AUG. 13: About one in five Massachusetts have now been tested for COVID-19, according to the latest figures from the Department of Public Health.
As of Thursday's daily report on cases, tests and deaths, a total of 1,381,178 individuals have now received COVID-19 tests, in a state with a population of about 6.9 million people.
On Cape Cod, new cases of COVID-19 "appear to be under control," Sen. Julian Cyr said on a call with other members of the region's reopening task force. The task force plans to hold a briefing to help inform back-to-school planning on the Cape, and Cyr said many of the area's schools are pursuing remote or hybrid reopenings.
As teachers unions continued their push for schools to start remotely, the state published new guidelines for how to safely conduct K-12 athletics and other youth and adult amateur sports. Those rules take effect Monday.
Another round of new guidance clarified when trips back-and-forth between Massachusetts and Rhode Island would be allowed without a need to quarantine or produce negative test results. Grocery stores, doctor's appointments, religious services, judicial hearings and visits to hospital patients are all trips that would not require a quarantine. - Katie Lannan
Dentists: Oral Health Care Safe in Mass.: New World Health Organization guidance on oral health care does not apply to the Bay State, according to the Massachusetts Dental Society. The society on Thursday put out an statement responding to the WHO's guidance, which recommended that routine, non-essential oral health care "be delayed until there has been sufficient reduction in COVID-19 transmission rates from community transmission to cluster cases or according to official recommendations at national, sub-national or local level." The dental society said Massachusetts residents are able to safely receive routine or emergency oral health care, in keeping with recommendations from state and local officials. "Dentists are experts in infection control and Massachusetts dentists are following the latest guidance from US and State public health entities like the CDC and the MA Department of Public Health in order to keep patients, dentists, dental staff, and communities safe," MDS President Dr. MaryJane Hanlon said. "Increased infection control protocols and supplies and monitoring public health data are examples of 'the new normal' in dentistry and a new standard of care for as long as COVID-19 continues to threaten the health of our communities. Until the data tells us otherwise, patients should feel safe in visiting their dentist for routine dental appointments and emergency care – oral health is essential to overall health." - Katie Lannan 4:59 PM Thu
Thursday DPH Update: Key public health metrics tracked by the Department of Public Health showed mixed developments in Thursday's daily update. The rolling average positive test rate remained at 1.5 percent, the lowest it has been since the start of the outbreak, after climbing to 1.9 percent in early August, but the average number of patients actively hospitalized climbed from 396 to 403 and the number of hospitals using surge capacity increased from three to five. The department reported another 319 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Massachusetts on Thursday from 27,879 individuals newly tested, a positivity rate of about 1.1 percent. Twenty-one more confirmed deaths brought the toll to 8,568 since the pandemic first hit Massachusetts. For the second straight day, four out of six measures -- positive test rate, patients hospitalized, testing capacity and contact tracing capability -- were rated as "positive trends," up from three previously. - Chris Lisinski 4:31 PM Thu
Healey Updates Biz Guidance: About four months after a moratorium on most evictions and foreclosures went into place, Attorney General Maura Healey updated her office's guidance to businesses Thursday to make clear that the temporary ban applies to commercial properties as well as residential. The moratorium does not relieve business tenants from the requirement to pay rent, she stressed, and it only prevents evictions for failure to pay for the duration of the ban that currently runs through Oct. 17. Landlords can terminate tenancies of their small business tenants or send notices requiring them to vacate the premises, Healey said, but they will not actually be able to trigger evictions until the moratorium ends. For commercial properties with mortgages, Healey said many lenders are following federal guidance to allow a 90-day forbearance period. Her guidance includes a range of suggestions for businesses experiencing hardship, such as advice on potential ways to cut expenses and free legal assistance from the COVID Relief Coalition of which her office is a part. - Chris Lisinski 3:40 PM Thu
A4A: Checkpoint Volumes Down 82 Percent in Mass.: Massachusetts is among the states hardest hit by the sharp and sudden reduction in air travel, which has led to silent skies and the sudden evaporation of jobs in that industry and sectors that feed off of it. According to a new analysis by the industry group Airlines for America, Massachusetts ranks fifth nationally in the decline of the number of air travelers being screened by the Transportation Security Administration, with checkpoint volumes down 82 percent here. The group said U.S. airlines before the global health crisis were transporting a record 2.5 million passengers and 58,000 tons of cargo each day. Travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders drove demand down and passenger volumes in April were plummeted 96 percent, "to a level not seen since before the dawn of the jet age (in the 1950s)," according to A4A, which noted that air travel took three years to recover from 9/11 and more than seven years to recover from the global financial crisis in 2008. - Michael P. Norton 3:09 PM Thu
New Website Promotes Voting Options: A coalition of 130 groups launched a new website Thursday intended to educate Massachusetts voters about safely casting their ballots during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Safe Elections Network's new website has information on registering to vote and voting by mail, in-person, and during early voting periods. It also contains information on other ways people can get involved in the Sept. 1 primary and Nov. 3 general election, including downloadable flyers encouraging people to vote by mail. Kristina Mensik of Common Cause Massachusetts said the online platform will serve "as the starting point for individuals and organizations hoping to get involved in the Bay State's elections," and said advocates plan to launch a student poll worker recruitment and training program on Monday. "As I see it, there are three main ways to get involved: help educate voters by joining phone banks or sharing social media; volunteer to do election protection – whether social media monitoring or socially-distant poll monitoring; or sign up if you're able to be a poll worker," Mensik said in a statement. Common Cause Massachusetts blasted Secretary of State William Galvin on Wednesday for what it said was a failure, under the state's vote-by-mail law, to publish emergency regulations for the safe processing of mail-in ballots and in-person voting and how to handle electronic poll books. - Katie Lannan 2:18 PM Thu