Over 17,000 Protesters Got Coronavirus Tests: Here's What We've Learned

Over 17,000 Massachusetts residents who participated in protests, marches and rallies since the death of George Floyd a month ago were tested for COVID-19

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Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced Tuesday that the state has received the results of the thousands of coronavirus tests conducted on residents who have participated in protests, marches and rallies since the death of George Floyd a month ago.

He said a total of 17,617 tests were conducted statewide at 52 free, pop-up testing sites set up on June 17 and 18. Of those tested, 2.5% came back positive for COVID-19, which Baker said is “reasonably consistent” with the overall statewide numbers.

“I’m obviously pleased to see the percentage of positive tests was quite low considering the frequency and size of those demonstrations,” Baker said. “But we also pointed out the vast majority of the folks who participated in those demonstrations were wearing masks for face coverings, and in many cases they were moving, which made a big difference. And they all took place outside, which is a far safer environment than indoors."

Massachusetts reported 17 new coronavirus deaths on Monday, the lowest one-day total since early April. The number of newly reported deaths and cases was the lowest since April 5, when 15 COVID-19 deaths were reported. A total of 7,874 residents have now died from the virus.

The state Department of Public Health also announced 149 new coronavirus cases for a total of 107,210 since the start of the pandemic. The 7-day average of positive COVID-19 cases is now down to about 1.9%, Baker said, a 93% drop since April 15.

"Part of the reason we've been successful is due to the efforts and work of everyone here in the Commonwealth," the governor said. "Keep in mind COVID-19 will not take a summer vacation. Other states are seeing surges right now. That's a clear indication of the need to continue to be vigilant if we want to avoid anything like that happening in Massachusetts."

The second step of Phase 2 of the state's 4-phased reopening plan went into effect on Monday. It allows indoor dining to begin, increases capacity at offices from 25% to 50% and allows retailers to open fitting rooms, though by appointment only. It also allows for close-contact business such as nail salons and tattoo parlors to resume operations with safety precautions in place.

Baker has said Phase 3 will begin no sooner than July 6, two weeks after the latest step in the reopening.

"We'll continue to collect data over the next two weeks and monitor how things are going as more and more people get back out and about in their communities, and that will inform decisions we make going forward with respect to additional advancements," he said.

Massachusetts restaurants are now allowed to serve customers indoors.

Also on Tuesday, Baker announced that a developer has been selected for the final parcel of the former Boston State Hospital site in Mattapan.

Primary Corporation, in conjunction with Toll Brothers, plans to build 367 residential units, a combination of senior and affordable housing, on the 10-acre property. The proposal also includes food amenities, a farming initiative, a daycare and a shuttle bus to the Forest Hills MBTA Station.

"The site will be a truly great place to live and raise a family," Baker said.

The state's Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance issued a request for proposals last year seeking proposals for the purchase and redevelopment of 10 acres of the former Boston State Hospital, one of the largest remaining undeveloped sites in Boston.

Last month, after a series of public hearings, a state-appointed committee recommended the proposal from Primary Corporation/Toll Brothers calling for a mix of rentals and owner-occupied condos.

The Boston State Hospital was closed in 1979 and the Citizens Advisory Committee was formed in the 1980s to support redevelopment of the property. Other completed, ongoing, and future redevelopment projects on the site will result in approximately 200 homeownership units, over 50 affordable units for seniors, nearly 300 rental units, 45 cooperative townhouses, Mass Audubon’s Boston Nature Center and Wildlife Sanctuary, facilities for Brooke Charter High School and Mass Biologics, as well as other community accommodations and open space.

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