APRIL 3 -- Confirmed COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts surpassed 10,000 as the state wrapped up its fourth week under a state of emergency.
Testing has continued to expand to thousands per day, contributing to an accelerating increase in total cases. The past 24 hours have been the deadliest yet attributed to the virus, with 38 new fatalities reported bringing the death toll to 192.
On Friday, Gov. Charlie Baker announced new plans to deploy as many as 1,000 people trained by the Partners in Health group to trace contacts of all patients who contract COVID-19, describing it as a first-in-the-nation effort to understand the full risks of transmission.
As the weekend sets in, restaurants are now able to sell beer and wine with to-go and delivery food orders thanks to a bill Baker signed into law Friday. Some jumped at the opportunity and immediately began advertising alcohol sales online.
Health and economic impacts of the outbreak continue to spiral outward. Twenty-one veterans who lived at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home have now died since late March, Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said Friday, 15 of whom tested positive for COVID-19. Cases are widespread through the home, with 59 residents testing positive and 160 testing negative.
Unemployment claims are at record levels, but state revenues in March surpassed benchmarks by $83 million ahead of what will likely be a steep drop-off in April's numbers. - Chris Lisinski
Teachers Union Wants MCAS Canceled: The state's largest teachers union wants the Senate go a step further than the House did on Thursday and mandate the cancellation of the MCAS standardized this year. "Any remote learning that is happening should focus on creative efforts to help students stay connected to their educators and each other, as well as to deepen their understanding of material they have already learned -- not prepping for a test," MTA President Merrie Najimy said in a Friday statement. The House on Thursday evening passed a bill that would allow Education Commission Jeff Riley to suspend testing requirements for 10th and 12th graders, but ensure that if a senior is required to pass the MCAS to graduate that they be given a time other than this spring to take the exam. The bill also mandates that testing requirements for third graders and eighth graders be modified or waived. Riley has not said what he intends to do, but said he would make a decision quickly after being given the authority. The MTA said it has "no information as to what a modified test would look like, what its purpose would be or who would have to take it." According to the union, New Hampshire and Maine have already waived their testing requirements. - Matt Murphy 5:14 PM
Let School Nurses Treat COVID-19 Patients, Lawmakers Say: A group of state lawmakers asked Gov. Charlie Baker on Friday to use his emergency authority to allow school nurses to help combat the COVID-19 crisis. In a letter also signed by 27 of their colleagues, Sens. Eric Lesser and Jo Comerford asked Baker to "to expedite and/or waive credentialing requirements to allow school nurses to help treat COVID-19 patients, as well as to allow school nurses to assist local community health boards with contact tracing efforts." Many school nurses are home because of statewide school closures, the lawmakers said. "The Commonwealth must bring every additional health care resource to bear in this fight, and school nurses are an incredible resource that should be leveraged immediately," Comerford said in a statement. - Katie Lannan 4:52 PM
COVID-19 Caseload Tops 10,000: The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts exceeded 10,000 for the first time on Friday, as the number of people tested for the highly contagious and dangerous coronavirus continued to climb. As of Friday afternoon, 62,962 people had been tested, and 10,402 were confirmed to have the respiratory disease. More than 2,000 cases were reported in each Middlesex (2,202) and Suffolk (2,183) counties. Thirty-eight new deaths were reported, the most of any single day so far, for a total of 192 deaths linked to COVID-19. At least 966 COVID-19 patients have been hospitalized, and 382 residents of long-term care facilities have tested positive. - Katie Lannan 4:38 PM
Bedford VA Opens COVID-19 Ward: The Bedford VA Medical Center on Thursday night finished converting a nursing home ward into a space for treating patients diagnosed with COVID-19, and accepted its first patients, who were transferred from the state-run Chelsea Soldiers Home. The patients, according to the VA were "proactively identified as needing a higher level of care in light of the pandemic." Additional patients who have tested positive for the disease are expected to arrive Friday from the VA Boston Healthcare System. Kelley Saindon, deputy nurse executive at the Bedford VA, said the conversion was part of the facility's surge plan. The former residents of that ward were moved to another location in the hospital, and the COVID-19 ward has staff dedicated exclusively to the patients housed there. "This approach minimizes the risk of infection, supports expansion to meet an increasing need for COVID-19 services and provides Veterans in routine VA care consistent access to VA care," Saindon said in a statement. "Our goal is to prevent COVID-19 infections from spreading within VA, while maintaining our usual high level of care for all Veterans." - Katie Lannan 4:23 PM
Gillette to Host Drive-Thru Testing: The partnership between the Baker administration and the New England Patriots continues: a day after the team plane delivered more than 1 million N95 masks, Gov. Charlie Baker announced the state will open a drive-thru testing site outside Gillette Stadium on Sunday. Tests will be conducted in the stadium's parking lot, and they will only be offered to first responders who may have contracted COVID-19. Baker said the site will have capacity to test up to 200 police officers, firefighters and other responders per day. - Chris Lisinski 4:16 PM