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

FILE - This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S. On Friday, Feb. 21, 2020, The Associated Press reported on a video circulating online incorrectly asserting that man in Wuhan, China, was sanitizing his apartment with alcohol when the air conditioner came on and caused an explosion and fire. The fire captured on video was the result of a cigarette that was improperly put out on a comforter. The comforter then ignited and was placed on a balcony where nearby debris caught fire in Chongqing, China, a city hundreds of miles away from Wuhan. (NIAID-RML via AP)
–NIAID-RML via AP

Mass. now has 5 COVID-19 deaths; state sees 121 new cases, with total at 646 (March 22)

Number of coronavirus deaths in Connecticut rises to 5; Maine has 70 cases of COVID-19, Rhode Island 66, New Hampshire 65, and Vermont 49 (March 22)

Boston police officer, Attleboro High School student, and VA nurse in Brockton are among those to test positive for COVID-19 in Mass. (March 22)

A Boston police officer, high school student in Attleboro, and VA nurse in Brockton are among the ranks of the hundreds of Massachusetts residents now diagnosed with the novel coronavirus

According to Boston police, the area where the officer worked has been thoroughly sanitized and the officer will remain at home until they are medically cleared to return.

CBS Boston reports the Attleboro High School student who tested positive was not symptomatic until after the school closed on March 13 and anyone who had close contact with the student is being contacted by public health officials. According to the station, a VA Boston nurse at the institution’s Brockton campus has also tested positive and is at home recovering. Anyone who had contact with the nurse has been notified.

Massachusetts adds 112 new coronavirus cases, total of reported cases ticks up to 525 (March 21)

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Gov. Charlie Baker announces that about 300 childcare facilities will open Monday for emergency workers (March 21)

Gov. Charlie Baker said 300 emergency childcare facilities will be open Monday to accommodate emergency workers.

Baker announced the news during a Saturday afternoon press conference. He said healthcare workers, as well as “critical service workers like grocery store employees,” would qualify to use the facilities.

Baker announced on Wednesday that all child care centers will be forced to close on Monday, minus these special facilities to serve for the duration of state of emergency.

“We know that child care is an especially critical piece of emergency service and it allows our front-line workers to continue their battle against COVID-19, and to continue their work,” Baker said. “There are times when our families are on the front lines and don’t have another option for their children.”

In addition to the 300 sites identified on Friday, the governor said he anticipates there to be more in the future. He said the services should only be used as a “last resort” for families with no other option.

Stop and Shop workers to receive pay increase, two weeks of paid leave if they get sick, during COVID-19 outbreak (March 21)

Stop and Shop workers will receive a 10 percent pay raise, plus two weeks of paid leave if they get sick, during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The company, along with the workers’ union, United Food and Commercial Workers, announced the additional pay and leave on Saturday. Over 70,000 in New England, New Jersey, and New York will benefit from the measure.

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“This essential pay and benefit increase will not only protect these hard-working men and women, it will help protect the food supply throughout our communities,” Marc Perrone, international president for the union, said in a news release

“As we know, grocery workers like Stop & Shop employees have been on the front lines of this crisis, serving the needs of millions of families in the northeast,” Perrone wrote. “Protecting them is absolutely essential to our communities and food supply now more than ever.

Since the epidemic began, shoppers have turned up in supermarkets en masse, panic buying everything from frozen food to toilet paper.

Stop and Shop, and other supermarkets, have also implemented early shopping hours for seniors.

Inmate housed at the Massachusetts Treatment Center in Bridgewater tests positive for COVID-19 (March 21)

An inmate housed at the Massachusetts Treatment Center in Bridgewater has tested positive for COVID-19, the state Department of Correction said.

The inmate, who is serving a life sentence, tested positive on Friday. He, and his roommate, who hasn’t had symptoms, have been quarantined since Thursday, according to the department in a news release. Workers in contact with the inmate are using complete personal protective equipment (PPE) while providing him with food and medical care.

No other inmates have tested positive for the virus, the release said.

The MTC is a medium-security facility which houses sentenced sex offenders, and “those who have been civilly committed as sexually dangerous persons.” The correction officers working at the MTC only work there and not at other prisons, according to the release.

A list of those who have been in contact with the coronavirus-positive inmate has been sent to the Department of Public Health, the release said.

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Back on March 12, the Department of Correction temporarily suspended visits from family and friends to each of its 16 correctional facilities.

