This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). This virus was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China. (CDC via AP)
This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). This virus was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China. (CDC via AP)
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BOSTON — With COVID-19 state health data continuing an encouraging trend during the last three weeks, Gov. Charlie Baker announced plans to start rolling back some of the restrictions put in place to combat the pandemic.

Baker said during a Thursday press conference the state has been fighting a second surge of the virus since last fall. Travel around the holiday season — from Thanksgiving to New Year’s — may have compounded the problem, resulting in an additional spike in infections statewide.

However, during the first three weeks of 2021, COVID-19 hospitalizations across Massachusetts, as well as case counts and the percentage of positive cases have each trended downward.

“We all know we are not out of the woods, by any means, but things do appear to be getting a bit better here in Massachusetts,” Baker said.

The state Department of Public Health announced 4,821 new confirmed cases of coronavirus on Thursday, bringing the statewide total to 462,910 since the pandemic began in January. Health officials estimated 88,929 active cases of infection statewide on Thursday.

According to DPH data, among the positive trends pointed out by Baker was the seven-day average of COVID-19 confirmed cases, which was approximately 2,978 on Thursday — a significant drop from Jan. 8, when that figure was roughly 6,233.

The DPH data also shows a positive trend in the seven-day weighted average percent positivity rate, which was roughly 5.6% on Thursday. On Jan. 1, the rate was 8.7%.

Thursday’s data also revealed a total of 2,152 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide — an approximately 10% decrease since Jan. 1. Of those hospitalized on Thursday, 430 patients were in intensive care and 287 patients intubated, according to the DPH figures. The average age of patients who are hospitalized with the virus is 71.

The state health data also revealed 75 new deaths from COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the confirmed statewide death toll to 13,622 since the pandemic’s beginning.

Though health officials still classify Ayer as at high risk for coronavirus transmission, the town saw a continued drop off in its average daily incidence rate. As of Thursday, the rate was 82 cases per 100,000 people over the last 14 days. During it peak at the start of the month, Ayer had 172 infections per 100,000 people, according to the DPH.

Ayer’s percent positivity rate also continued to drop, according to Thursday’s data, having reached 9.26% — down from 17.02% at the start of January.

Aside from Ayer, the Greater Lowell communities health officials classified as at high risk for coronavirus transmission include Billerica, Burlington, Chelmsford, Dracut, Littleton, Lowell, Pepperell, Shirley, Tewksbury, Townsend, Tyngsboro, Westford and Wilmington.

With the positive trends statewide, Baker said the early closure business order and the stay-at-home advisory would be lifted, starting at 5 a.m. Monday. He added the 25% capacity limits adopted on Dec. 26 will remain in place.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention revealed the nationwide death toll from coronavirus broke 400,000 this week, reaching 404,689 as of Thursday night. The CDC also said there has been roughly 24.3 million cases of infection since the pandemic began.

Below is the total COVID-19 infections by city and town from Jan. 1, 2020, through Tuesday and how that total compares to last week’s numbers:

  • Acton – 638 (+42)
  • Ayer – 630 (+28)
  • Bedford – 645 (+50)
  • Billerica – 2,727 (+148)
  • Burlington – 1,354 (+93)
  • Chelmsford – 2,012 (+146)
  • Dracut -2,599 (+139)
  • Dunstable – 108 (+11)
  • Groton – 306 (+24)
  • Littleton – 384 (+18)
  • Lowell – 12,483 (+553)
  • Pepperell – 349 (+24)
  • Shirley – 710 (+12)
  • Tewksbury – 2,437 (+138)
  • Townsend – 305 (+24)
  • Tyngsboro – 804 (+40)
  • Westford – 881 (+68)
  • Wilmington – 1,616 (+100)

Follow Aaron Curtis on Twitter @aselahcurtis