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

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

Mass. officials report 44 new COVID-19 deaths, 596 new cases (May 25)

See all the state’s updated data here.

Mass. officials report 68 new COVID-19 deaths, 1,013 new positive cases (May 24)

See all the state’s updated data here.

Boston to distribute care kits to residents in need this week (May 24)

 The City of Boston will be distributing 22,000 community care kits to residents this week.

Neighborhood Services organized a group of 130 volunteers from 25 different city departments who will be assembling the care kits for Boston residents and distributing them to community organizations, meal sites, and testing sites across the city, Mayor Marty Walsh’s office said on Twitter Saturday.

Each kit includes an informational booklet on COVID-19 facts and resources from the city, a face mask, hand sanitizer, a pair of gloves, and anti-bacterial wipes. 

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The first half of the care packages will be distributed this week to residents with the greatest need, officials noted. 

Walsh also acknowledged Monday’s Memorial Day holiday, noting that volunteers had placed 20,000 flags and 5,500 flowers in Boston “to pay tribute to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.”

“Boston has always been a city committed to service,” Walsh said in a Tweet. “Today and every day, we must remember those that have sacrificed everything for our freedom and give back in whatever way we can.”

Here is the latest data on coronavirus cases in New England states (May 24)

Connecticut 

Rhode Island 

New Hampshire 

 Maine 

Vermont 

Mass. officials report 76 new COVID-19 deaths, 773 new cases (May 23)

See all the state’s updated data here.

Here is the latest data on coronavirus cases in New England states (May 23)

Connecticut

Rhode Island

New Hampshire

Maine

Vermont

Mass. officials report 80 new COVID-19 deaths, 805 new cases (May 22)

See all the state’s updated data here.

Here is the latest data on coronavirus cases in New England states (May 22)

Connecticut

Rhode Island

New Hampshire

Maine

Vermont

Mass. officials report 82 new COVID-19 deaths, 1,114 new cases (May 21)

See all the state’s updated data here.

UMass president proposes possible tuition freeze for next academic year (May 21)

As many Massachusetts families face financial turmoil during the pandemic, UMass President Marty Meehan said Wednesday that he’s proposing a tuition freeze for the university’s nearly 50,000 in-state undergraduate students during the upcoming academic year.

The college’s Board of Trustees Committee on Administration and Finance is scheduled to decide student charges at its June 10 meeting, which will be followed by a full board vote on June 17.

UMass is currently predicting it will need to give about $395 million in financial aid to students during the 2019-2020 academic year, which would be an increase of $124 million, or 46 percent, over five years. 

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Meehan said that even though he’s asking the board to freeze tuition as the college system simultaneously grapples with major pandemic-related financial hits, it’s the right course to take. 

“During this time of stress and uncertainty for our students and their families, we need to keep our high-quality programs and the benefits of a UMass degree as accessible and affordable as possible,” Meehan said in a statement. “In addition to keeping tuition at current levels, we are taking steps to ensure that those students facing the steepest financial challenges will not see their dream of earning a UMass degree cut short.”

Boston has distributed nearly $4 million in grants to small businesses (May 21)

Boston has distributed nearly $4 million in grants to more than 1,100 small businesses across the city struggling because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The businesses receiving grants through the Small Business Relief Fund represent industries most-impacted by closures, policies, or general loss of revenues due to the pandemic, according to a statement Thursday from the office of Mayor Marty Walsh.

“Through the Small Business Relief Fund we have been proud to support Boston’s small businesses with a swift and direct infusion of funds through a fiscally responsible and equitable system that will help businesses stay open, pay employees, and strengthen our local business districts,” Walsh said.

— Associated Press

CVS announces locations of 12 new coronavirus testing sites in Mass. (May 21)

CVS Health is opening 12 new drive-thru coronavirus testing sites at pharmacies across Massachusetts on Friday, the company said.

