Coronavirus

What You Need to Know Today About the Coronavirus Outbreak in New England

The latest update on coronavirus cases across the region

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Here's a look at the latest news around New England related to the coronavirus pandemic:

MASSACHUSETTS

The Bay State saw its deadliest day yet in the pandemic Wednesday, reporting another 252 people died after testing positive for the new coronavirus, bringing the total number of confirmed cases over 60,000.

The death toll rose to 3,405 as of Wednesday, according to the Department of Public Health. Another 1,963 people tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, bringing the total to 60,265.

The numbers are one key factor Gov. Charlie Baker will take into account in deciding when to begin to ease the restrictions on movement and businesses in Massachusetts. He has repeatedly said he's waiting to see a distinct downward trend in the number of people testing positive before he can start to reopen the state.

"We have not yet seen the downward trend that virtually every analyst, public health expert and CDC official has said is a critical part of moving to reopen," Baker said earlier Wednesday as he defended his decision to extend Massachusetts' stay-at-home advisory through May 18.

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Boston and the rest of Massachusetts are continuing to make an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Meanwhile, cities and towns across Massachusetts are beginning to issue fines to people who aren't wearing masks or face coverings in public amid the coronavirus crisis. Baker issued an advisory in mid-April urging people to wear masks in public but it hasn't been compulsory.


Meanwhile, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh extended Boston’s recommended coronavirus curfew Wednesday. He is also urging runners and bikers to wear masks.

The curfew, extended through May 18, was implemented on April 5. Formally only an advisory, it urges residents to stay home from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Walsh reiterated the need for people who do go outside to wear masks or face coverings to help stop the virus' spread. He shared a "special message" to people running or cycling outside without them: start doing it.

"Even though you're exercising, you need to be wearing a face covering," Walsh said, noting that he's seen many people doing so while breathing heavily.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh sends a message to runners and cyclists in a COVID-19 update.

Public health officials in Massachusetts are researching whether there have been more COVID-19-related deaths in the state beyond the official count of more than 3,400.

Baker said Wednesday that most people believe COVID-19 death rates are probably undercounted because the coronavirus was likely present in Massachusetts and other areas in the U.S. before people truly understood and appreciated what it was.

"People have gone back and started to do some work to try and figure out if there are cases where people presented with what would have been deemed as COVID-19 type symptoms and possibly were categorized in some other way,'' Baker said Wednesday.


MAINE

As the first round of businesses gets ready to reopen in Maine on Friday, the people who own them are rushing to get ready.

On Tuesday, Gov. Janet Mills announced the extension of the state's stay-at-home order to May 31 and her administration's plan to gradually reopen the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Phase 1 of the plan begins Friday and includes allowing certain businesses to begin reopening, including golf courses, hair salons, barbershops, auto dealerships and pet groomers.

As of Tuesday, there were 1,056 coronavirus cases and 52 deaths, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.


Maine hopes to find an alternative to coronavirus quarantines by the time lodging opens to out-of-state visitors this summer, as the Vacationland state contemplates a low-key kickoff to the summer season, officials said Wednesday.

State officials hope to find a way to hold some scaled-down activities on Memorial Day weekend, but "we haven't gotten there yet," said Heather Johnson, economic and community development commissioner.

Officials also announced Wednesday that a food processing plant is the first non-health-related business to be hit with an outbreak of the coronavirus.


Tyson Foods is working with the state to test all workers at its Portland facility, the former Barber Foods plant, said Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control. Eight workers had tested positive as of Wednesday, Shah said.

Johnson and Shah spoke to reporters as the state prepared to post online a checklist for businesses that can reopen May 1 during the first phase of restarting the state's economy.

The first round of businesses in Maine are preparing to reopen Friday, giving the rest of New England a look at what the economy could look like moving forward.

VERMONT

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott is ramping up coronavirus testing and tracing, he announced Wednesday, as he takes steps to reopen the economy.

Over the next few weeks, Vermont will “ramp up” testing capabilities with a goal of conducting 1,000 tests a day, 7,000 a week, tripling their average over last several weeks. He said he hopes the measure will place Vermont in the top-5 for coronavirus testing in the country.

The state also saw its first day with zero new cases and zero new deaths since the start of the outbreak Wednesday. As of Tuesday, Vermont had reported 862 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, including 47 fatalities.

"Enhanced testing and tracing will give us more information on where we need to focus more of our resources and help us better understand the infection," Scott said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, a limited number of Vermonters are returning to work this week and must abide by safety precautions after Republican Gov. Phil Scott eased some of the restrictions intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus.


A Vermont non-profit summer camp for children with cancer is moving online because of the coronavirus crisis.

Camp Ta-Kum-Ta said it was forced to transform its signature summer activities to virtual offerings in order to protect medically-vulnerable children.

