BOSTON -- The number of communities at high risk for COVID-19 infections increased slightly in the past week, according to state data released Wednesday, which also shows dozens of cities and towns still at elevated levels of risk.

The Department of Public Health reported 13 communities are coded "red" — including Lawrence, Lynn, Lynnfield and Methuen — meaning they have an average of more than 8 daily coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents over the last 14 days, once numbers are adjusted for population. That's up from eight communities the previous week.

Sixty municipalities were either coded in the red, high-risk category or the yellow, moderate-risk category in the state’s weekly report. Haverhill and Salem and were coded yellow, as they were in the previous week.

Another 84 communities, including Newburyport, Gloucester, Danvers and Andover, were shaded green, meaning an average daily COVID-19 infection rate of fewer than 4 cases per 100,000 residents.

As of Wednesday, Lawrence's COVID-19 infection rate was 20 cases for every 100,000 people, the second-highest rate in the state.

Methuen’s category roses from yellow to red in the past week after a spike in infections. The city’s infection rate for the past two weeks is 8.5 per 100,000 people, according to the Department of Public Health.

The majority of cites and towns in the state are coded white, which indicates fewer than five total cases.

Still, Essex County has the second-highest infection rate of any region in the state, with an average of 6.7 cases per 100,000 residents over the past two weeks. The state’s average rate is 4.6.

Gov. Charlie Baker said most cities and towns have COVID-19 transmission rates low enough to allow for either a full return to school or a hybrid of in-person and remote learning.

As of Wednesday, Massachusetts had reported 121,396 virus cases and 8,937 deaths since the outbreak began in mid-March.

Baker said the state goal of the weekly listing is to direct aid to help high-risk communities battle the virus and enforce reopening rules.

Cities and towns at moderate- or high-risk have been offered state assistance with testing, contact tracing, enforcement and public awareness campaigns.

Last week, the state rolled out a new initiative to reach at-risk populations in those communities that will feature billboard ads, social media messaging, multi-lingual field teams, phone and text outreach, and coordination with community groups.

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Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at

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