The sites opening Friday are in Chelsea, Falmouth, Haverhill, New Bedford, Salem, Shrewsbury, Southwick, Waltham, Winchendon, Wrentham, and two in Holbrook.

The new sites will utilize self-swab tests that won’t require people to leave their vehicles. No testing will be done in stores. The tests are done under the supervision of a CVS employee and results are usually available in three days. Preregistration is required.

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The Rhode Island-based company opened nine such sites in Massachusetts earlier this month and plans to open 1,000 sites across the nation by the end of the month.

— Associated Press

CrossFit gym owners band together to push for reopening sooner than Phase 3 (May 21)

Over 70 CrossFit gyms throughout the state have banded together in an effort to be allowed to reopen prior to their Phase 3 designation.

The gyms say they can control class sizes and have planned disinfecting procedures to keep members safe, according to NBC10 Boston.

Fitness facilities were placed in Phase 3 of the “Reopening Massachusetts” plan, along with museums and casinos. Other gyms outside of CrossFit feel they should be allowed to reopen sooner than Phase 3, as well.

“A lot of us are going to be in serious trouble another two months from now,” Lindsey Grasis, who owns CrossFit 1977 in Charlton, told the news station. “And we’re all trying to figure out what we can do to get word out there on how we think this is essentially an injustice.”

Brian O’Neil, who owns CrossFit Claddagh in Auburn, said his gym can manage the number of people inside.

“We’re a private membership,” he told NBC10 Boston. “We can control how many come to class by sign ups before class.”

Brookline antibody test results indicate low community COVID-19 exposure (May 21)

After Brookline officials conducted COVID-19 antibody testing on more than 200 town employees and first responders and more than 400 randomly-selected residents, nearly 7% tested positive. 

Town officials released the test results Wednesday showing that of the 689 tested, 47 — or 6.82% — tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies, which indicate a past infection. 

“The results of these tests show that our community has a very low exposure to COVID-19 at this stage, which means the vast majority of residents are potentially at-risk of getting sick and should continue to take preventive steps to avoid the virus,” Public Health Director Dr. Swannie Jett said in a statement. 

While the results show that asymptomatic exposure to the novel coronavirus has been low in Brookline, officials said residents should remain vigilant in covering their faces, maintaining social distancing and adhering to the state’s safer-at-home policy by remaining home whenever possible.

The town noted that everyone who tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies during the study has been notified, and those who tested negative will not be called directly.

Here is the latest data on coronavirus cases in New England states (May 21)

Connecticut

Rhode Island

New Hampshire

Maine

Vermont

Mass. death toll from the coronavirus passes 6,000, with 128 new deaths reported (May 20)

See all the state’s updated data here.

Charlie Baker responds to Marty Walsh’s concerns about the state’s office reopening plan (May 20)

Gov. Charlie Baker says the 25 percent occupancy figure for offices in Massachusetts during the Phase 1 of the state’s coronavirus reopening plan is a “cap” — not a mandate.

In response to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s concerns that the 25 percent limit is “too much” for offices in the densely populated capital city, the Massachusetts governor said Wednesday that some communities and businesses could impose lower limits.

“This is an allowable amount,” he said.

The first phase of Baker’s reopening plan, which he detailed for the first time Monday, allows nonessential offices to reopen at 25 percent of their building’s legal maximum occupancy beginning on May 25.

Office reopenings in Boston will be delayed until June 1, but Walsh said Tuesday that he was “not comfortable” with the 25 percent figure, due to concerns about a second wave of COVID-19 infections and potentially straining the city’s emergency childcare centers.

“Our recommendation was up to 25 percent, OK?” Baker told reporters Wednesday at a press briefing in Braintree, adding that the city of Boston was free to go “up to some other number” on June 1.

“We want people to do whatever they’re most comfortable doing here,” he added.

Baker noted that Walsh’s chief of staff, Kathryn Burton, was one of the 17 members of the administration’s reopening advisory board, which met frequently with municipal officials as they formed their plan.

Due to either health concerns or office logistics, the governor suggested that many individual businesses wouldn’t immediately hit the 25 percent limit anyway. His administration also recently secured agreements with more than 50 major Massachusetts companies to continue letting employees work from home. And whether it’s religious gatherings or barbershops, Baker reiterated that reopening plan did not mandate any organizations to resume operations.

“No one who’s part of Phase 1 has to do anything,” he said.

‘Another positive sign’: 2 coronavirus field hospitals scheduled to close (May 20)

As the state sees a decline in COVID-19 hospitalizations, officials have made the call to close down two field hospitals that were originally set up to help treat a possible overflow of coronavirus patients. 

The field hospital at the DCU Center in Worcester will shutter by 6 p.m. Wednesday, and another at UMass Lowell is expected to come down this week, authorities said. 

Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus said during his Monday afternoon COVID-19 update that the 250-bed medical facility at the convention center was the state’s first field hospital, and a key component to making sure local healthcare facilities wouldn’t be overwhelmed during the surge.

He said the center cared for just nine patients Monday, down from 12 on Sunday.

“The goal will be some time this week, probably the middle of this week, to take the DCU facility offline,” Augustus said. “Another positive sign as we move forward.” 

With six patients left on Tuesday night, city officials said in a public update that the field hospital would close its doors Wednesday night. 

“Some patients will be discharged and others will be absorbed by the hospitals,” the city wrote. 

As of Tuesday, Worcester reported 3,556 confirmed positive coronavirus, an increase of 34 cases since Monday.

Lowell General Hospital announced Tuesday that it will also be shutting down its alternative care site, which was set up in mid-April at UMass Lowell’s Campus Recreation Center. 

The field hospital served as a place to transfer recovering COVID-19 patients who required lower levels of care before returning home, but in the past two weeks, hospital officials said the number of inpatients has leveled off.  

Lowell General Chief Executive Officer Jody White said in a statement that he’s hopeful hospitalization rates will continue to decline, but urges people to remain vigilant as the hospital continues to see patients beyond its normal critical care capacity. 

“We are encouraged that our hospital and region have not experienced the worst-case scenario that would have required use of the alternative care space, but the pandemic in the Merrimack Valley is far from over,” White said. “We ask that residents continue to support our care teams by social distancing, wearing face coverings, and performing diligent hand hygiene so we can all reach the other side of this crisis.”

Steamship Authority employee tests positive for COVID-19 (May 20)

A Steamship Authority employee who works at the Nantucket terminal and commutes from the mainland has tested positive for COVID-19, officials said in a statement Tuesday.

The employee, who was not identified, last worked at the terminal on May 11.

“The Authority is working closely with public health officials on Nantucket and in Barnstable County to guide its efforts to share information and public health recommendations with passengers and Steamship employees who may have come into contact with the COVID-19 positive employee,” the statement read.

After learning that the employee was being tested Friday, officials said the terminal was thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

The ferry line also hired Moran Environmental Recovery to perform a deep cleaning of the M/V Eagle and the M/V Gay head, the two vessels assigned to the Nantucket route, while they were berthed in Hyannis Tuesday night.

“Authority staff are in the process of notifying the crews who were assigned to those vessels, as well as employees in the Hyannis terminal, when the COVID -19 positive employee traveled to determine if any of them require being placed in quarantine or being tested,” officials said. “Staff are also working to determine if the employee came into contact with any passengers and, if so, to notify those individuals as well.”

Steamship General Manager Robert Davis thanked the employee who tested positive for following the company’s protocols by informing their supervisor about their health so that next steps could be taken.

“Our thoughts and best wishes are with our employee for a speedy and complete recovery,” Davis said in the statement.

Here is the latest data on coronavirus cases in New England states (May 20)

Connecticut

Rhode Island

New Hampshire

Maine

Vermont

BC president says school intends to open for on-campus classes on Aug. 31 (May 19)

Boston College intends to be open for on-campus classes as scheduled on Aug. 31, President William Leahy wrote to the school community Tuesday.

