JUNE 2: The latest report from public health officials Tuesday showed the continuation of positive trends with respect to the number of new cases, number of hospitalizations and positive test rate during a week that will determine whether the second wave of economic reopenings can begin Monday.
The Department of Public Health said four of the most significant metrics -- seven-day average of the positive test rate, the three-day average number of COVID-19 hospitalizations, the number of hospitals relying on surge capacity, and the three-day average of new COVID-19 deaths -- continue to trend in the right direction.
Gov. Charlie Baker has said that he wants to see the COVID-19 data for June 1 through June 6 before announcing Saturday whether phase two of the reopening plan -- which includes in-store shopping, outdoor dining and more -- can begin Monday, the earliest possible launch date. The governor took a break from his daily coronavirus press conferences Tuesday.
As the state begins its plodding return to more normal levels of economic and social activities, analysts said Tuesday that a major employer survey is beginning to show signs of a brightening view of the economy.
"Employers are encouraged that Massachusetts has been able to moderate the number of new COVID-19 cases," Raymond Torto, chair of Associated Industries of Massachusetts' Board of Economic Advisors, said. "We have said all along that the current economic crisis is being driven by the public-health crisis and that's what we see here."
Meanwhile on Beacon Hill, the House is preparing for a remote formal session Wednesday in which leaders expect to call for votes on a bill that would allow restaurants to sell cocktails with to-go orders and would cap fees charged by third-party delivery services, and on legislation that would expand voting options, including early voting and vote-by-mail. -- Colin A. Young
Tuesday Update from DPH: Department of Public Health officials reported 358 new cases of COVID-19 and another 50 recent COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday. The 358 new cases break down as 248 confirmed cases and 110 probable cases, and all 50 deaths announced Tuesday were confirmed with a COVID-19 test. DPH began reporting both confirmed and probable cases and deaths on Monday. The 358 new cases reported Tuesday resulted from 5,852 tests conducted, meaning roughly 6.11 percent of all tests came back positive. The seven-day average of positive test rates stands at 6.5 percent and is down from 16 percent on May 3, DPH said. There were 1,657 COVID-19 patients being treated in Massachusetts hospitals Tuesday, a decrease of 90 patients from Monday. The three-day average number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients is 1,743 and has dropped from 3,586 in just less than a month. The number of patients being treated in an intensive care unit dropped by 10 from Monday to 394 and the number of patients currently intubated dropped by 20 to 269, DPH said. Since Feb. 1 when the first case was announced here, 101,163 people in Massachusetts have become infected with the coronavirus and COVID-19 has claimed the lives of 7,085 people. In April, Gov. Charlie Baker said the state's models predicted that "the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Massachusetts will range somewhere between 47,000 and 172,000 cases during the course of the pandemic." -- Colin A. Young 4:20 PM Tue
Norwood's "No-Touch Election": The town of Norwood holds its municipal election next Monday, and plans to make it a "no-touch election" with social distancing and public health precautions in place. When voters arrive at their polling places -- which will be open from 7 p.m. to 8 a.m. -- they will receive a bag containing a mask, gloves and pen to mark their ballot. Voting booths will be sanitized throughout the day, and election workers will sit behind plexiglass shields, according to a press release from the town. "These are unusual times for everyone, and we have worked hard to come up with ways to make this election as safe as possible for all those involved, whether those working the polls or residents who are voting," town clerk MaryLou Folan said in a statement. A law passed in March also expanded vote-by-mail options for this spring's municipal elections. - Katie Lannan 3:07 PM Tue
Baker to Chat with Job Training Group: Gov. Charlie Baker will virtually join Operation ABLE, a nonprofit that provides employment and training opportunities, and its supporters for a coffee Wednesday morning. The 7:30 a.m. coffee with the governor comes while all Operation ABLE offices are closed "until Governor Charlie Baker designates otherwise" and as more than 1.2 million people in Massachusetts have filed an initial unemployment insurance claim since mid-March. The organization had to move its annual event online this year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Operation ABLE said the event "will celebrate the commitment of our students, our incredible employer and service provider partners, the breathtakingly versatile, compassionate, and professional ABLE staff, and our continued focus and support of the job-seeking community at large." -- Colin A. Young 1:19 PM Tue
No Coronavirus Update From Baker Tuesday: Gov. Charlie Baker will take a break on Tuesday from his routine of holding a daily, weekday press conference where he typically offers updates on the state's response to the coronavirus outbreak and the latest trends in the spread of COVID-19. A senior administration official confirmed that no availability is planned for Baker, whose office did not release a public schedule for the governor. Baker on Monday signed a new executive order providing some clarity on the businesses that will be allowed to reopen when Phase Two of his reopening plan is triggered, which could be as soon as Monday. He also gave lengthy remarks on the peaceful and violent demonstrations that have been taking place in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. -- Matt Murphy 11:57 AM Tue
Retrieving Belongings from Closed Schools: With the end of the academic year approaching after school buildings have been shuttered for weeks, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is recommending that school districts consider ways for students and staff to retrieve belongings they may have left behind in a way that follows health and safety protocols. The department said that schools should assign staggered time slots to students, and advise their families beforehand about the need to wear face masks, adhere to social distancing and limit the number of people accompanying a student. Ideas suggested by the department include placing items from an elementary school student's locker or desk into a single back the student could pick up outside by appointment, and setting short appointment times for middle and high school students to empty their lockers into a bag and return any materials they are not using for remote learning. School nurses could also return unused medications like epi-pens or inhalers during these times. - Katie Lannan 11:35 AM Tue
New Coalition Drawing Attention to Pandemic's Impact on Moms: U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and elected women in both Congress and the state Legislature will help a new coalition on Wednesday bring attention to issues facing pregnant women and new mothers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Warren and Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley and Katherine Clark will join a virtual discussion on Wednesday afternoon organized by the Massachusetts COVID-19 Perinatal Coalition. The coalition said the pandemic has exposed variations in hospital policies on labor support and mom and baby separation, a lack of sufficient personal protective equipment for providers, increases in C-sections and forceps deliveries, reduced access to anesthesia and a high level of anxiety and depression. Expectant and new mothers in communities of color hit hardest by the coronavirus are also bearing the brunt of these issues, the coalition said. State Reps. Kay Khan of Newton and Liz Miranda of Boston and Sen. Becca Rausch of Needham will also join the virtual event at 3 p.m. via Zoom. "As COVID has ravaged our hospitals, economy and taken a particular toll on communities of color, we must come together to offer thoughtful policy solutions to this crisis within maternal care. I am so pleased to see this coalition come together and am committed to working collaboratively with my fellow legislators to move to action as soon as possible based on their recommendations," Miranda said in a statement. A number of doctors, faith leaders and state reproductive health advocates are part of the COVID-19 Perinatal Coalition's steering committee. -- Matt Murphy 10:14 AM Tue