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 38 new COVID-19 deaths, 193 new cases (June 8)

See all the state’s updated data here.

Here is the latest data on coronavirus cases in New England states (June 8)

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Maine

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Rhode Island has not yet updated their coronavirus data as of Monday. 

Mass. sees 304 new cases, 27 new deaths (June 7)

All of the state’s updated data can be found here.

Here’s the latest data for New England states (June 7)

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Maine

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Mass. sees 55 new COVID-19 deaths, 575 new cases (June 6)

See all of the state’s updated data here.

Here is the latest data on coronavirus cases in New England states (June 6)

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Rhode Island

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Mass. officials report 35 new COVID-19 deaths, 494 new cases (June 5)

See all the state’s updated data here.

Here is the latest data on coronavirus cases in New England states (June 5)

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Mass. officials report 50 new COVID-19 deaths, 471 new cases (June 4)

See all the state’s updated data here.

SJC declines to release prisoners amid coronavirus pandemic (June 4)

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court denied a lawsuit on Tuesday that sought the immediate releases of sentenced inmates to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the state’s jails and prisons during the ongoing pandemic.

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While the court acknowledged in its ruling that conditions in the state’s Department of Correction facilities leave prisoners at an increased risk to contract the virus, they noted that the DOC has followed federal health guidelines and is conducting extensive testing in its facilities.

“The administration is pleased that today’s decision appropriately reflects the unprecedented steps that Massachusetts’ criminal justice agencies have taken to support the health and safety of the people in our care, our vendors, and staff, and we remain committed to adopting effective strategies that protect the public at large while safely managing our facilities,” the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security said in a statement Tuesday.

The case is now headed back to Superior Court as an emergency matter for further litigation, though the decision left many disappointed as advocates have fought to reduce the prison population during the pandemic to allow for adequate social distancing.

Prisoners’ Legal Services filed the lawsuit — arguing that crowded, unsanitary prison conditions are inhumane and act as a petri dish for the coronavirus’s spread — in late March on behalf of a group of inmates.

PLS Executive Director Elizabeth Matos said in a statement that over 600 incarcerated people in Mass. have tested positive for the coronavirus and, without releases, the conditions will escalate.

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“The Executive branch has failed to meaningfully act on the fact that incarcerated people simply cannot use the single most important tool we have – social distancing – to protect themselves from coronavirus,” Matos said. “That failure is a clear statement about how little we, as a Commonwealth, value the lives of people in prison, who are disproportionately people of color and people struggling with mental health issues. At a time when the value of black and brown lives is being painfully contested on the street, not to demand better and not to expect better is to accept that these lives don’t matter.”

Last two COVID-19 patients released from Boston Hope (June 4)

Nurses, doctors, and Boston Hope staff cheered as the last two COVID-19 patients treated at the field hospital were discharged Tuesday. 

Joseph Murphy, 68, of Weymouth, was the first to leave after spending 36 days at the emergency facility set up by the state at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, according to The Boston Globe. 

The last to be released was 78-year-old Malden resident Oger Julien, who spent eight days at the hospital, the Globe reported. 

Oger Julien, 78 from Malden, gets applause from emotional nurses, doctors and staff as he was the last patient to leave Boston Hope hospital at the Boston Convention Center, which treated COVID-19 patients for several months at the height of the virus. — John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Mass General Brigham announced in late May that the 1,000 bed facility had served more than 700 COVID-19 patients and will remain in place over the summer, ready to reopen in the case of a second coronavirus surge. 

“The work of the men and women at Boston Hope these past six weeks was heroic,” Anne Klibanski, Mass General Brigham president and CEO, said in a statement. “We were fortunate to have the people and the commitment available to stand up this 1,000-bed facility, which served so many from throughout the city and across the region. But, we were even more fortunate that we were never confronted with the need to use all of those beds.”

Here is the latest data on coronavirus cases in New England states (June 4)

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Maine

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Mass. officials report 68 new COVID-19 deaths, 429 new cases (June 3)

See all the state’s updated data here.

Mass. officials report 50 new COVID-19 deaths, 358 new cases (June 2)

See all the state’s updated data here.

Here is the latest data on coronavirus cases in New England states (June 2)

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New Hampshire 

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Mass. coronavirus numbers jump as state adds probable cases to totals (June 1)

See all the state’s updated data here.

Here is the latest data on coronavirus cases in New England states (June 1)

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Mass. officials report 78 new COVID-19 deaths, 664 new cases (May 31)

See all the state’s updated data here.

Judge denies injunction that would have halted Maine out-of-state quarantine order (May 31)

A federal judge has denied a motion in a lawsuit by some Maine campground operators who believe a state quarantine order for out-of-state visitors is unconstitutional. The move came Friday, hours after the U.S. Department of Justice said it filed court papers in support of campground operators.

