Massachusetts reports 137 more COVID-19 deaths, surge in jobless claims

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BOSTON (WPRI) — The Massachusetts Department of Public Health reported an additional 137 COVID-19-related deaths on Thursday, bringing the total to 1,245, along with 2,263 new cases.

The state now has 32,181 total confirmed cases, of which 4,798 are residents and staff members of long-term care facilities, according to the DPH. Nearly half of the deaths reported in Massachusetts — 610 — are associated with these facilities.

Breakdown of cases and deaths by county (Mass.gov) »

“There’s no doubt that Massachusetts continues to see an uptick in new cases, tests, and, unfortunately, fatalities,” Gov. Charlie Baker said during his daily briefing on Thursday. “Our command center’s modeling estimates the surge in cases would begin somewhere around April 10, and we expect to see a peak in cases sometime later this month.”

Baker noted the models are merely predictions and subject to change, but they help with the state’s planning. He also said Massachusetts has seen an increase in hospitalizations.

“Medical workers are working around the clock to deal with that influx of patients and they are keeping up, but every day we continue to see more and more patients in very rough shape come into the hospital,” Baker added.

Related: Taunton police close to full strength after 16 officers tested positive for COVID-19

Earlier on Thursday, the governor cited new federal data showing more than 570,000 residents have filed for unemployment benefits since March 15. The Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) is making progress in issuing checks, however, having paid out compensation to more than 315,000 people to date, he said.

Baker also said the DUA has increased its call center staff from around 50 workers to approximately 850 over the last few weeks.

File for benefits online and learn more (Mass.gov) »

In addition, Baker announced the state’s community tracing collaborative launched earlier this month is up and running.

The program has already hired 176 employees, according to Baker, and hundreds more will be brought on and trained in the coming weeks.

The workers are conducting COVID-19 contact tracing through phone calls in an effort to mitigate the spread of the virus. Baker urged residents to take these calls and provide the relevant information.

“A couple of minutes of your time and cooperation is key, in many cases, to stopping the spread of coronavirus and saving more lives,” he said. “It’s also key to helping our state build a strategy for how we can get back to something like a ‘new normal,’ and it’s also part of an important effort to protect your loved ones and neighbors.”

Baker indicated he has not yet made a decision about whether to reopen school buildings in early May, but said he would provide an update on that “soon.”

For more information on COVID-19 in Massachusetts, visit Mass.gov, call 211 or text COVIDMA or COVIDMAESP (Spanish) to 888-777 to receive text notifications.

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