For the first time in months, Framingham is out of the state’s high-risk Covid-19 red zone, according to data released today by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
The city had an average of 32.2 daily known new cases over the past 14 days. Positivity dropped to 3.79%.
Red-zone levels for cities over 50K people require more than 10 average cases per 100K people and a positivity rate higher than 4. Framingham’s known case rate is considerably higher, but the positivity dropped below the threshold. Earlier in the pandemic, the Baker administration had set 8 known new cases per 100K as the red-zone cutoff regardless of test positivity.
The number of tests administered to Framingham residents declined from the prior week’s 14-day period, but the drop was less than 6%. Number of cases, meanwhile, dropped by 21.5%.
The data is very good news, but there are a few caveats to keep in mind. There was free, no-insurance-needed walk-in testing downtown until the end of last year, and that likely served the city’s highest risk, low-income population. Those residents may not be going to the free drive-through center at the Framingham State commuter parking area in the same numbers, since it requires access to a private vehicle. So comparing this year’s data with last year’s may be measuring a significantly different population mix.
However, it does seem like the decline in infections compared with January is a reasonable comparison, at least among the population being measured.
But if high-risk families are not being tested at the same rates as others in the community, there’s a risk that decisions will be made about safety of resuming in-person schooling with incomplete data – unless students are regularly tested, as happens on many college campuses.
In addition, the city still reported 450 total known new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people over the last 14 days. That’s more than double the CDC’s 200 per 100K “highest risk of transmission in schools” level. Framingham’s 3.79% test positivity is deemed a “lowest risk” indicator.
Unfortunately, the city’s fatality rate remains high. Deaths can occur two to eight weeks after the onset of symptoms, according to a Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health analysis, so fatalities reported now can reflect infections that happened before and during the Christmas/New Year’s holiday period.
Overall, 1 out of every 340 Framingham residents has died from Covid-19 since the pandemic began (the city has reported 219 deaths in a population of roughly 74,000).
There have been 14 deaths reported so far this month.
The city’s latest Covid-19 demographic report said the median age of those killed by the virus was 74.
Elsewhere in Massachusetts
Most MetroWest communities are now out of the red zone, as is the state-wide average (which is 38.5 per 100K and 3.4% positivity). However, Marlborough and Hudson are still deemed high risk.
You can see known Covid-19 infections per capita elsewhere in Massachusetts in the map and table below: