57 more COVID-19 deaths reported in Mass.; Baker announces $56M to combat food insecurity

Massachusetts

BOSTON, Mass. (WPRI) — The number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Massachusetts continued to decline on Tuesday as more businesses and services opened back up.

The Mass. Department of Public Health reported another 57 COVID-19-related deaths, bringing the total to 6,473, and only 422 new cases, which can be attributed to, at least in part, fewer tests being conducted on Memorial Day.

Full breakdown of today’s COVID-19 data (Mass.gov) »

With the daily numbers trending downward, the state entered Phase 1 of Gov. Charlie Baker’s reopening plan on May 18. The available options were expanded this past Monday to include more outdoor activities, car washes, pet groomers, and hair salons and barbershops.

In his daily COVID-19 briefing, Baker said he got his hair cut Tuesday morning.

“The place where I got my hair cut had plexiglass between the chairs,” he said. “I had to wet my hair before I got there, I wore a mask the entire time, the gentleman who cut my hair wore a mask the entire time.”

List: What’s open right now in Massachusetts and Rhode Island »

Baker also announced an additional $56 million in funding to help families dealing with food insecurity. Last week, he and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito set up a Food Security Task Force to help expand programs like the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (PEBT), which offers assistance to families with children who received free or reduced lunches at school.

“COVID-19 has affected all of our lives and has a statewide impact, but some of our communities and residents who have historically experienced greater food insecurity have been made even more disproportionately impacted by the virus,” Baker noted.

Roughly 263,000 families are now receiving PEBT, according to Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders.

She said the task force was formed due to the significant increase in applications for that and other programs like SNAP and WIC.

“In addition, community-based food banks were experiencing a skyrocketing demand and local grocers and farmers were struggling to meet the needs of consumers,” she said.

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Sudders also announced the state is participating in a pilot program which will allow SNAP recipients to use those benefits to shop for groceries online through Amazon and Walmart. She said she’s hopeful the program will start by the end of the week.

Baker said in addition to food banks and benefit programs, funding will also be injected into the state’s food production and distribution system to benefit farmers, seafood businesses, retailers and distributors.

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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