University leaders and officials have looked at the challenges for returning to classes at its Chestnut Hill campus over the past several weeks — a process that will continue on, “mindful educational needs and desires of students and their parents, concerns about protecting the health of our entire community, and economic realities facing American higher education,” Leahy wrote in a letter.

And the steps necessary for in-class instruction to start up once more will come in phases slated to happen over the summer, according to Leahy, who cited state guidelines.

“Having as many as 400 students on campus after March 15 has provided valuable lessons about how to implement physical distancing and food distribution protocols in dining facilities, increase sanitizing for buildings (particularly residence halls), and use technology for meetings and events,” he wrote. “In addition, University Health Services has developed testing and isolation procedures in response to COVID-19, and administrators and others will keep refining necessary plans and policies for the resumption of campus life. More remains to be done in regard to testing, contact tracing, and treatment, but I believe that these and other issues can be addressed by working in concert with institutions of higher education in our area as well as federal, state, and local government.”

Leahy pointed to how the institution has weathered times of crisis over its history, from the Great Depression to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“Our University has already responded to the coronavirus with grace, generosity, and commitment; and I remain confident that it will continue to do so in the months and year ahead, drawing from our faith and trust in one another, and the strength of our mission and Jesuit, Catholic heritage,” he wrote.

Mass. officials report 76 new COVID-19 deaths, 873 new cases (May 19)

See all the state’s updated data here.

Last candlepin bowling alley in Worcester closes for good, citing coronavirus (May 19)

The last candlepin bowling alley in the Massachusetts city where the sport was invented is closing, and management says the coronavirus pandemic is to blame.

Colonial Bowling Center in Worcester is shuttering for good, manager Paul Wambach told The Telegram & Gazette on Monday.

The fall-to-spring season provides most of the alley’s revenue, Wambach said, but the business has been closed since March. Summer leagues usually start in April.

Candlepin bowling was invented in Worcester in 1880, according to the International Candlepin Bowling Association, and the city once had more than 25 alleys.

— Associated Press

Here is the latest data on coronavirus cases in New England states (May 19)

Connecticut

Rhode Island

New Hampshire

Maine

Vermont

Mass. officials report 65 new COVID-19 deaths, 1,042 new cases (May 18)

See all the state’s updated data here.

New bill would exempt PPE from sales tax (May 18)

A bill filed on May 13 would make it easier for residents to purchase masks by exempting them from state sales tax.

While clothing is currently exempt from sales tax, personal protective gear doesn’t fall under the same category. 

State Rep. Josh Cutler, who created the bill, said in a tweet that it would also encourage growth in the budding industry of local crafters selling face masks. 

 

In addition to making masks more affordable, this helps increase production by encouraging growing cottage industry of mask makers who want to do [a] good deed,” Cutler wrote, and “perhaps make a little money.” 

The bill is currently in the House Rules Committee, and a hearing date to discuss it has not been set. 

Cambridge state representative threatened over request to delay reopening (May 18)

An investigation is underway after state Rep. Mike Connolly received a threatening comment on his Facebook post Saturday night.

The message, which suggested someone might approach the Cambridge-based representative with a gun, came after he posted a letter urging Gov. Charlie Baker to extend the stay-at-home advisory until at least June 1.

Alongside a photo of a firearm, the comment read, “You might want to rethink your letter.” 

“I was taken aback,” Connolly told the Boston Globe, adding that he recently spoke with a detective about the post. “It gave me the chills to be honest.”

Cambridge police are investigating the incident and confirmed that Connolly had contacted them, the newspaper reported. 

“This has been an unfortunate and sad situation,” Connolly wrote in a tweet Monday morning. “Thank you to everyone who has reached out to offer support.” 

Here is the latest data on coronavirus cases in New England states (May 18)

Connecticut

Rhode Island

New Hampshire

Maine

Vermont

  Boston to distribute care kits to residents in need this week (May 24)

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