At the federal level, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Ayanna Pressley are calling on President Donald Trump to use his authority to reduce the federal prison population amid the coronavirus pandemic and release low-risk inmates who are vulnerable to the infectious disease.

New Hampshire adds 11 new coronavirus cases, total now numbers 55; Connecticut total cases at 194; Vermont has 29 cases (March 21)

Vermont’s latest numbers:

Mass. sees 85 new coronavirus cases; total now 413 (March 20)

5 new COVID-19 cases reported in New Hampshire, brings total to 44; 159 total in Connecticut, 22 total in Vermont (March 20)

Connecticut reported its second death on Thursday, a 91-year-old New Canaan man. 

Rhode Island hadn’t updated its numbers as of Friday morning. 

Charlie Baker activates state’s National Guard to help coronavirus response (March 19)

Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration activated the Massachusetts National Guard to support the state’s response to the coronavirus outbreak Thursday.

Officials say the move authorizes up to 2,000 local active-duty National Guard members, who will be tasked with supporting requests from state agencies for equipment, logistics, warehousing, and other related duties.

“The expertise of the Massachusetts National Guard will benefit our communities with logistical support and other assistance as we continue to respond to this crisis,” Baker said in a statement.

The announcement Thursday afternoon came after health officials announced 72 new cases of COVID-19 in Massachusetts, bringing the total number of cases to 328. Baker said Thursday that the state is aiming to perform at least 3,500 coronavirus tests a day, an “enormous increase” from the current rate of daily testing.

72 new coronavirus cases reported in Mass; now 328 total (March 19)

10 of the 49 Boston residents with coronavirus have ‘fully recovered,’ mayor says (March 19)

Baker says state to increase coronavirus testing capacity (March 19)

13 new COVID-19 cases reported in New Hampshire, brings total to 39; 96 total in Connecticut, 33 in Rhode Island, 19 total in Vermont (March 19)

 

Connecticut reported its first coronavirus death on Wednesday, a man in his 80s:  

Massachusetts suspends bottle redemption, encourages residents to hold on to containers until later date (March 19)

Massachusetts is suspending the requirement that supermarkets and retailers accept beverage containers for redemption and recycling over concerns about the spread of COVID-19. 

“This action is being taken because many grocers, supermarkets, and other retail operations have indicated that they are overwhelmed with an unprecedented volume of customers purchasing provisions so they can spend time at home to help in the effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” the Department of Environmental Protection said in a statement. “Temporarily suspending enforcement of these requirements will allow individual retailers to assess their operations and, if necessary and appropriate, shift staffing to enable smoother operations. This action will also limit any contamination that potentially could occur from staff handling used beverage containers.”

Boston unions are collecting respirators for health care workers (March 19)

Building Trades Unions are asking construction workers to donate new, unopened respirators and personal protective equipment to the Boston Public Health Commission for use by health care workers, CBS Boston reports

“Every new, unopened mask N95 or above can make a difference,” Brian Doherty, general agent of the Building Trades Unions, told the station. “You may have some in your garage or your company’s warehouse that are unopened and that could help save lives. Please help us get these resources to the Boston Public Health Commission, so they can ensure a centralized and rapid distribution to those on the frontlines.”

To donate equipment, email emailems@bostonems.org for drop-off instructions.

Tufts University, Middlebury College preparing campus spaces to be used by hospitals for COVID-19 patients if needed (March 19)    

Colleges across the country have sent students home to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, and now some local institutions are preparing emptied campus spaces for use by health workers to fight COVID-19, the Boston Globe reports

Tufts University is readying some of its undergraduate dormitories for use by hospitals, if needed, as isolation rooms for patients with mild virus symptoms. 

“This is our country’s Dunkirk moment,” Anthony Monaco, the president of Tufts University, told the Globe of plans to help health care workers fight the rapidly spreading virus. 

Meanwhile, Middlebury College in Vermont has drained its ice-hockey rink for a local hospital to use as a space for virus testing or storage, according to the newspaper.


Drone footage captures the nearly bare streets of Boston


Mass. child care centers to close March 23, with emergency centers available for certain personnel (March 18)

Starting March 23, child care centers across Massachusetts will be forced to close with the exception of select emergency programs that will prioritize access for children of personnel who are on the front lines of the COVID-19 outbreak, Gov. Charlie Baker announced Wednesday.

