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Virus news: Police officer dies; daily death toll passes 100

April 14, 2020 GMT
A passer-by, left, descends a stairway into a subway station, Tuesday, April 14, 2020, in Boston. The Boston area transit system is projecting a huge budget deficit for the fiscal year that ends June 30 caused in large part by a near non-existent ridership during the coronavirus crisis. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
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A passer-by, left, descends a stairway into a subway station, Tuesday, April 14, 2020, in Boston. The Boston area transit system is projecting a huge budget deficit for the fiscal year that ends June 30 caused in large part by a near non-existent ridership during the coronavirus crisis. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
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A passer-by, left, descends a stairway into a subway station, Tuesday, April 14, 2020, in Boston. The Boston area transit system is projecting a huge budget deficit for the fiscal year that ends June 30 caused in large part by a near non-existent ridership during the coronavirus crisis. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

BOSTON (AP) — A Boston police officer has died from complications of the coronavirus, officials said Tuesday.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh identified the officer Tuesday as Jose Fontanez, 53, a 29-year member of the force.

Sixty-seven members of the Boston Police Department have tested positive for the disease, according to Police Commissioner William Gross. Fifty-three have yet to return to work.

In other virus-related developments:

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DAILY DEATH TOLL TOPS 100

The number of COVID-19-related deaths in Massachusetts has topped 100 in a single day for the first time since the start of the outbreak.

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State health officials reported 113 new deaths Tuesday, bringing the total number of deaths to 957. Of those, 444 occurred at long-term care facilities.

The number of people who have tested positive for the coronavirus in the state rose to nearly 28,200, an increase of nearly 1,300, according to the Department of Public Health.

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BUDGET WOES

Massachusetts budget watchers are predicting a steep drop in revenue in the face of the coronavirus economic shutdown.

Democratic House Ways and Means Chairman Aaron Michlewitz said Tuesday the House typically holds its budget debate in April, a timeline he said is no longer feasible.

Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation President Eileen McAnneny said the state could see a decline of billions of dollars in revenue and massive layoffs as high as 570,000 that could push the unemployment rate to nearly 18%.

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REGIONAL PACT

Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday it’s important Massachusetts works with neighboring states to coordinate the reopening of the region’s economy when the worst of the pandemic eases.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York announced Monday that the Massachusetts Republican was joining Democratic governors from Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island in a compact about how to reopen the economy.

Baker said he’ll work collaboratively but will put the needs Massachusetts first. He said reopening the economy too soon could squander the progress made to help curb the virus.

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LOTTERY SALES PLUMMET

The Massachusetts State Lottery is taking a big hit as the COVID-19 state of emergency temporarily shutters many stores that sell tickets, Treasurer Deborah Goldberg said Tuesday.

More than 1,800 of the state’s 7,500 lottery agents are closed, she said. Many stores that remain open have limited or eliminated lottery sales.

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Total sales last week were down almost 33% from the same week last year. So far for April, sales of Keno have dropped by more than 53% compared with last April. Instant ticket sales for April are also down by almost 29% compared to last year.

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MURDER SUSPECT REMAINS FREE

A man with cancer awaiting trial on a second-degree murder charge can remain free amid the coronavirus pandemic, a judge on the state’s highest court ruled Monday.

William James Utley was released from jail after his attorney argued his health condition makes him more susceptible to the virus. He is under home confinement with a GPS monitor.

Utley is accused of stabbing a man during a bar fight in 2018.

Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins had asked the Supreme Judicial Court to order Utley be returned to jail.

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FURNITURE MOGUL DEATH

Bernie Rubin, who provided a grandfatherly presence in television ads for the Bernie & Phyl’s Furniture store chain he co-founded, has died of COVID-19, according to a statement from his family.

Rubin died Monday in Florida, according to the statement. He was 82.

Rubin and his wife of 61 years, Phyllis, often appeared in ads for the New England chain, familiar for its jingle “Quality, comfort and price — that’s nice.”

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MBTA RIDERSHIP PLUNGE

The Boston area transit system is projecting a $231 million budget deficit for the fiscal year that ends June 30 caused in large part by a more than 90% decline in ridership during the coronavirus crisis.

Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority officials estimate a fare revenue plunge from $58 million per month to about $3 million per month for the next three to four months.

The MBTA should be eligible for about $840 million in federal stimulus funds, chief financial officer Mary Ann O’Hara said Monday.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and the infirm, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

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SOLDIERS HOME DEATHS

The number of veteran resident deaths at the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke climbed to 44 on Tuesday, 36 of whom tested positive for COVID-19.

State health officials said another 100 residents have also tested positive, as have 79 employees.

The number of veteran resident deaths at a second facility — the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home — increased to 12 on Tuesday, with eight testing positive.

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BUCKET OF LOVE

When 88-year-old Nick Avtges was suddenly unable to visit his wife at a nursing home in Watertown due to coronavirus concerns, his family came up with an unusual solution — a bucket truck like the ones used to fix telephone wires.

The Boston Globe reported that last week his family strapped Avtges into a truck and hoisted him up three stories to a window where his wife of 61-years — 85-year-old Marion — was waiting.

“They could have lifted me 10 stories and it would not have bothered me,” Avtges said in an email to the Globe.

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Associated Press reporter Mark Pratt contributed to this report.

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This story has been corrected to reflect that the judge ruled in the murder suspect’s case on Monday, not Tuesday.