The campgrounds sued in federal court saying they believe the rule treats Maine residents more favorably than out-of-state residents, and that is hurting them economically.

U.S. District Judge Lance Walker on Friday denied a motion for a preliminary injunction, allowing the rule to stand while the lawsuit proceeds, the Portland Press Herald reported.

Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, said the quarantine is “a proven tool to prevent the spread of this deadly disease” and said the Justice Department is “making a concerted effort to undermine the health of the people of Maine.”

Mills said Saturday that restaurants in Androscoggin, Cumberland and York counties that she told to delay opening can sell their excess food to prisons. Mills plans to start the second phase of the state’s reopening on June 1 but said restaurants in those counties won’t be able to open that day. She said the Maine Department of Corrections commissioner has agreed to purchase excess food from restaurants in those areas, WMTE reported.

On Saturday, Maine reported four more deaths from COVID-19 for a total of 89. The state had 2,025 confirmed cases.

— Associated Press

Officials concerned Asian Americans in Boston may not be getting tested for COVID-19 (May 31)

City officials in Boston are concerned that many Asian American residents may not be getting tested for the new coronavirus.

Boston’s Chinatown zip code, where half the residents are of Asian descent, is one of city neighborhoods with the lowest percentage of positive coronavirus cases, Marty Martinez, the city’s chief of Health and Human Services told the Boston Globe. Only 13% of those tested were positive, compared to the citywide cumulative percentage of 26%.

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders make up just less than 10% of Boston’s population but account for only 4% of confirmed COVID-19 cases and 6% of deaths, according the newspaper. At the same time, black residents, who comprise 25% of the city’s population, account for 38% of COVID-19 infections and 35% of deaths, in cases where the race and ethnicity is known. Latinos make up nearly 20% of the Boston population and account for 25% of cases and 11% of deaths.

Paul Watanabe, a political science professor and director of the Institute for Asian American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston who is on the mayor’s COVID-19 Health Inequities Task Force, thinks the numbers, though incomplete, show a low level of testing among Boston’s Asian American population. The percentage of deaths may indicate that those Asian Americans with COVID-19 are getting tested late.

“It suggests people might be contracting the illness, unknown that they got it, and going straight to death … without having their situation diagnosed through a positive test or being dealt with, more importantly,” Watanabe said.

— Associated Press

Here is the latest data on coronavirus cases in New England states (May 31)

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Rhode Island

New Hampshire 

Maine

Vermont

Mass. officials report 50 new COVID-19 deaths, 789 new cases (May 30)

See all the state’s updated data here.

Here is the latest data on coronavirus cases in New England states (May 30)

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Rhode Island

New Hampshire

Maine

Vermont

Mass. officials report 78 new COVID-19 deaths, 617 new cases (May 29)

See all the state’s updated data here.

Here is the latest data on coronavirus cases in New England states (May 29)

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Maine

Vermont

Mass. officials report 93 new COVID-19 deaths, 675 new cases (May 28)

See all the state’s updated data here.

Baker signs bill extending max length of unemployment benefits (May 28)

A bill to provide additional support through the unemployment insurance system for those affected by the coronavirus pandemic landed on Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk just before Memorial Day weekend. 

The legislation, which Baker signed into law on Tuesday, expands the maximum allowable claims period from 26 to 30 weeks, if the number of initial claims filed in any one week exceeds 100,000. 

It will also prevent layoffs related to the coronavirus from negatively impacting employers’ future unemployment insurance contributions, while removing the limit on dependency benefits, which is currently capped at 50 percent of an individual’s weekly benefit rate.

“Unemployment benefits are a critical lifeline in an economic storm and the pandemic has brought into sharp focus the importance of having a sound unemployment insurance system that responds effectively to people depending on it,” Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr said in a statement. “The measures contained in this bill will go a long way to strengthening our system and helping individuals and families when they need it most.”

RMV extends deadlines again for expiring licenses, registrations, inspections (May 28)

The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles announced Tuesday that it will further extend renewal timelines for expiring motor vehicle inspection stickers, passenger plate registrations, professional credentials, driver’s licenses, and learner’s permits.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, the RMV is offering a slew of extensions to people whose credentials have expired since the start of the public health crisis, and those whose credentials are set to expire during the summer months. 

The extensions are part of an effort to reduce customer visits to the 10 open RMV Service Centers, according to the state’s website.

