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33 more COVID-19 deaths reported in Massachusetts; nonessential workplaces to stay closed until May


BOSTON (WPRI) — Thirty-three more Massachusetts residents have died from COVID-19-related illness, the Department of Public Health reported Tuesday, bringing the state’s total to 89.

The DPH also announced 868 new cases for a total of 6,620. Nearly 47,000 people have been tested for the virus to date, according to the DPH.

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

In a continued effort to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, Gov. Charlie Baker directed all nonessential businesses to keep their facilities closed to workers and the public until Monday, May 4.

Baker made the announcement in his daily briefing Tuesday afternoon, adding that the state’s stay-at-home advisory and 10-person limit on social gatherings have also been extended until that time.

“I know this is difficult to hear, but we need everyone to continue to go without being around many of your family and most of your friends for your own health and safety and for the health and safety of your family, your friends and others,” he said.

“My weekly visits with my 91-year-old father are phone calls,” Baker continued. “Neither one of us are very good at that … and I miss him, but that’s just the way it is, and it’s the way it should be, and it’s the way all of us need to be as purposeful as we can be in dealing with the contagious nature of this virus.”

Any businesses and organizations deemed essential during the health crisis are urged to follow social distancing protocols and have employees work remotely, if possible.

Full List: COVID-19 Essential Services (Mass.gov) »

Under the new guidelines, all hotels, motels, and other short-term residential rentals can only be used for efforts related to fighting COVID-19, such as housing frontline healthcare workers and residents who have been displaced.

Baker announced the DCU Center in Worcester has been approved as a 250-bed field medical station which will be managed by UMass Memorial. The center will be used to treat lower-acuity patients who still need monitoring.

The state, according to Baker, is also implementing a pilot project that allows for “safe, on-site testing of symptomatic residents of nursing and rest homes with a quick turnaround.” As it stands, the only way for nursing home residents to be tested is to bring them to a hospital or doctor’s office.

Baker also touched upon the sudden outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home. He said as of Tuesday, there have been 13 confirmed deaths, at least six of which are attributed to COVID-19.

“As someone who has visited this amazing place on multiple occasions and found it to be a source of joy and grace and comfort and kindness — for the residents, their families and the staff that works there, this episode is a gut-wrenching loss that is nothing short of devastating to all of us,” Baker said.

According to the governor, public health experts are conducting a thorough review of what happened at the home and steps are being taken to aid and secure the facility, including testing all patients and staff.

“I want to extend, on behalf of all of us, our deepest sympathies to the members of the Holyoke soldiers home community,” Baker added. “They are many of our state’s finest, all of whom served out country and all of whom sacrificed on our behalf.”

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