 “Families who work to maintain the health, safety, and welfare of all commonwealth citizens will receive priority access to these emergency child care programs,” Baker said during a press conference. “Vulnerable children will also receive priority access. We’ll work hard to make space for people who must go to work but aren’t necessarily emergency personnel available as well.”

Baker said state officials are working to make sure the emergency centers will be available throughout the commonwealth. Volunteers, teachers, and staff from child care centers have already reached out to serve, he said.

“Providers impacted by these closures will continue to receive child care subsidy payments from the state in order to ensure the programs will be able to reopen once the crisis is over,” Baker said.

Simon to close over a dozen Mass. malls, shopping centers through March 29 (March 18)

Simon, which operates 14 malls and shopping centers in Massachusetts, will close its retail properties through March 29, starting Wednesday at 7 p.m.

The decision was made after discussions with local, state, and federal officials in light of the coronavirus outbreak, the company says.

“The health and safety of our shoppers, retailers and employees is of paramount importance and we are taking this step to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our communities,” David Simon, chairman, CEO, and president of Simon, said in a statement.

Local Simon properties include Copley Place in Boston, the Northshore Mall in Peabody, South Shore Plaza in Braintree, The Shops at Chestnut Hill in Newton, the Burlington Mall, and the Wrentham Village Premium Outlets, among others.

The company had recently scaled back operating hours in response to the pandemic.

Mass. sees 38 new coronavirus cases; total now 256, with 100 in Middlesex County (March 18)

Employee for Mass. House of Representatives tests positive for COVID-19 (March 18)

Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo’s office told the State House News Service that an employee for the legislative body has been diagnosed with coronavirus. The individual had worked in the building until taking sick leave on Thursday.

“If you have not been notified that the affected employee visited your office prior to the affected employee commencing sick leave on March 12, 2020 then we have no reason to believe that the affected employee visited your office/office suite,” DeLeo wrote in a letter to House employees Wednesday, obtained by the service.

Anyone who had close contact with the person has been contacted by the state Department of Public Health. 

“We will likely have more self-reported cases from employees in the coming days and weeks,” DeLeo wrote.


Walsh says there’s no immediate plans for a shelter-in-place order (March 18)


1,168 people are being monitored or quarantining for COVID-19 in Massachusetts (March 18)

Maine reports 11 new coronavirus cases in one day, with total now at 42 (March 18)

Bright Horizons daycare centers to close nationwide, with some staying open to serve families of health care workers (March 18)

Bright Horizons daycares will close across the country to the public this week, but a few centers will remain open to serve families of health care workers, The Boston Globe reports. In Massachusetts, about 50 of the 60 daycare centers will close. 

“We expect that by the end of this week our centers will have been fully closed and hub centers” set up, CEO Stephen Kramer told the Globe.

City of Boston launches daily text service to provide latest information on COVID-19 (March 18)

Number of COVID-19 cases rises to 68 in Connecticut, 17 cases in Vermont, and 26 in New Hampshire (March 18)

Connecticut reported 27 new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, bringing the total in the state to 68. 

New Hampshire reported nine new cases on Tuesday, bringing the total to 26. Officials announced that the state is now experiencing community-based transmission of the virus. 

“The increasing number of cases and new evidence of community-based transmission raises concern that the COVID-19 outbreak is intensifying in New Hampshire,” state epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan said in a statement. “The state has put into place measures to help prevent larger scale transmission at schools and larger gatherings; however, it is critical for everybody to monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19 and practice social distancing. We know that this novel coronavirus can be spread very easily through close contact, and the virus can be spread even when people are only having very mild early symptoms of illness.”

Vermont reported five new cases on Tuesday, bringing the total to 17:

Rhode Island reported three new cases on Tuesday, bringing the total to 23: 

Massachusetts sees 21 new coronavirus cases; total now 218 (March 17)

Massachusetts public health lab has run 1,367 tests for COVID-19, up 275 from Monday (March 17)

Massachusetts officials announced Tuesday they will begin sharing the number of tests processed for coronavirus on a daily basis when they provide updates on the total diagnosed cases.

“Our goal in the administration is to continue to increase our testing capability as quickly and as safely as we can,” Monica Bharel, the commissioner of the state Department of Public Health, said in a statement. “We are working hard to expand both our state and commercial testing capacity in the Commonwealth.”

Testing is not occurring “at the fast pace” everyone wants, she said, but, with the changes at the federal level, this week the state Public Health Laboratory will be able to test 400 patients a day, up from 200 a day last week.

