SHNS Coronavirus Tracker
APRIL 7, 2020.....The number of COVID-19 fatalities in Massachusetts surged upwards Tuesday as the state reported the deaths of 96 residents and the number of confirmed cases in the Bay State surpassed 15,000.
The 96 deaths reported Tuesday is nearly three times as many as had been reported in a single day up until this point, though the state noted that Tuesday's daily update "reflect[s] deaths occurring over the weekend and the past 24 hours." The state had already reported 24 deaths on Saturday and 15 deaths Sunday.
So far, the highly-contagious coronavirus has claimed the lives of 356 people in Massachusetts. By comparison, there were 262 firearm deaths in the state throughout 2017, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
The Department of Public Health said Tuesday that there are now 15,202 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Massachusetts, an increase of 1,365 or about 9.8 percent from Monday. Between midday Monday and midday Tuesday, an additional 4,915 new tests were conducted. A grand total of 81,344 residents have been tested.
Nearly 1,000 of the state's COVID-19 cases are among residents or employees at long-term care facilities. DPH reported Tuesday that 958 residents or workers had tested positive and that COVID-19 has been detected at 129 long-term care facilities around the state.
With the expected surge in COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization hitting as soon as Friday, the state on Tuesday issued guidance to help providers make the grim choice about which patients to prioritize if resources won't allow for the same level of care for all patients, advising the doctors treat the young and most likely to survive first.
The governor announced Tuesday a plan to invest another $800 million in the state's health care industry -- supplementing $840 million in previously announced assistance -- as the state works to bulk up its front line of defense against the forthcoming surge.
State lawmakers and a panel of economists had planned hold a virtual roundtable to begin to understand the full economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, but technological bugs sank that plan. Instead, state budget managers will regroup for the roundtable next Tuesday. -- Colin A. Young
- Seven More MBTA Employees Contract COVID-19: The MBTA announced Tuesday that 42 employees have active cases of the highly-infectious COVID-19, seven more than in the authority's Monday update. Twenty-four of the employees are bus drivers, two are subway operators and one is a trolley operator, a spokesman said in an email. In figures unchanged from Monday, two employees who had tested positive have now recovered and one has died as a result of the illness. -- Chris Lisinski 5:50 PM Tue
- Middlesex Jail Population Down 15 Percent: The population of the Middlesex Jail & House of Correction in Billerica has declined by about 15 percent over the last four weeks as Sheriff Peter Koutoujian and his staff have worked to identify which detainees and inmates could be released rather than held behind bars during the coronavirus pandemic. The population has dropped by more than 100 to a total of 681, Koutoujian's office said, as a result of actions taken before the state's highest court ruled that individuals facing nonviolent criminal charges and those held on bail ahead of a trial could seek release and also reflects sentences that have concluded. "Since mid-March we have worked aggressively, both independently and with our public safety colleagues, to evaluate those in our custody for potential release. We have placed more sentenced individuals into the Electronic Monitoring Program, collaborated with District Attorney Marian Ryan and the judiciary to review individuals being held on bail, and made every effort to ensure court and medical appointments for our incarcerated population are being kept," Koutoujian said. "In fact, our staff made nearly 400 video and phone conferences for court appointments in just under three weeks." When evaluating whether to release someone in its custody, the sheriff's office has "included an emphasis on elderly individuals and those with chronic health conditions," it said. -- Colin A. Young 5:42 PM Tue
- How Boston Might Eventually Reopen: The ongoing coronavirus pandemic can feel all-consuming. State and local leaders have been providing daily updates on efforts to fight the virus and devoting most of their day to the pandemic. But in Boston, Mayor Martin Walsh has started talking with his administration about how the city will reopen when it is safe to do so. "You know, this is gonna go on for a substantial amount of time [but] there's gonna come a time we have to go back to work and we have to go back to society the way we knew it here in the city. We're preparing for that," Walsh said Tuesday afternoon. He said he recently held a Cabinet meeting that touched upon coronavirus, but then "we actually talked about business." Walsh said he and his team discussed "as we get back to life again, how do we get the zoning boards up and running? How do we get the BPDA up and running? How do we get our parks activated, and all these different places?" Even though the city has been thinking about how it might get back to "normal" after the pandemic, Walsh was clear Tuesday that that time has not yet arrived. "As we're in the midst of all of this, I don't want to give a false sense of security to anyone, this is a serious issue. And I'm not gonna stand at this podium and say to anyone that I think that we're at the apex, if you will, until a scientist tells me that we're at the apex and we can see these numbers consistently over a couple of weeks go down." -- Colin A. Young 4:43 PM Tue
