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Unemployment rate down to 16.1%; Boston unveils school plan

August 21, 2020 GMT

BOSTON (AP) — The Massachusetts unemployment rate that soared during the coronavius pandemic fell to 16.1% in July, yet remains the highest in the nation, according to numbers released Friday by state and federal labor officials.

The July rate is down 1.6 percentage points from the adjusted June rate of 17.7%, according to the state Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.

The national unemployment rate in July was 10.2%. The Massachusetts unemployment rate in July 2019 was 2.9%.

Massachusetts added more than 72,000 jobs last month after adding nearly 95,000 in June as the state continues to recover from the economic shutdown prompted by the pandemic, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ preliminary job estimates.

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Nearly half of those job gains were in the leisure and hospitality section, hit particularly hard during the pandemic. The trade, transportation, and utilities; education and health services; and government sectors also had significant job gains.

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BOSTON SCHOOLS’ REOPENING PLAN

The Boston Public Schools are planning to reopen using remote learning before gradually bringing some students back into the classroom as early as October, under a hybrid learning model Boston Mayor Marty Walsh unveiled Friday.

Under the plan, teaching in the largest school district in New England would begin remotely on Sept. 21, with students with high needs allowed to return to the classroom on Oct. 1, depending on the ability of the city to continue to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

After that, schools would begin opening to other students using a hybrid model that would let students be in the classroom two days a week and rely on remote learning for the remaining three days.

No students will be required to return to the classroom if they or their parents prefer to continue remote learning.

Walsh said the city would also have to react to changes brought on by the pandemic. If the rate of positive COVID-19 tests in the city creeps over 4% citywide, schools would suspend in-classroom learning, he said.

Walsh acknowledged that the city was unable to reach what he called consensus on any single plan before opting for the hybrid model.

“It creates a staggered approach for students to return to the classroom in a safe and careful way,” Walsh said. “It’s the best way to tackle the opportunity and achievement gaps in our city.”

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VIRUS BY THE NUMBERS

Massachusetts reported 13 newly confirmed coronavirus deaths and more than 430 newly confirmed cases on Friday, pushing the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to 8,670 and its confirmed caseload to more than 115,700.

The seven-day weighted average of positive tests was about 1.2%. The true number of cases is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.

There were more than 320 people reported hospitalized Friday because of COVID-19, while more than 60 were in intensive care units.

The number of confirmed and probable COVID-19 related deaths at long-term care homes rose to more than 5,700 or about 64% of all confirmed and probable deaths in Massachusetts attributed to the disease.

The state on Wednesday also reported a total of 9,370 probable cases and more than 230 probable COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic — in addition to the confirmed cases.