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Face masks to be required in public; virus deaths top 3,700

May 1, 2020 GMT
A state police trooper stands across the street from people demonstrating for the state to reopen businesses closed due to concern about COVID-19, Friday, May 1, 2020, at the Statehouse in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
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A state police trooper stands across the street from people demonstrating for the state to reopen businesses closed due to concern about COVID-19, Friday, May 1, 2020, at the Statehouse in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
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A state police trooper stands across the street from people demonstrating for the state to reopen businesses closed due to concern about COVID-19, Friday, May 1, 2020, at the Statehouse in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

BOSTON (AP) — The number of confirmed coronavirus-related deaths in Massachusetts topped 3,700 on Friday.

The state reported 154 new deaths, bringing to 3,716 the total number of deaths related to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, that have been recorded in Massachusetts.

New cases of the coronavirus rose to more than 2,100 on Friday for a total of about 64,300 confirmed cases since the pandemic’s start.

There were some glimmers of hope in the new data.

The number of COVID-19 patients currently in intensive care units dipped below 1,000 and now stands at 947.

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The state also recorded the fourth consecutive day of a small decline in the number of people currently hospitalized with COVID-19. Gov. Charlie Baker has said a significant decline in the hospitalization number is key to reopening the state’s economy, now planned to begin May 18.

The number of deaths at long-term care facilities now stands at 2,189, accounting for more than half of all the state’s coronavirus deaths.

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FACIAL COVERINGS

Everyone in Massachusetts must begin wearing masks or facial coverings while in public under an executive order signed Friday by Gov. Charlie Baker.

The use of facial coverings is a common-sense strategy to help limit the spread of the coronavirus, the Republican governor said, particularly as the state makes plans to begin reopening the economy on May 18.

“Covering our faces when we cannot practice social distancing is a critically important and essential step that everyone can and should take to stop or slow the spread,” Baker said at a news conference.

The order also applies to workers in groceries, pharmacies and retail stores deemed essential businesses and for those using public transportation.

The new order takes effect May 6.

Lawrence, Cambridge and Somerville have already begun requiring people to wear face masks in public or face a $300 fine.

The statewide mandate won’t apply to children younger than 2 or people with certain medical conditions.

Baker said he hopes the state gets to the point where wearing a mask in public becomes the norm during the pandemic.

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BOSTON SCHOOLS

Boston Public Schools will reopen in the fall, barring a dramatic second resurgence in coronavirus cases, Mayor Marty Walsh said Friday.

“My goal and my intention is to have schools open in September in the city of Boston,” the Democrat said at a news conference. School buildings are closed through the end of the academic year, and teaching has moved online.

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The one event that could throw a wrench in the works, he said, would be a spike in the number of people with COVID-19. He called that a “worst-case scenario” that could thwart efforts to reopen buildings in New England’s largest school system.

That is why it’s important, Walsh said, for people to be vigilant about maintaining social distance and wearing masks in public.

“As we think about reopening of schools and society, parents and teachers and students are going to be expecting us to answer questions like, are we going to be safe going into these buildings?” Walsh said.

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CHURCH FUNDRAISING EFFORT

A coalition of Massachusetts churches announced Friday it has started a fundraising campaign to support immigrant, black and unaffiliated churches, as well as those that minster to homeless people, during the coronavirus crisis.

The One Church Fund launched by the Massachusetts Council of Churches will provide financial and other support to churches ministering to underserved communities, according to a statement from the council.

“Churches are essential service providers, especially in immigrant, black, poor, and homeless communities,” the Rev. David Wright, Executive Director of the Black Ministerial Alliance of Greater Boston said in a statement. “Humanitarian needs are increasing exponentially during COVID19.”

The goal is to raise $50,000.

The Massachusetts Council of Churches is a network of 18 Orthodox and Protestant denominations with thousands of affiliated congregations.