- Small Business Relief Funds: To help the small businesses that belong to their organizations, the Massachusetts LGBT Chamber of Commerce (MALGBTCC) and the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts (BECMA) teamed up Tuesday to launch the Futures Fund, a $3 million COVID-19 relief fund funded and facilitated by Berkshire Bank. The bank has set aside $3 million in available capital to create a direct credit line of $50,000 for businesses in need of financial support and flexibility while dealing the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The organizations said the fund will carry an interest rate of 3 percent, with three months of no required payments and a three-month extension possible after that period. "Small businesses are being hit hard and this fund provides a lifeline to our members," MALGBTCC Executive Director Grace Moreno said. "I'm especially proud that our small and young organization was able to leverage our partnership with Berkshire Bank and BECMA to move mountains for our members." Member businesses should contact either the MALGBTCC or BECMA to begin the referral process, organizers said. -- Colin A. Young 4:13 PM Tue
- Shaw's Worker Outlines Difficult Options: Lisa Wilson of Fall River works at a Shaw's grocery store in Hyde Park and in her mind there are only two options during the COVID-19 pandemic -- go to work and get sick or stay home and not be able to pay bills for her family. "Those aren't viable options," said Wilson, 20. "There are times when the store still gets pretty crowded. And you know, like staying six feet apart is not an option, not if you're going to actually shop." Wilson joined a handful of grocery store workers and activists on Monday in front of a South End Whole Foods to demand personal protective equipment, paid family and sick leave, and hazard pay for employees working at large supermarket chains such as Shaw's and Whole Foods. The 20 or so people who turned out represent some of the workers across the state and nation making sure that grocery stores are stocked and continue to operate.A spokesperson for Shaw's said the company has extended its Appreciation Pay program, a temporary $2 per-hour-worked increase, for all non-union and union frontline associates through April 18. The supermarket chain also said it was in the process of securing masks to make available to employees and installed Plexiglass in checkout lanes to serve as a protective barrier between customers and cashiers. A spokesperson for Whole Foods could not immediately be reached for comment. Nearly 2.6 million people worked at grocery stores in 2018 with most serving as cashiers or supervisors of retail sales and workers, according to Data USA, a project of M.I.T. Media Lab. - Chris Van Buskirk 2:37 PM Tue
- COVID-19 Infections Reach State Trial Court: The COVID-19 spread has reached into the Massachusetts judiciary. The News Service inquired about cases among employees in that branch of state goverment and a spokeswoman for the Supreme Judicial Court said the Trial Court estimates that between 10 and 15 employees have tested positive for COVID-19. In the two-week period ending March 28, almost 5,000 court employees worked from their designated workplaces for some or all of that time, and nearly 1,000 employees worked remotely for some or all of that period, according to the spokeswoman. It's unclear whether any judges are among the infected employees. - Michael P. Norton 2:31 PM Tue
- BCEC Field Hospital Almost Ready: The 1,000-bed coronavirus field hospital planned for the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in the city's seaport will be ready to open as soon as Thursday, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh said Tuesday. "When it opens later this week, the BCEC medical center will have 1,000 total beds, six acute care suites, a physical therapy suite, 52 nursing stations, 48 bathroom facilities, 500 of these beds will be dedicated to patients struggling or homeless and the remaining 500 will be for other patients," Walsh said. He said the first patients at the BCEC will likely be homeless Bostonians who test positive for COVID-19. The city said Tuesday that it had identified about 200 cases of COVID-19 among the city's homeless population. Walsh said the 250 beds planned for specialized care for homeless individuals at the Newton Pavilion, a former Boston Medical Center hospital building the state now owns, will be ready by this weekend or early next week. -- Colin A. Young 1:54 PM Tue
- Boston Pride Events Pushed to 2021: All events as part of the 50th anniversary Boston Pride Parade and Festival scheduled for June will be pushed back one year to prevent coronavirus transmission risks, organizers announced Tuesday. Boston Pride and city officials agreed on a new date of June 12, 2021 for the parade and festival. "Our foremost concern is for the health, safety, and wellbeing of the LGBTQ community and allies," said Boston Pride President Linda DeMarco in a press release. "We cannot afford to put anyone at risk. There will be time to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Boston Pride and recognize not only the struggles that our community has faced over the years, but also celebrate our strength and resiliency which we all need during this difficult time." All registrations for participants and booths in the 2020 event will be valid for the new date. - Chris Lisinski 11:38 AM Tue
