COVID-19 pandemic

27 More Coronavirus Deaths, 304 New Cases as Mass. Begins Phase 2 Tomorrow

The state's death toll has risen to 7,316, while 103,436 people have now been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Massachusetts

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Another 27 people with the new coronavirus in Massachusetts have died and 304 more cases have been identified, health officials said Sunday.

The state's death toll has risen to 7,316, while 103,436 people have now been diagnosed with the virus in the commonwealth, according to the state's Department of Public Health's daily report.

More than 60-percent of the state's deaths have been reported in long-term care facilities, with health officials saying Sunday that there have been 4,574 deaths reported in such facilities since the outbreak started.

Gov. Charlie Baker said Friday he expects an independent investigation into the COVID-19 outbreak and deaths at a Massachusetts veterans home that's been the site of one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the nation to wrap up "reasonably soon." Baker on April 1 announced he had hired former federal prosecutor Mark Pearlstein to probe the events that led up to a string of veteran deaths at the Holyoke Soldiers Home.

As of Thursday, 76 residents of the facility for elderly and ill veterans who have recently died tested positive for COVID-19, according to state officials.

New federal rules for nursing homes come as a total of 60 veterans die in Massachusetts Soldiers' Homes, 50 of which were related to the coronavirus..

The most recent report from the state's Department of Public Health comes as Massachusetts prepares to loosen more restrictions Monday that were imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Gov. Baker announced Saturday that Phase 2 of the state's reopening plan would begin Monday.

In the first step of the second phase, diners will be able to eat outside, and retail stores, day camps and day care centers will be allowed to resume operations.

"Thanks to your hard work and your sacrifices, we're bringing the fight to the virus, we're moving forward and Massachusetts is continuing to reopen,'' Baker said Saturday at the Statehouse.

There will be strict requirements for masks and social distancing for businesses that reopen Monday. Indoor dining will be remain off limits, Baker said. Overnight camps are not allowed, Baker said. And hotels and motels will be allowed to accept all guests, not just essential workers, he said.

His decision was based off of the most recent public health data.

Baker said he's comfortable with moving forward with reopening the economy because the state has recorded a fall in the number of new cases and hospitalizations. The Department of Public Health moved the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations into "positive trend'' status for the first time on Friday. The state already reported that testing capacity and the rate of tests that come back positive were on a positive trajectory.

There are now 1,442 people with COVID-19 in Massachusetts hospitals. That's down from a high of nearly 4,000 during the surge.

This week, the coronavirus case total surged past 100,000 and the death toll past 7,000, sped by the department deciding to add in probable cases and probable deaths to the tallies it was keeping.

See Massachusetts' list of COVID-19 hot spots.

The six indicators informing how fast Massachusetts can move through the four phases of reopening are: the COVID-19 positive test rate, the number of individuals who died from COVID-19, the number of patients with COVID-19 in hospitals, the health care system's readiness, testing capacity, contact tracing capabilities.

For months, Massachusetts has been one of the epicenters of COVID-19 in the U.S. It has the fifth-most cases among all states and, after probable cases were added Monday, the third-most deaths.

Baker and other health officials have said Massachusetts' high tallies may be due to the state testing among the most residents per capita in the country.

The confirmed global death toll from the COVID-19 virus reached at least 400,000 fatalities on Sunday. Worldwide, at least 6.9 million people have been infected by the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University, whose running counter says United States leads the world with nearly 110,000 confirmed virus-related deaths. 

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