Leaders of Massachusetts cities with the highest coronavirus infection rates say they’re proceeding with caution as businesses prepare to reopen, stressing continued vigilance even as new cases decline in their communities.
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Chelsea continues to have the highest COVID-19 infection rate in the state by far, according to data released each week by the Department of Public Health. The city’s infection rate was 6,898 per 100,000 residents as of Wednesday, with 2,598 reported cases.
But the number of new infections has been declining, down from 70 or so cases per night at the height of the pandemic to the 20s, teens or even single digits, City Manager Thomas Ambrosino said.
“The trend is definitely moving in the right direction here in Chelsea, in large part because our residents have paid heed to instructions to stay inside as much as possible, wear a mask, maintain social and physical distancing,” Ambrosino told the Herald. “The rates of infection have certainly slowed. That’s definitely a positive sign.”
Still, Ambrosino said businesses cognizant of the city’s high infection rate are likely to be slow to reopen, even under the state’s four-phased approach.
“I don’t really see our residents rushing out to do business,” Ambrosino said. “We really have to be diligent because as the economy starts to reopen, I do expect some spikes (in cases). It’s inevitable as more people move around.”
Brockton again had the second-highest infection rate — 3,840 — with 3,773 cases. But Mayor Robert Sullivan said the city’s number of active cases has been declining.
“People obviously are recovering,” he said. “That’s a really wonderful thing.”
Still, Sullivan said he has “some reservations” about reopening, and is talking to religious groups and businesses about the need to follow the state’s new workplace safety guidelines.
COVID-19 continues to disproportionately ravage many of the state’s smaller, poorer cities. Lynn had the third-highest infection rate this week, 3,089, with 3,117 cases. Lawrence was next with a rate of 3,041 and 2,681 cases. Everett was fifth with an infection rate of 3,037 and 1,474 cases.
Revere Mayor Brian Arrigo said “the numbers have definitely come down” in his city, which had the seventh-highest infection rate of 2,472 and 1,506 cases, just behind Randolph, which had 864 cases and an infection rate of 2,525.
Arrigo said he’s taking a “deliberate approach” to reopening, holding listening sessions this week with businesses and faith groups on how to implement new regulations.
Charles Kokoros, the mayor of Braintree, which had the 14th-highest infection rate of 1,916 with 754 cases — 65% are in nursing homes — said he’s “confident we can mitigate spikes” in cases that might come with reopening.
In Boston, where Mayor Martin Walsh has also urged extreme caution with reopening, the infection rate was 1,817, with 12,629 cases.