freetown, Gardner, Georgetown, Granby, Hampden, Hanover, Haverhill, Holden, Holyoke, Hopedale, Hudson, Lancaster, Lawrence, Leicester, Lenox, Leominster, Littleton, Lowell, Ludlow, Lunenburg, Lynn, Malden, Marion, Mendon, Merrimac, Methuen, Middleton, Milford, Millbury, Monson, New Bedford, Newbury, Norfolk, North Attleborough, North Brookfield, Palmer, Paxton, Peabody, Pittsfield, Plainville, Randolph, Rehoboth, Revere, Rutland, Salisbury, Saugus, Seekonk, Shirley, Somerset, Southborough, Southbridge, Southwick, Spencer, Springfield, Sterling, Stoneham, Stoughton, Sturbridge, Sutton, Swansea, Taunton, Tewksbury, Tyngsborough, Upton, Uxbridge, Wareham, Wenham, West Boylston, West Springfield, Westport, Whitman, Wilmington and Woburn.
Last week, the number of cities and towns designated high risk was 81. Health officials in November announced changes to the way they classify risk levels for COVID-19 transmission.
Risk designations — which are colored, grey, green, yellow and red based on infection levels — are now determined using several new metrics for three population categories: communities with a population of less than 10,000; between 10,000 and 50,000; and greater than 50,000.
Officials say the new categories help to make the community-specific data more nuanced, and better account for increases in cases in smaller communities and for communities where testing is more robust.
For communities with fewer than 10,000 residents, “grey” will be assigned if there are 10 total cases or fewer; “green” if there are up 15 cases; “yellow” if there are up to 25 cases; and “red” if there are more than 25 cases.
For communities with between 10,000 and 50,000 residents, “grey” will be assigned if there are 10 total cases or fewer; “green” if there are less than 10 average cases per 100,000 residents and more than 10 cases; “yellow” if there are 10 or more cases per 100,000 residents or a test positivity rate of 5% or more; and “red” if there are 10 or more cases per 100,000 residents and a test positivity rate of 5% or more.
And for communities with more than 50,000 residents, “grey” will be assigned if there are 15 total cases or fewer; “green” if there are less than 10 average cases per 100,000 residents and more than 15 cases; “yellow” if there are 10 or more cases per 100,000 residents or a test positivity rate of 4% or more; and “red” if there are 10 or more cases per 100,000 residents and a test positivity rate of 4% or more.
State health officials reported 6,477 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, which includes a backlog of 680 cases.
“The delay in reporting was caused by a technical issue with the software used by that laboratory’s reporting vendor,” health officials said.
Officials also reported 49 new COVID-related fatalities, for a total of 10,637 confirmed deaths since the start of the pandemic.
Thursday’s case load is based on 111,734 new molecular tests, according to the Department of Public Health. There are now 49,225 active cases of the virus statewide, officials said.
There have been 232,264 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Massachusetts since the start of the pandemic.
The seven-day average of positive tests increased to 5.29%, up for a low of .8% in September. Hospitalizations increased to 1,324, which includes 261 patients in intensive care.