State House: Coronavirus update in Massachusetts

Boston Statehouse

BOSTON (SHNS) – In the final daily update before the first significant wave of economic reopenings, public health officials on Sunday added just more than 1,000 new cases of the respiratory disease COVID-19 and almost 70 recent deaths to the state’s pandemic totals.

The Department of Public Health reported 1,013 new cases of the coronavirus-caused illness and announced the recent deaths of 68 people from the virus. Since Feb. 1, when the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed here, 92,675 Bay Staters have become infected. Since March 20, when the first death was announced, 6,372 people have lost their lives to COVID-19 in Massachusetts.

The 1,013 new cases announced Sunday resulted from 11,387 tests processed during the 24-hour reporting period, meaning that about 8.9 percent of all tests came back as positive. That rate is up just slightly from Saturday (8.27 percent), but DPH said the seven-day average positive test rate is 9.1 percent, down from 16.6 percent on May 1.

There were 2,169 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Massachusetts as of Sunday, DPH said, a decrease of 68 patients from Saturday. The total number of patients hospitalized has decreased 18 of the last 23 days and DPH said the three-day average of COVID-19 patients stands at 2,243, down from 3,707 on May 1. The number of patients in intensive care units also dropped, from 610 on Saturday to 558 on Sunday.

Middlesex County counts the greatest number of cases (20,437), followed by Suffolk County (17,417), Essex County (13,457) and Worcester County (10,431). No other counties have 10,000 cases or more. Middlesex County, the state’s most populous county, also has seen the greatest number of COVID-19 deaths at 1,518. Essex County (859 deaths) and Suffolk County (838 deaths) follow.

Massachusetts could see its first significant shift toward reopening the economy and resuming some business and social activity Monday when the bulk of the businesses in the first wave of reopening will be cleared to relaunch while adhering to mandatory safety standards and industry-specific guidelines.

Offices outside of Boston can open at up to 25 percent capacity, hair salons, barber shops and pet groomers can take customers on an appointment-only basis, retail stores can reopen for remote fulfillment and curbside pickup, car washes are allowed to clean vehicle exteriors only, certain outdoor recreational activities can resume, and health care providers will be cleared to expand their services for high-priority preventative treatments, pediatric care and immunizations, and treatment for high-risk patients. Legal non-medical marijuana sales will also resume, though customers will not be allowed inside a store.

Outdoor Gatherings Unlimited:

As Memorial Day weekend kicked off with beautiful weather Friday, the Massachusetts Municipal Association passed along a reminder from the governor’s legal office: the executive order limiting gatherings to 10 or fewer does not apply to many outdoor settings. “This Order does not prohibit gatherings of more than 10 people in an unenclosed, outdoor space such as a park, athletic field, or parking lot,” reads COVID-19 executive order 13, which Gov. Charlie Baker issued in March and has extended since. In a memo circulated by the MMA, Baker’s legal office said that while the gathering size limitation does not apply in unenclosed outdoor spaces, people should always practice social distancing and must wear a face covering if not maintaining at least six feet of distance from others. “For instance, a political demonstration in a public square is not limited to 10 people, but the demonstrators must wear a mask if they do not stay at least six feet apart,” the memo said. MMA’s tweet with the reminder came mid-afternoon Friday, around the same time that news chopper footage showed groups of people enjoying the sunshine at M Street Beach in South Boston and elsewhere in summer-like numbers.

Tool Highlights Local Risks:

A national think tank on Sunday launched a new tool intended to provide data on the COVID-19 infection risk in any given county in America. The American Enterprise Institute’s “CV19 Lab Testing Dashboard” provides a Local Risk Index (LRI) for each county, based on local positivity rates measured against historical infection rates. “Our aim is to provide one measure of infection risk within communities. The LRI is meant as an estimate of whether Covid incidence is expanding or contracting in communities by evaluating near real time testing results at county level,” Scott Gottlieb, the former FDA commissioner who has been advising Gov. Charlie Baker during the pandemic and serves as a resident fellow at AEI, tweeted Sunday. “A higher LRI is one indication of an increased incidence of disease. This dashboard is based on testing data reported from community level testing sites, including commercial labs.” According to the tool, Worcester County has the highest LRI in Massachusetts at 1.80, followed by Bristol County at 1.65 and Suffolk County at 1.34. The tool also ranks Massachusetts fourth among the states in per capita testing, trailing Rhode Island, New York and North Dakota.

Fauci Salutes New Holy Cross Grads:

A key figure in the Trump administration’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak was a special guest Friday as bachelor of arts degrees were conferred to 707 College of the Holy Cross graduates during a virtual celebration. “I am profoundly aware that graduating during this time and in this virtual way, unable to celebrate in person this important milestone in your lives, with your friends, classmates and teachers, is extremely difficult,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci said, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House coronavirus task force. “I encourage you to stay strong and unflinching. The country and the world need your talent, your energy, your resolve and your character.” A 1962 graduate, Fauci was a classics major with a premedical concentration during his time at Holy Cross in Worcester. “The College of the Holy Cross holds a very special place in my heart,” Fauci said during the live video program, according to remarks released by the college. “The education that you and I have received at Holy Cross, steeped in Jesuit traditions, should suit us well to confront and ultimately overcome this historic pandemic.” Holy Cross plans an in-person commencement ceremony for the class of 2020 in spring 2021.

Warren: Trump Admin “Has Cost People Lives”:

Responding to a Columbia University disease model suggesting tens of thousands of lives could have been saved if social distancing had been implemented a week or two earlier, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren said that data show that “government matters” and ripped the Trump administration’s leadership during the COVID-19 crisis and the weeks leading up to it. Warren, who is under consideration as Joe Biden’s running mate, said the Trump administration had done a poor job of stockpiling personal protective equipment. “If the Trump administration had started planning for this crisis back in January, we wouldn’t be in this mess today, and lives would have been saved and our economy would be in better shape,” Warren, who lost her brother to the coronavirus, told Jon Keller of WBZ-TV on Sunday morning. “But it takes planning, and it takes a smart, thoughtful, science-informed, aggressive response. Back in January, the Trump administration was ordering masks for themselves, but not for anybody else around the country … When people were calling and saying, ‘This crisis is coming. Can we help?’ The answer was no. And that has been the position of the Trump administration all along. It has been to deny the problem, and not have effective leadership, and I think every time we go back and analyze where we’ve come from to this point, we see that what the Trump administration has done has cost people lives, and has cost our economy – a lot of, a lot of, a lot of harm to people.” Trump has defended his administration’s virus response and called for economic reopenings to bring back jobs. Warren declined to weigh in on whether Gov. Charlie Baker was moving too quickly to reopen the state’s economy. Reopening, she said, is going to be “totally based” on COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, and personal protective equipment availability. “And then every step we take, you just have to keep collecting the numbers,” she said. “And we’re going to, you know, going have to learn as we go along in this. But the point is to make an informed decision.”

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