Unemployment rate soars past 15%; COVID-19 cases near 91,000
BOSTON (AP) — The Massachusetts unemployment rate soared to 15.1% in April — up from about 2.8% in March — as the state’s efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus shuttered wide swaths of the economy, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced Friday.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ preliminary estimates indicate Massachusetts lost 623,000 jobs in April, with the vast majority — 597,100 — coming from the private sector.
One of the hardest hit areas was leisure and hospitality, which saw a 61% drop after losing 216,200 jobs. Construction also took a huge hit, falling more than 37% after shedding 60,000 jobs.
Other areas that experienced heavy job losses include trade, transportation, and utilities; education and health services; and other services and government.
No sector gained jobs.
The Massachusetts unemployment rate in April was four-tenths of a percentage point higher than the national rate of 14.7%.
Massachusetts was among the state hardest hit by the virus.
The number of individuals in Massachusetts diagnosed with confirmed cases of COVID-19 neared 91,000 on Friday as the state reported more than 800 new cases.
COVID-19-related deaths since the start of the pandemic climbed to 6,228 as another 80 deaths were reported.
There were continued signs of progress.
The number of people currently hospitalized with the disease fell to about 2,300, down from about 3,300 two weeks ago. The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care also fell to 628 — down from 826 two weeks ago.
The number of deaths at long-term care facilities stood at 3,807, or about 61% of all COVID-19-related deaths in the state.
MILLION DOLLAR RING
One of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s Super Bowl rings put up for auction to raise funds for coronavirus relief has sold for more than $1 million.
Bidding for the Super Bowl 51 ring, commemorating the Patriots comeback from a 28-3 deficit for a 34-28 overtime victory over the Atlanta Falcons, ended Thursday with a winning bid of $1,025,000, according to the All-In Challenge.
The winning bidder’s name was not disclosed.
Kraft said earlier he decided to auction the Super Bowl 51 ring because of the significance of the team’s comeback. All of the money raised goes directly to Feeding America, Meals On Wheels, World Central Kitchen and No Kid Hungry.
The 5.1-carat weight white gold ring features 283 diamonds surrounding the Patriots logo and five Lombardi trophies.
A final decision will be made in the next week or two about whether to hold the Boston Marathon in September, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh said Friday.
“The decision needs to be made soon,” Walsh told WGBH News. “You can’t cancel the marathon four days ahead of time.”
The decision also won’t be made lightly, Walsh said, noting that other cities that postponed marathons haven’t yet canceled them.
Earlier in the week, Walsh said the decision to reschedule the marathon from April to Sept. 14 was made with the hope that the disease “would no longer be a significant public health risk.”
Since then, thousands of Massachusetts residents have died from COVID-19.
Walsh also said that he has been tested both for COVID-19 and the antibodies produced from exposure to the virus. The Democrat said he tested negative for COVID-19 and is still waiting for results from the antibody test.
GLOUCESTER BEACHES REOPEN
Beaches in one of the state’s most famous coastal communities are reopening Friday, but with restrictions in place to thwart the spread of the coronavirus.
Beachgoers are required to wear masks if they are not able to maintain proper social distancing, but don’t have to wear them in the water. Groups of more than 10 people are prohibited and beach blankets must be spaced 12 feet apart. No ball games are allowed.
Good Harbor Beach is open at reduced capacity and restricted to residents only. Only a limited number of non-residents will be allowed at Wingaersheek Beach.
VETERANS’ HOMES-MEMORIAL DAY
Two veterans’ homes in Massachusetts that were hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic are holding virtual Memorial Day remembrances this year.
The Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, where more than 70 veterans lost their lives to COVID-19, is holding a virtual observance that will be streamed on Facebook on Friday evening.
A similar observance at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home was held Thursday and will remain available to view on Facebook.
The Suffolk District Attorney’s Office is also remembering residents of the Chelsea facility on its website starting Friday. The deaths of more than 30 veterans at the Chelsea home have been blamed on the coronavirus.
OUTDOOR GRADUATION CEREMONIES
Graduation ceremonies planned for after July 19 may take place outside, according to state Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley.
The outdoor ceremonies must adhere to strict protocols including wearing masks, according to the memo released by Riley.
Any outdoor ceremony must accommodate social distancing. Tents are banned. Schools must also send letters to graduates and their families advising anyone who feels sick not to attend.
Attendance would be limited to graduates and their immediate family members.
Ceremonies planned before July 18 should be held virtually or under extremely limited conditions like car parades, Riley said.