Live updates: The latest news on the coronavirus outbreak in New England

Note: Last week’s coronavirus live updates can be found here.

Mass. reports 92 new deaths, 1,077 new COVID-19 cases (May 17)

See the state’s updated data here.

Here’s the latest data on COVID-19 cases in New England (May 17)

Connecticut

Rhode Island

New Hampshire

Maine

Vermont

 

Mass. officials report 113 new COVID-19 deaths, 1,512 new cases (May 16)

See all the state’s updated data here.

Mass. officials report 110 new COVID-19 deaths, 1,239 new cases (May 15)

See all the state’s updated data here.

Here is the latest data on coronavirus cases in New England states (May 15)

Connecticut

Rhode Island

New Hampshire

Maine

Vermont

Mass. officials report 167 new COVID-19 deaths, 1,685 new cases (May 14)

See all the state’s updated data here.

Researchers call for plasma donors in new study for possible coronavirus treatment (May 14)

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute are beginning to study whether blood plasma from those who have recovered from the coronavirus can treat those who are sick with it. 

The Evaluation of the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) Antibody-containing Plasma thErapy study, also known as ESCAPE, will transfuse plasma from male donors with a high level of antibodies to current COVID-19 patients, according to the Boston Globe

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Researchers are looking for male plasma donors who have been either symptom-free for 14 days and have a negative COVID-19 test swab, or who have been symptom-free for 28 days, the hospitals said in a statement reported by the Globe.

Female donors will not be accepted, according to the statement, due to the possibility that they might experience a rare transfusion-related acute lung injury, or TRALI.

Donations will be collected at the Kraft Family Blood Donor Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the newspaper reported. 

To make an appointment for the study’s pre-screening, people can email officials at bwhcovidplasma@bwh.harvard.edu or call 617-525-3533. 

Massachusetts receives over 7.5 million pieces of PPE in recent shipment, Gov. Baker says (May 14) 

Six chartered flights brimming with personal protective equipment have been landing in Boston since April 20 through this last weekend, Gov. Charlie Baker said during his Thursday press conference. 

Each plane, he said, contained part of a 7.5 million-piece shipment of PPE and other supplies. 

“Masks make up the vast majority of the equipment, totaling over 6 million surgical and procedural masks,” Baker said. 

The new shipments also include about 800,000 swabs, nearly 400,000 coveralls, and over 125,000 gowns.

Alongside Chinese officials and other partners, Baker said his administration has been working to purchase and ensure the delivery.

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“There are a lot of moving parts associated with efforts to get PPE here, and there have been some challenges in the past with securing and finalizing the shipments that we’ve procured,” Baker said. “The process is made much more complicated by the fact that much of the equipment that we’re seeking is not made in the United States and certainly not at the volume that we need.”

As the shipments have arrived, Baker said the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, state police, the Massachusetts National Guard, and the Department of Public Health have been working to inspect, warehouse, test, and then distribute PPE to those who need it. 

“These shipments are a big win for Massachusetts and for the folks who are working on the frontlines who need this very important equipment as they risk exposure to COVID-19 everyday,” he said. “And we’re grateful for the wide range of partners who have helped make it happen.”

CVS to open 10 new COVID-19 testing sites around Mass. (May 14)

BOSTON (AP) — CVS is opening 10 new COVID-19 test sites at Massachusetts pharmacy locations starting Friday, the company said.

The Massachusetts locations are among 51 new sites that will also begin operating in Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, and Pennsylvania, the Rhode Island-based company said in a statement Thursday.

The new sites will utilize self-swab tests that won’t require people to get out of their vehicles. No testing will be done in the stores.

Patients will be given a test kit and instructions at the drive-thru window. A qualified CVS employee will observe the test to ensure it is done properly. Tests will be sent to a third-party lab for processing, with results available in about three days.

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Preregistration for the tests is required.

CVS Health expects to have up to 1,000 locations across the country offering the service by the end of May, with the goal of processing up to 1.5 million tests per month. For more information, visit CVS.com.

