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November 18, 2020

Worcester County COVID testing triples since summer, but positivity rises, too

Far more people in Worcester County are getting tested for coronavirus far more than ever, but with cases rising sharply, the rates of tests coming back positive is rising, too.

In the span of three months, testing in the county has tripled — surpassing 100,000 over a two-week period for the first time on Nov. 12, according to Massachusetts Department of Public Health data.

That increase in testing has gone a long way toward giving individuals the public a better sense of how much the virus is spreading. Yet even as the number of tests have soared, so too has the rate of tests coming back positive.

Image | WBJ Source: Massachusetts Department of Public Health

In a two-week stretch from late August to early September, 0.7% of tests in Worcester County were positive. By mid-October, the rate jumped to 1.08%. By the first two weeks of November, it was 2.51%.

That generally tracks with the state's own positivity rate increasing. It was 1.07% in late August and early September, and 2.29% in the first two weeks of November.

Worcester County has significantly increased testing since the summer, thanks in large part to college campuses testing students and employees regularly in an effort to avoid campus outbreaks.

Clark University in Worcester has conducted nearly 80,000 tests, by far the most in Worcester County, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute has done more than 30,000 in just the past 30 days. College of the Holy Cross in Worcester has done more than 18,000, Worcester State University more than 17,000, and Fitchburg State University more than 6,000.

In the past two weeks through Nov. 12, more than 104,000 tests were conducted in Worcester County. To put that in perspective, that's more testing that was done statewide from the time the pandemic began through April 10.

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