"Not an easy decision at all," executive director Dennis DePaul said, acknowledging how meaningful the summer camp is to families that have been affected by cancer.

Since the 1980s, Camp Ta-Kum-Ta has provided a free week of summer fun for Vermont kids with cancer, ones from nearby states receiving care in Vermont, or young locals who beat the disease.

Because so many campers have fragile immune systems, especially those on chemo, they're considered high-risk from COVID-19, DePaul noted.

An iconic Vermont summer camp for kids with cancer says it is shifting online this year because it can't risk exposing medically-vulnerable children to the new coronavirus.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said the future of the state's stay-at-home and non-essential business orders will be decided later this week. The current orders expire on May 4.

During his news conference on Wednesday, Sununu said he would make an announcement Friday on both orders in coordination with the Governor's Economic Reopening Taskforce.

"We are looking to flex certain areas around the state that we believe, in coordination with public health and the Governor's Economic Reopening Taskforce, can open in a smart, responsible phased approach that puts public health first," Sununu said.

The decisions will have to be signed-off on from the Department of Health and Human Services, the governor said.

Six more deaths in New Hampshire from COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, were announced Wednesday by Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette. She said the total death toll in the state is now 66.

There were 50 new confirmed cases reported Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases to 2,054.


Meanwhile, high school seniors are missing out on so much right now, from spring sports, to theater performances, graduations, and proms.

One mom in Swanzey, New Hampshire, is doing everything she can to make sure the seniors at Monadnock Regional High School will still have a prom night they won't forget.

"They definitely deserve to have photos, if nothing else," said Sumer Ammann.

Ammann has photographed prom nights before and will do it again this year.  But in the interest of social distancing, this year the pictures will be taken on front steps and in back yards with only immediate family members. 

She's offering 20-minute photo shoots and digital copies for free. Interested students can reach out to her at Ammann Acres Photography.

In New Hampshire, one family went above and beyond and offered a first responder a place to live so he could protect his own family.

New Hampshire is using $3 million in federal funding to help homeless residents during the coronavirus pandemic.

Sununu said Wednesday the money will be used to provide eight-week stipends for homeless shelter staff and to cover other shelter expenses. Some of the funding also will go to community agencies working to help homeless people find permanent housing.


RHODE ISLAND

Gov. Gina Raimondo said Wednesday that she remains hopeful she will be able to lift Rhode Island's stay-at-home order on May 9 if the number of coronavirus cases continue to stay flat or even begin to decline.

"We're not seeing a decline, but we're also not seeing an increase, and that's really good news," she said at her daily press briefing. "It doesn't mean we're out of the woods -- we're seeing a slight uptick in hospitalizations, a slight uptick in ICU -- but it is a plateau. And that's something you should be proud of and feel good about."

If everybody continues to obey the stay-at-home order between now and May 8, and if the numbers continue to trend the way they have for the past week, she said her goal is still to allow the state to enter the first phase of the reopening on May 9.

But Raimondo urged residents not to ease up now, despite the fact that the weather may be improving in the coming days.

Earlier Wednesday, the state reported 12 additional coronavirus deaths, bringing the total death toll to 251. Health officials also announced 321 new cases, bringing the total number of cases to 8,247.


The 2020 Newport Folk and Newport Jazz festivals have been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Organizers announced the cancellations Wednesday, the same day Raimondo said that all events that attract crowds of more than 50 people will not be allowed to take place this summer as the state continues to fight the virus.

July Fourth parades and large weddings with more than 50 guests also will not be allowed to go on.

Gov. Raimondo says a partnership with SalesForce.com will make contact tracing process more efficient, scalable.

CONNECTICUT

Weeks into the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Ned Lamont said Wednesday it appears Connecticut’s more densely packed neighborhoods are where many of the state’s new infections of COVID-19 are cropping up.

The communities, places like Hartford and Bridgeport, present a challenge to the state’s reopening aspirations. They will be earmarked as a priority as the state ramps up its testing, Lamont said.

State Epidemiologist Matthew Cartter said on Tuesday there could be 50,000 tests conducted in Connecticut per week by the end of May, compared to the approximately 4,000 tests done weekly now.

While diagnostic testing for COVID-19 is currently focused heavily on front-line health care workers and ICU patients, Lamont said there will soon be an emphasis on testing people like food service workers and other front-line employees, those working in factories and residents living in congested areas.

“There, we have the opportunity to do symptomatic and asymptomatic testing and that will tamp down the spread of this virus in a dramatic way,” Lamont said on Tuesday.

As of Wednesday, there have been been more than 26,700 positive cases of COVID-19 in Connecticut, with nearly 11,000 of those in Fairfield County and more than 5,300 in Hartford County. So far, there have been 2,168 confirmed COVID-19-associated deaths in the state.

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