— Associated Press

New law would create fund to help with burials during pandemic (May 14)

Some Massachusetts lawmakers have proposed a $5 million fund to help families struggling to pay the burial costs of loved ones lost to the coronavirus pandemic.

A bipartisan proposal, backed by nearly a dozen lawmakers, would provide individual grants of up to $1,500 for qualifying families to offset burial costs, The Salem News reports.

Families of “essential workers,” such as those in health care, grocery stores or other fields, who remained on the job during the outbreak and died as a result of the virus, would be given priority.

“During this unprecedented time, the last thing folks should be worrying about is how they will cover funeral and burial expenses in the tragic event that a family member dies from COVID-19,” said state Sen. Diana DiZoglio, a Methuen Democrat.

More than 5,300 people in Massachusetts had died of the disease as of Wednesday, according to the state Department of Public Health.

— Associated Press

Here is the latest data on coronavirus cases in New England states (May 14)

Connecticut

Rhode Island

New Hampshire

Maine

Vermont

Mass. officials report 174 new COVID-19 deaths, 1,165 new cases (May 13)

See all the state’s updated data here.

Holyoke Soldiers’ Home to undergo management overhaul in wake of COVID-19 deaths (May 13)

BOSTON (AP) — The Holyoke veterans home that’s been the site of one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the nation will undergo a management overhaul, and going forward will operate with fewer residents and new safety protocols, according to state officials.

About $2 million in improvements are also being made to the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke to make it safer, Daniel Tsai, deputy secretary of the state Executive Office of Health and Human Services, said Tuesday at a meeting of the home’s trustees.

“We have been in quite a bit of a gauntlet, but we are not in the clear,” Tsai told Masslive.com.

As of Tuesday, 74 residents of the long-term care facility for elderly and ill veterans who have recently died tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, according to state officials.

Another 87 residents have tested positive. The home has more than 200 beds although only about half are currently filled. Dozens of employees have also tested positive.

There are several state and federal investigations into the deaths underway.

— Associated Press

Maine barbershops, salons are concerned by an influx of customers from out-of-state (May 13)

Maine became the first New England state to allow barbershops and hair salons to reopen on May 1, and now the business owners are expressing concerns about the increase in customers they’ve seen arriving from out-of-state, the Portland Press Herald reports. Maine has a standing order that anyone arriving from out-of-state must self-quarantine for 14 days to prevent infecting Mainers with the coronavirus.

Brittany Horst, co-owner of The Rusty Razor Barber Shop in Kittery, told the Press Herald she has turned away people from Massachusetts and Connecticut, states with larger COVID-19 outbreaks, who sought appointments at the shop. She’s also started checking IDs before allowing customers inside to make sure they are locals.

“We all are hoping everyone is doing everything they can to keep their community safe and to keep other communities safe. When you have someone who is willing to say, ‘I don’t care, I need a haircut,’ it is unnerving,” she told the newspaper. “It was definitely a shocking eye-opener that a haircut would be so important that you’d risk getting something or giving something to someone else just to have a haircut.”

Scott Ramsdell, owner of Ramsdell’s Barber Shop in Wells, told the Press Herald he is also turning away people from outside Maine.

“They are coming in and saying they’re coming directly from Boston or Massachusetts and want to squeeze in a haircut, not even knowing they’re supposed to quarantine for 14 days,” he said. “Unfortunately, we do get a few people who lie. There’s no way for us to track if they quarantine or not. That part is tough. I never thought it would be that important, but I guess guys are willing to lie just to get a haircut.”

Read the full report at the Press Herald.

Here is the latest data on coronavirus cases in New England states (May 13)

Connecticut

Rhode Island

New Hampshire

Maine

Vermont

Mass. officials report 33 new COVID-19 deaths, 870 new cases (May 12)

See all the state’s updated data here.

