Signs of Hope in Massachusetts’ Virus Battle? Today’s Coronavirus Primer for New England – NBC Boston

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

MASSACHUSETTS

An emergency order requiring face coverings in public took effect in Massachusetts Wednesday as the state battles to control the coronavirus outbreak.

The order, signed by Gov. Charlie Baker, applies to everyone
over the age of two in all indoor public places and outside when social
distancing can’t be properly maintained. Masks must also be worn on public
transportation and in stores.

Face coverings must cover your nose and mouth and can
include masks, scarves or bandanas. Medical masks should be preserved for
health care workers and first responders.

Violators could face a $300 fine. How to enforced the order
will be left to individual cities and towns.

Gov. Charlie Baker’s order requiring the use of masks or face coverings in public places where they cannot socially distance from others is effective Wednesday.


Massachusetts is continuing to see coronavirus numbers heading in the right direction, Baker said Tuesday.

One good sign is that even as the state
increases the number of tests it’s conducting, the percentage of those testing
positive for the virus is decreasing, Baker said.

The state has also seen a downward trend
in the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19, the disease caused by the
coronavirus, the Republican added.

But Baker said the state needs to see
those numbers decline more before it can begin to reopen the economy. A
17-member commission is planning to release a proposal May 18 about how to begin
safely to reopen.

Massachusetts has recorded the fourth
most COVID-19 deaths of any state.

A statewide order signed by Baker
mandating the use of masks or facial coverings while in public when social
distancing isn’t possible goes into effect Wednesday.

Baker made his comments at Merrow
Manufacturing in Fall River, which has converted its facility to produce
personal protective equipment.


State revenues crashed in April, a dramatic consequence of the decision to temporarily shutter the Massachusetts economy.

April tax collections plummeted to just $1.98 billion, according to the state Department of Revenue. That’s about 52% less than official predictions for the month — or 54% less than actual collections in April of last year.

There were several factors, including the decision to push back the April tax filing deadline until July and what Revenue Commissioner Geoffrey Snyder called the “impact that necessary COVID-19 precautions have on economic activity.”


A second Walmart store in Massachusetts temporarily closed after an employee died of COVID-19 and several others tested positive for the coronavirus that causes the disease.

The Walmart in Quincy closed Monday, Mayor Thomas Koch said on the city’s YouTube page. Nine workers, including the woman who died, tested positive, he said.

“There are no words to express the loss of our associate,” Walmart said in a statement.

The store will undergo a cleaning, and all employees will be tested, Quincy Health Commissioner Ruth Jones said.

A Worcester Walmart was shut down last week after dozens of employees tested positive. That store is expected to reopen this week.

Two Massachusetts Walmarts have become coronavirus hot spots.


MAINE

Maine lawmakers are holding an “emergency meeting” to delve into delays in the processing of unemployment claims.

Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman plans to brief the Maine Legislature’s Labor and Housing Committee on Wednesday.

More than $200 million has been distributed to more than 70,000 Mainers since the global pandemic. But thousands more are awaiting benefits.

Since March 15, more than 100,000 claims have been filed, compared with 35,000 for all of last year.


A Maine restaurant owner is once again flouting Democratic Gov. Janet Mill’s executive orders over the coronavirus.

Rick Savage reopened his Sunday River Brewing Co. on Tuesday in defiance of the governor’s orders, and he’s continuing to criticize Mills for not acting fast enough to reopen the state’s economy.

Savage previously opened his restaurant for dine-in customers on Friday before closing over the weekend.

The Oxford County sheriff says his deputies won’t be getting involved as long as things remain peaceful.

After hundreds protested to reopen the state, President Donald Trump tweeted that many are complaining about Maine’s stay-at-home restrictions.


VERMONT

The Vermont Department of Public Service wants to ensure that everyone in the state has access to broadband internet service.

In a proposal released late Tuesday, Commissioner June Tierney says the internet is necessary infrastructure during a crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

The department says Currently about 23% of the state, or 70,000 homes and businesses do not have access to high-speed internet services.  