- NiSource Donates $255,000 for Relief Efforts: The NiSource Charitable Foundation announced Tuesday it will donate $255,000 to Massachusetts nonprofits, including organizations serving Brockton, Lawrence and Springfield, for COVID-19 relief efforts. NiSource is the parent company of Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, which has customers in southeastern Massachusetts, the greater Springfield area, and the Merrimack Valley. The foundation's largest donation, $75,000, will go to the American Red Cross of Massachusetts. Funds will also be distributed to Father Bill's and MainSpring in Brockton, to hire additional staff and purchase shelter supplies; the Brockton VA hospital, for technology that will help resident veterans connect with their families while isolated; the Old Colony YMCA for a variety of services; the Lazarus House in Lawrence, to help provide grab-and-go meals and groceries; the Lawrence Council on Aging for meal delivery and information translation efforts; the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence, to provide dinners and online programs for children who typically visit; the Methuen Arlington Neighborhood Community Center for meals and school supplies; Friends of the Homeless in Springfield, to help keep the Worthington Street Homeless Shelter open; and the Boys & Girls Club of Springfield, to help stock drive-through meal sites. - Katie Lannan 10:20 AM Tue
- Lawmakers Call for Ride-Hailing Driver Protections: U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and state Rep. Mike Connolly joined ride-hailing drivers Monday in a call for companies such as Uber and Lyft to classify workers as full-time employees with greater protections during the coronavirus crisis. Warren told drivers that the companies are "denying you basic job protections by misclassifying you as independent contractors" and reiterated demands she made last week that all ride-hailing workers be granted employee status, hazard pay and 14 days of guaranteed sick leave accessible without a doctor's note. "I want to be loud and clear on this one: you are employees and you should have all of the rights and protections that come with that," Warren said. "These companies are boosting their profits by denying you basic protection, and it is putting your health and your economic safety at risk, and it is putting the health and economic safety of your families at risk. It is just wrong." Connolly echoed her remarks, telling workers they are "on the front lines of a war against this virus" and deserve protection. The virtual event was organized by the Boston Independent Drivers Guild and concluded with a "rolling rally" around the Boston area. In a statement, Lyft spokeswoman Campbell Matthews said, "Attempting to force TNCs to adopt an employment model in the midst of this crisis would result in the widespread elimination of work for thousands and the immediate interruption of essential services for vulnerable populations. It will hurt drivers and at-risk communities at a time when they need our services most." Uber spokesman Alix Anfang said the company backs legislation that would grant more protections for independent workers and that current laws "present a forced choice between flexibility and protection." - Chris Lisinski 10:03 AM Tue
- April Vacation During School Closures: What schools do with April vacation week while their physical buildings remain closed until May 4 is a local decision, according to guidance from Education Commissioner Jeff Riley. Riley said that schools that continue providing their remote learning program over the vacation days -- April 21 to 24 -- will not be required to go beyond their previously scheduled 181st day. Schools that do break for April vacation "will be expected to resume their remote learning program on Monday, April 27 and conclude the school year no earlier than the previously scheduled 185th day," the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said in a weekly newsletter. - Katie Lannan 10:03 AM Tue
- Lowell Drive-Through Can Test 1,000 Per Day: A new drive-through testing site in Lowell the Baker administration formally announced Tuesday will have the capacity to test up to 1,000 patients per day for COVID-19 and provide results on location. The facility, a partnership between the administration and CVS that Gov. Charlie Baker first revealed Monday, is online in the parking lot of the Showcase Cinemas at 32 Reiss Ave. Officials said the effort using the Abbott ID NOW test makes Massachusetts the third state after Georgia and Rhode Island to deploy rapid testing sites. CVS will shutter its Shrewsbury testing site that had been launched as a pilot. Patients must pre-register online at CVS.com to schedule a same-day testing appointment. - Chris Lisinski 9:56 AM Tue
- Baker Administration Plans Tuesday Afternoon Update: Gov. Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders will hold a press conference at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday to provide the latest updates in the state's response to the coronavirus pandemic. The daily press conference, which will take place in the State House's Gardner Auditorium, will be livestreamed online. Boston Mayor Martin Walsh plans a 1 p.m. update outside Boston City Hall. - Chris Lisinski 9:24 AM Tue
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