Gov. Baker files bill to authorize $1 billion in pandemic spending (May 12)

Gov. Charlie Baker filed a supplemental budget bill Tuesday, authorizing $1 billion in spending necessary to cover the sustained and expected costs during the pandemic.  

The expenses, he said, will cover the costs of personal protective equipment, rate adjustments for congregate care providers, temporary field hospitals and shelters, Massachusetts National Guard pay, the contract tracing program, and emergency child care for essential workers, among other response efforts. 

Baker said the bill will also allow the state to leverage more financial support from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

With that federal reimbursement, he said the $1 billion won’t impact the state.  

“It’s actually a net zero to the state; this is the money that we need to appropriate, and acknowledge to be able to access federal reimbursements under our emergency declaration act under FEMA,” he said during his daily press conference. “We need to spend first to get them to reimburse us, and that’s basically what that is.”

Advocates continue calls for Charlie Baker to reduce prison population amid COVID-19 (May 12)

Advocates say their calls for Gov. Charlie Baker to help keep inmates safe from COVID-19 in state prisons and jails by reducing the incarcerated population have gone unanswered.

A coalition of 22 community groups re-emphasized Tuesday the need for decarceration efforts as the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise inside prison walls.

“This is not decarceration for decarceration’s sake,” Rahsaan Hall, director of the racial justice program at the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, said during a virtual press conference. “These are people who have been sentenced to a term-limited sentence, not to death. But by not decarcerating at significant amounts, that is what we are in fact setting up people to do.”

Attorneys and advocates have been pushing for action to keep inmates safe since the onset of the pandemic. Last month, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that prisoners awaiting trial should be released unless prosecutors can prove they present an “unreasonable” danger to the community.

As of Monday, 2,819 inmates had been tested for the coronavirus, and 359 had tested positive, according to the Department of Correction; 109 DOC staffers and 48 other prison personnel had also tested positive.

Carlene Pavlos, director of the Massachusetts Public Health Association, said Tuesday inmates cannot physically distance themselves inside jails and prisons, even as health experts have emphasised how critical it is for the public to do so in its pandemic response.

“Without substantial depopulation, decarceration of our prisons and jails, there are few to no opportunities for staying safer on the inside,” Pavlos said. “And we’re talking about significantly reducing the prison population in order to make it even measurably improved for being able to practice the social distancing or physical distancing.”

She added that following the public health recommendations “require(s) a degree of autonomy — something that is not available to people who are incarcerated.”

In a pending class action lawsuit before the SJC, the Prisoners Legal Services of Massachusetts have sued Baker, state Public Safety Secretary Thomas Turco, state Department of Correction Commissioner Carol Mici, and state Parole Board Chair Gloriann Moroney in a push to expand the categories of inmates who are able to seek release, WBUR reports.

Advocates Tuesday pushed back on legal arguments that Baker cannot be ordered by the courts to enact the changes being sought in the prison system and offered 10 actions aimed at reducing the prison population.

On the list: granting parole to qualifying individuals who have reached or are within six months of their eligibility date, reviewing parole decisions for those who were previously denied and do not pose a threat to the community, and granting medical parole to eligible inmates, among other recommendations.

The coalition says officials could “use clemency power to release people who are medically vulnerable and whose release would be in the interest of public health and … pose no threat to the community.”

“This is an urgent issue,” said the Rev. David Lewis, of the Springfield community group, Pioneer Valley Project. “Decarceration is the only way to deal with the public safety issue in our prison system at this moment.”

Provincetown Pride and Carnival parades are latest summer event cancellations (May 12)

The Provincetown Select Board voted to cancel all town-sponsored events, including festivals that have come to characterize summertime in Provincetown, and revoke previously approved parade permits.

Approved unanimously, the motion cancels events like the 4th of July fireworks, and parades such as Pride and Carnival. 

“I’m good with this,” board member John Golden said in the board’s May 11 virtual meeting. “I’m sure we can revisit if some miracle happens and we can extend something into further into the season.”

For public safety and the ability to re-coordinate new events, board member Lise King suggested the mandate be extended beyond summer and through Labor Day. 