The cost of the emergency plan is about $300 million, but the plan assumes Vermont will receive more on federal aid to support COVID-19 recovery.

Thousands of Vermonters are studying or working from home during the pandemic.


For the first time in its 73-year history, Vermont’s Shelburne Museum is not going to open for the summer season.

Museum Director Thomas Denenberg says it’s too hard to invite the public into the museum spaces and maintain social distancing.

For now, the museum will continue to monitor the pandemic and see if it could reopen later in the year.

The museum’s online resources will remain available for schools and the community.

On Tuesday, the Vermont Department of Health reported five new positive cases of the virus that causes COVID-19, bringing the total to just under 910. The number of deaths remained steady at 52.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

The New Hampshire Department of Education has released guidance to school districts about how to plan graduation ceremonies in light of the state’s prohibition on gatherings of more than 10 people.

Officials said schools should consider limiting audience size to a maximum of two guests per student depending on the ability to practice safe social distancing.

The department said one option could be to have people stay in their cars, and graduates would exit in small, appropriately spaced groups, to get their diplomas. Diplomas also could be distributed “drive-up” style, or participants could be spread out among classrooms within a school.  

Restaurants along New Hampshire’s seacoast are preparing for the next phase of the state’s reopening, one that will allow them to serve customers outdoors.


Representatives of fitness clubs, amusement parks and youth baseball have told a task force on reopening New Hampshire’s economy that they’re prepared to make a variety of health and safety adjustments so they can operate during the coronavirus pandemic.

One presenter suggested Tuesday that health clubs rearrange floor plans, cordon off areas, lower group exercise participants, and stagger appointments.

A “soft re-opening” of outdoor attractions that naturally provide for physical distancing requirements, like Lost River Gorge, and the Polar Caves was suggested.

The American Legion Baseball Program proposed a season starting June 20 with players’ temperatures taken before a game and face mask worn in the dugout.


RHODE ISLAND

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo on Tuesday said she would sign an executive order later this week requiring residents to wear cloth face coverings in public places.

The order, set to take effect Friday, applies to both indoor and outdoor public spaces, Raimondo said in a press conference.

Exceptions will be made for some residents, including young children and people with developmental issues and those with some underlying health conditions.

An investigation into possible unemployment benefits fraud related to the coronavirus pandemic is expanding with as many as 2,000 cases in Rhode Island.

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo said Tuesday all residents will be required to wear cloth face coverings in public places beginning Friday.


Authorities said Tuesday state and federal law enforcement agencies are investigating fraudulent unemployment insurance claims submitted to the state Department of Labor and Training.

An agency spokeswoman says the department has received roughly 2,000 reports from people who say they have been the victims. Rhode Island’s COVID-19 Response Fund has awarded an additional $1.4 million in grants.

The fund formed in mid-March has now awarded to $7.2 million to nonprofits around the state to help people affected by the virus.


CONNECTICUT

Gov. Ned Lamont on Tuesday canceled in-person classes at all
Connecticut K-12 public schools for the rest of this school year amid the
coronavirus pandemic, requiring districts to continue distance learning for the
final weeks.

“It breaks my heart,” Lamont said during his afternoon news
briefing. “I wanted to do everything I could to find some way to keep the
school year at least partially open, just for a couple of weeks, some sense of
conclusion for our students.”

But Lamont said he and his education commissioner heard
concerns from school superintendents, parents and teachers about a continuing
increase in COVID-19 infections in some parts of Connecticut and determined “this
was no time to take that risk” of reopening schools. Lamont’s reopening
committee is expected to make recommendations in the coming weeks about summer school,
which could open in July.

Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona said he also hopes a
decision will be made “relatively soon” about when and how schools might
reopen in the fall.


A 74-year-old male has become the state’s sixth inmate to
die from complications related to the novel coronavirus. The unnamed man, who
was serving a 13-year-sentence for first-degree sexual assault of a child under
age 13, was transferred from the Osborn Correctional Institution in Somers to a
local hospital for treatment on April 23. He died on Tuesday.

To date, 450 Connecticut offenders have tested positive for
the novel coronavirus, while 327 have recovered.



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