The state’s lab had conducted 1,367 COVID-19 tests as of Tuesday, up from 1,092 as of Monday.

“We have over 204 results also reported to us from commercial labs to date,” Bharel said. 

Marylou Sudders, the secretary of Health and Human Services who is leading the state’s COVID-19 command center, said Tuesday the addition of commercial labs testing for the virus is “making a difference” but more still need to be approved. 

“Expanding test capacity is critical,” she said. 

Sudders said she is working to get two other local testing companies who have committed to help, Thermo Fisher and PerkinElmer, up and running. She is also in talks to get the Broad Institute involved in testing. 

“A few promising avenues — there will be more to follow,” she said. 

Maine reports 15 new COVID-19 cases in one day, with total rising to 32 (March 17)

Maine hospital employee tests positive for COVID-19 (March 17)

As of Tuesday morning, there are 17 cases of coronavirus in Maine, according to the state’s CDC. The number of cases in the state has risen rapidly since the first case was confirmed last week. 

The Portland Press Herald reports that a Northern Light Mercy Hospital employee, working at an “off-campus location,” is among those who has tested positive for the novel virus. Anyone who may have had contact with the hospital worker has been contacted, according to the newspaper. 

A cancer center in Kennebunk, New England Cancer Specialists, closed its doors Monday after learning that an employee tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the Press-Herald. A mix of patients and employees at the center are being tested, and a spokesperson told the newspaper that 237 patients who visited the facility last week are being told to stay home and monitor themselves for symptoms.  

New Hampshire coronavirus cases rise to 17; Vermont now at 12 (March 17)

Biogen commits $10 million to support global coronavirus relief efforts (March 17)

Biogen, the Cambridge-based company whose February leadership conference is the source of at least 100 cases of COVID-19 in Massachusetts, announced late Monday it is pledging $10 million to support recovery from the virus worldwide. Through the Biogen Foundation, the money will go to “expand testing options, ease the strain on medical systems, provide training for front line health workers and support access to necessities like food,” the company said in a statement

The majority of the donations will go to support non-profits in the United States, including Massachusetts and North Carolina, and Italy. Biogen said it is already providing medical equipment and supplies to Partners HealthCare to help diagnose the novel virus. The biotech company said it will be supporting Mass. General and Brigham and Women’s Hospital “directly as they work on the front lines to treat and contain the virus.”

“We are deeply affected by the impact of COVID-19 globally and we understand the critical importance of access to testing and other materials to support healthcare providers,” Michel Vounatsos, CEO at Biogen, said in a statement. “It is vital that we act immediately to support those who are on the front lines caring for the health and well-being in all communities affected around the world. Our hope is that this commitment will support these courageous organizations, and the vulnerable, during this unprecedented time.”

Mass. sees 33 new coronavirus cases; total now 197 (March 16)

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announces libraries closing, construction projects halting, and resiliency fund (March 16)

Mayor Marty Walsh announced Monday afternoon that all Boston Public Library branches will close, effective at 6 p.m. this evening.

“We’re not taking this closure lightly,” he said, adding that the decision was made to keep library workers safe amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Walsh said patrons will be able to keep their books for 15 weeks, instead of the usual three. The library system had previously canceled its events and promised no fines until May 1.

While the physical library is closed, there are still resources available online. These include the streaming of movies and TV shows, as well as eBooks, audiobooks, magazines, and newspapers, according to BPL’s website.

The mayor also announced that all non-emergency construction is halted in the city.

In addition, Walsh announced the creation of the Boston Resiliency Fund, which is a partnership between the city and some Boston institutions.

“This fund will coordinate fundraising and philanthropic efforts to help Boston families who are most impacted, with a focus on children and seniors,” he said on Twitter. “The money raised will go directly to local organizations and non-profits that support Boston families. Our main objectives are food access, technology to support at-home learning for our students, and supports for our healthcare workers and first responders, including childcare.”

Watch Walsh’s full press conference below:

WATCH LIVE: Boston Mayor Marty Walsh providing coronavirus update

Posted by 7News – WHDH Boston on Monday, March 16, 2020

Maine reports five new COVID-19 cases, with total rising to 17 (March 16)

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo orders closure of dining-in at restaurants, bars, and cafes (March 16)

There is now community spread of coronavirus in Rhode Island, health officials said during a press conference Monday. 