“I don’t think that at this point it’s realistic for us to think that we’re going to magically be able to have large gatherings, even in the fall,” King said during the meeting.

After discussing the possibility, the board voted to place the mandate until the end of the year.

“It just makes a level playing field,” Town Manager Robin Craver said over the conference call. “People might be able to reimagine their event and do something under the new guidelines.”

Proposed new bill would allow state to take control of nursing homes (May 12)

Legislators have drafted a new bill that would allow Massachusetts officials to take control of nursing homes during a public health emergency, and require nursing home staff to undergo testing and temperature checks.

The idea for the bill came after state Sen. Jamie Eldridge was tipped off about how badly COVID-19 was affecting the Life Care Center of Nashoba Valley in Littleton, WCVB 5 reported

“There was a lack of accountability from management and corporate, not really focusing on the needs of not only the residents, but the health care workers,” Eldrige told the station. 

He added that he’s looking to have a version of the bill ready for Gov. Charlie Baker’s signature by July 1. 

Here is the latest data on coronavirus cases in New England states (May 12)

Connecticut

Rhode Island
New Hampshire
Maine
Vermont

Mass. death toll from the coronavirus surpasses 5,000 (May 11)

See all the state’s updated data here.

Rutland police officer said to be in ‘critical condition,’ placed on ventilator (May 11)

A Rutland police officer who has been hospitalized with COVID-19 since May 2 is now in critical condition.

John Songy, 48, is suffering from organ failure, according to his wife, Joanne Songy, who has been posting regular updates on her husband’s fight with the virus on Facebook.

In her latest post on Sunday evening, Joanne said the hospital staff told her “there is nothing that could have been done differently.”

“I am asking all of you to please continue praying,” Joanne wrote. “He is young, he is strong, and he has touched so many lives in a positive way I believe he has more purpose here and will pull through.”

John received a plasma infusion Tuesday night. Plasma containing the antibodies of someone who has survived COVID-19 is thought to be one of the ways to treat someone fighting the virus.

Saturday night, Joanne reported that her husband received Remdesivir, a drug that has been tested to treat COVID-19. The drug caused a drop in John’s blood pressure, as well as a decrease in his oxygen saturation below the normal threshold.

“The [doctor] said he has been struggling to breath for days and he is tired, he saw no other choice but to intubate John,” Joanne wrote in a Facebook post just after 7:30 p.m. Saturday. “John is now on a ventilator. I am keeping the faith and I believe he needs this rest in order to heal and recover.”

Brigham Health to offer food insecurity screening, conduct COVID-19 testing at Dorchester location (May 11)

Starting Monday, Brigham Health will screen people in Dorchester for food insecurity, offering boxes of fresh fruit and vegetables, care kits with masks, and educational resources to anyone in need. 

The screening service, hosted at the Sportsmen Tennis and Enrichment Center at 950 Blue Hill Ave. in Dorchester, will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day until Saturday, and those who are eligible could receive eight free weeks of food delivery, officials said in a news release.

Screenings for food insecurity at Brigham Health’s testing sites in Hyde Park, Mission Hill, and Roxbury have shown how much the pandemic has exacerbated hunger, the news release read.

“The percentage of residents screened as food insecure rose from 19 percent, pre-COVID, to 29 percent,” officials wrote. “At the Tobin Community Center in Roxbury, 50 percent of residents who visited the site between May 4 and 9 screened as food insecure.”

Officials said the new Dorchester site will also offer COVID-19 testing for anyone with suspected symptoms, such as fever, sore throat, shortness of breath, or a loss of sense of smell. Testing will start on Tuesday and continue through Friday on a walk-in, first-come, first-served basis. 

To be screened, Brigham Health said visitors are not required to have health insurance, do not need to be a Brigham patient, and will not be asked about their immigration status. 

Here is the latest data on coronavirus cases in New England states (May 11)

Connecticut 

Rhode Island

New Hampshire

Maine

Vermont

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