Below, see a rundown of the new expiration dates:

  • All commercial and non-commercial vehicle inspection stickers that expire on March 31, April 30, and May 31 have been extended for 60 days. Annual inspection stickers that have expired or will expire in March, April, and May 2020 have been extended until July 31, 2020, as well. 
  • All passenger plate registrations that have already expired or will expire in March, April, and May 2020 have been extended until July 31, 2020. The RMV said it will also apply a 30-day extension to all registrations set to expire in June and urged customers to complete renewal transactions online. 
  • Learner’s permits expiring between March and August 2020 have been extended until December 2020. The RMV said this extension will allow permit students and driving schools extra time to complete their in-car instruction and a road test when those actions are authorized to start up safely again. As of now, Class D and M road tests have been cancelled until further notice, though commercial driver licenses road tests are still scheduled. 
  • Driver’s licenses and ID cards, including Commercial Driver’s Licenses, that expired or will expire in March, April, and May 2020, will now expire in September 2020.
  • Driver’s licenses and ID cards that will expire in June have been extended to October 2020; those set to expire in July have been extended until November 2020 and those that will expire in August have been extended until December 2020.

See a full chart listing the state’s RMV extensions during the COVID-19 pandemic here.

Mass. officials report 74 new COVID-19 deaths, 527 new cases (May 27)

See all the state’s updated data here.

Researchers are pioneering a smell test at Boston hospitals to detect early coronavirus symptom (May 27)

Researchers are developing a self-administered, at-home smell test that could potentially detect the early stages of smell loss in patients, leading to early COVID-19 diagnoses.

Doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital are spearheading the new clinical study. Up to 400 patients at the three hospitals will participate in the first round of testing, according to a release.

“There is so much we don’t know about COVID-19, but the research shows that loss of smell and taste play a prominent role in identifying possible patients with the virus,” Dr. Mark Albers, an MGH neurologist specializing in memory and olfactory disorders and the principal investigator of the study, said in a statement.

Here’s how the test works:

Participants will receive a small, scented card either in person or via mail. Then, they’ll need to download an app on their phone, tablet, or home computer to answer a series of questions about coronavirus symptoms and subjective loss of smell and taste.

ADK Group, a Boston-based digital agency, is currently designing a prototype of the app, where all participants’ responses will be stored during the pilot phase.

The smell study is rolling out in collaboration with multiple companies — International Flavors & Fragrances Inc. (IFF), which donated the scents from their Living Technology collection, MFR Samplings, an Argentina-based group who provided the 500 cards, and Arcade Beauty, an American company that contributed odor labels.

“If we can provide reliable self-administered tests to people and health care workers,” Albers said, “we may be able to slow the spread of the disease in the future and chart recovery of smell function, which may be helpful to determine when it is safe to re-engage after having the COVID infection.”

State commits $56 million to fighting food insecurity as local pantries struggle to keep up with demands (May 27)

Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration has announced $56 million in funding to help residents who are facing food insecurity during the coronavirus pandemic. 

“These funds jump start some of the recommendations to address urgent needs and food supply chain issues due to the COVID-19 pandemic for communities across the Commonwealth,” Baker said in a statement. “While COVID-19 has had a statewide impact, some of our communities and residents who have historically experienced food insecurity have been even more disproportionately impacted.”

In Lawrence, volunteers are delivering more than 13,000 pounds of food to 750 families every day, leaving many pantries near-empty, Boston 25 News reported

This new investment, Baker said, will offer support across the food supply chain, from big distributors to farmers to fishers to food banks.

“The more we can do to pump up the volume on our local supplies and our local farmers, the more likely we are to create a robust system that can work its way through some of this difficulty,” he said during his Tuesday press conference.

Going forward, Baker’s administration pledged to continue working with the state’s Food Security Task Force and the Legislature to address hunger.

Sam’s Club near Walmart outbreak closes when 28 workers test positive for COVID-19 (May 27)

A cluster of COVID-19 cases has emerged at a Sam’s Club distribution center near a Massachusetts Walmart that was closed for several days when more than 81 employees tested positive for the disease caused by the coronavirus, officials said.

Nineteen workers at the Worcester Sam’s Club facility, which is not open to the public, have recently tested positive, City Manager Edward Augustus Jr. said Tuesday, according to The Telegram & Gazette. Nine employees had earlier tested positive.

The Sam’s Club distribution center now has a 24-hour nursing presence, Augustus said.

Sam’s Club is a division of Walmart.

The Worcester Walmart closed April 29 after city health officials learned of the COVID-19 outbreak. It reopened May 5.

— Associated Press

Boston Hope field hospital suspending admission of new patients (May 27)

In another sign of progress in the battle against the spread of the coronavirus in Massachusetts, a field hospital set up inside the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center is suspending the admission of new patients.

The field hospital, dubbed “Boston Hope,” was one a handful of temporary emergency facilities created around the state to help hospitals cope with an expected influx of COVID-19 patients.