Rhode Island Gina Raimondo also announced that effective Tuesday, dining-in at restaurants, bars, and cafes is prohibited in the state, as part of the state’s efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Drive-thru and take out services will still be permitted.

“All dine-in food and beverage services are being ordered to close,” the governor said during the press conference. 

The closures are being ordered until Monday, March 30, when Raimondo said she will revisit the issue. 

The move follows a day after similar measures were announced by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker. 

The Rhode Island governor also is prohibiting gatherings of more than 25 people in the state, directing Rhode Islanders to avoid all “nonessential crowds” and activities. 

“We’re going to start enforcing this,” Raimondo said, adding later. “It’s not a joke. It’s about keeping yourselves alive and helping us to ensure our healthcare system isn’t overwhelmed.”

Health officials said the number of COVID-19 cases in the state is now at 21. The newest diagnosis is a woman in her 40s, who is hospitalized in stable condition. 

The Rhode Island Department of Health and I are making new announcements on our response to Coronavirus.

Posted by Gina Raimondo on Monday, March 16, 2020

Number of coronavirus cases rises to 26 in Connecticut; now 12 reported in Maine and 13 in New Hampshire (March 16)

On Sunday, six new cases of coronavirus were reported in Connecticut, bringing the total number in the state to 26.

In New Hampshire, six new cases were reported as well, bringing the total to 13. The new cases, 4 women and 2 men, are individuals who recently traveled domestically or internationally:

-Two of the persons are adult women from Rockingham County who traveled to multiple countries in Europe on the same trip with an earlier COVID-19 case announced in New Hampshire.

-Two adult females from Rockingham County who recently traveled to different U.S. states experiencing community transmission.

-The fifth person is an adult male from Rockingham County who traveled to multiple European countries.

-The sixth individual is an adult male from the city of Nashua in Hillsborough County who recently traveled to Central America.

Maine reported its first case of coronavirus on Thursday, and, as of Sunday, there were 12 positive COVID-19 cases, according to a press release from the state’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Community transmission is occurring in Cumberland County,” health officials said. “The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) expects to see community transmission in other areas of Maine, possibly in the coming days.”

Vermont reported three new cases on Sunday, bringing the total number of positive tests in the state to eight. Four of the COVID-19 cases are in Vermont residents, with four in non-Vermont residents.

A male resident of Berkshire County, Massachusetts in his 70’s is receiving treatment at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center,” health officials said of the three new cases. “A male in his 50’s from Suffolk County, Massachusetts is self-isolating at his Windsor County, Vermont home. The third case is a female resident of Kings County, New York in her 20’s. She is self-isolating at her family home in Chittenden County.”

The number of cases in Rhode Island held steady on Sunday at 20.

MGH health care professional, Northeastern student among new cases of COVID-19 (March 16)

A health care professional at Massachusetts General Hospital learned Sunday they tested positive for COVID-19, the hospital said in a statement.

Over the weekend, Brigham and Women’s and Mass. Eye and Ear reported that a staff member at each institution had been diagnosed with coronavirus.

The MGH employee is at home in isolation and “doing well,” officials said.

“As soon as we learned about this positive result, the MGH notified the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Boston Public Health Commission, and we are now working with officials from those agencies to respond to the situation quickly and appropriately, consistent with the guidance from the CDC,” the hospital said in a letter to its community. “Hospital leaders are notifying staff, patients and others who meet the criteria for having had close contact with the health care worker to alert them to the potential exposure and advise them as to the appropriate action to take. We believe that for most of the contacts, the risk of contracting the disease from this health care worker is low. To ensure safety of patients and staff, however, those who were in close contact with the affected individual are furloughed and are being asked to stay home for 14 days per current policy and public health guidance.”

Northeastern University says a student living off-campus in Boston tested positive for the novel virus.

“This student, who has been in isolation since last Thursday, March 12, remains in isolation in an off-campus apartment,” the school said in a statement. “The Boston Public Health Commission is carefully reviewing the student’s movements since returning from Spring Break on Monday, March 9. This will allow the BPHC to contact individuals who may have been in direct contact with the infected student. It is very important that the student’s anonymity be maintained.”

On Saturday, Northeastern changed its measures to reduce the spread of coronavirus to include asking students to move out of campus residence halls by 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

A second person tested positive for COVID-19 on Cape Cod, the Cape Cod Times reports. The new case is a woman, a staff member at Barnstable Community Innovation School whose husband was confirmed Saturday to be the area’s first positive diagnoses of the illness.

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