The facility served more than 700 COVID-19 patients and will continue to treat those still in the facility, Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday. The 1,000 beds will remain in place over the summer in case the state experiences another COVID-19 surge.

Baker said the decision to close the facility comes after daily conversations with the health care community.

“We’ve talked a lot about preparing for and dealing with the surge — which is now something that, thanks to a lot of work by a lot of people, is behind us — and as a result of that, many of the field hospitals that we set up around the state to add beds and reduce strain on hospitals have begun to close,” he said.

The emergency hospital was pulled together by state and city officials, Mass General Brigham, Boston Healthcare for the Homeless, and others.

The state’s hospitals were stressed but never overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients, according to Baker.

— Associated Press

Boston Reopening Fund providing $6 million to small businesses for reopening costs (May 27)

The City of Boston will be giving out $6 million in debt-free grants to help small businesses implement the necessary public health measures required to reopen safely and procure personal protective equipment, Mayor Marty Walsh announced Tuesday. 

The new Reopen Boston Fund will go toward businesses with under 15 employees who are required to work in close proximity to each other, or may need to physically engage with their clients and customers — like personal care businesses, retail, or food services. 

“When our small businesses are ready and able to open, we want our business owners and workers to have access to the appropriate resources to stay safe,” Walsh said in a statement. “These additional grants will help level the playing field for Boston’s small businesses and support both our public health and economic equity priorities.”

All applicants are required to have a brick and mortar location in Boston, and a vendor ID from the city. 

Applications open here at 5 p.m. Thursday. 

Grants, which will be awarded for up to $2,000 on a rolling basis, will be released in three rounds that closely follow the four phases outlined in the state’s reopening plan. 

The first round will focus on personal services like barber shops and hair salons, while the second will target retail, restaurants, and any remaining personal services like nail salons, day spas, waxing, or laser services. 

The last round will look to support bars, arts and entertainment venues, and fitness businesses. 

Here is the latest data on coronavirus cases in New England states (May 27)

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Mass. officials report 57 new COVID-19 deaths, 422 new cases (May 26)

See all the state’s updated data here.

Need a refresher on what’s open as of this week? Here’s a list (May 26)

After months of being shuttered, a new wave of businesses were cleared to reopen Monday under Massachusetts’ four-phased coronavirus reopening plan.

The first phase began on May 18. Below, see a rundown of what’s opened since then:

  • Construction 
  • Firearm retailers and shooting ranges
  • Home remodeling
  • In-home installations such as painting and repairs
  • Manufacturing businesses 
  • Places of worship at 40% capacity
  • Auto dealers and wholesalers for curbside pickup and delivery only 
  • Car washes for exterior washing only
  • Hair salons, barbershops, and pet grooming (with curbside pickup and drop off) — all by appointment only
  • General office spaces not in Boston can reopen with less than 25% maximum occupancy, though working from home is strongly encouraged
  • Laboratories and life sciences facilities 
  • Libraries for curbside pickup and delivery only
  • Retail stores for curbside pickup and delivery only
  • Marijuana shops using curbside pickup only
  • Beaches, parks, outdoor fitness classes, drive-in theaters, athletic fields and courts, outdoor adventure activities like zip lines and mountain biking, most fishing, hunting and boating, in addition to outdoor gardens, zoos, reserves and public installations are now open – all with guidelines

As the economy reopens, all businesses are required to follow mandatory workplace safety standards as well as sector-specific safety protocols and best practices as outlined by the state. 

There are currently no set dates for the final three phases, though Gov. Charlie Baker said each phase will last at least three weeks. 

Read a full list of which businesses are in each phase of the reopening plan here. 

Danvers meat market closes after workers test positive for COVID-19 (May 26)

The McKinnon’s Market & Super Butcher Shop in Danvers will remain closed after Memorial Day due to several employees testing positive for the coronavirus, store officials announced in a Facebook post Monday. 

“The closure will allow us to have all employees tested and cleared to work, and allow us to have the store professionally sanitized, and then deep cleaned,” the market wrote. “These proactive measures, being taken in cooperation with the Danvers Board of Health, is in the best interest of all employees and the public that shops our store.”

Store officials did not specify how many workers have tested positive. 

The meat market, at 73 Holten St., will remain shuttered through Tuesday, but hopes to reopen by Wednesday. 

“Once back open, all employees who arrive to work will have their temperature checked, and we’ll be monitoring for any symptoms each day,” officials said. “We are making sure all employees are informed and understand the steps to take to best safeguard their own health and the health of our community. Thank You to everyone for their understanding.”

Here is the latest data on coronavirus cases in New England states (May 26)

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