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Brigham and Women’s, Broad Institute team up for virus study

October 6, 2020 GMT

BOSTON (AP) — Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard are teaming up for a six-month study of 10,000 people to help them better understand the prevalance of COVID-19 in the area and to help identify potential surges during the fall and winter, they said in a joint statement Tuesday.

The study, called TestBoston, will provide monthly at-home kits for both the virus and antibodies against it.

Participants, selected from Brigham and Women’s patients and reflecting the demographics of greater Boston, will also complete routine symptom surveys and will be able to seek additional testing should they develop symptoms.

Study results may reveal critical clues and warning signs about how COVID-19 cases are changing in the area, while helping investigators establish a model for at-home sample collection, the statement said.

The study will also help clinicians learn more about whether prior infection provides any protection against subsequent re-infection.

“With ongoing limits on testing availability, we still face serious challenges to our understanding of how many people in Massachusetts have been infected and to our ability to detect new outbreaks, which is made all the more challenging because we know that asymptomatic people can transmit this virus to others,” Dr. Ann Woolley, an infections disease physician at the hospital, said in a statement.

Study findings will be shared with key stakeholders, including the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, to enable public health responses to cases of new infection.

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BAKER NOT CANCELLING HALLOWEEN

Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday he isn’t canceling Halloween.

The Republican made the comment during a visit to Salem, which typically sees an influx of visitors in the weeks leading up to the Oct. 31 holiday.

Baker was joined at the press conference by Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, a Democrat, who said the city has deployed “mask ambassadors” to encourage visitors to wear masks properly.

“There’s no question there will be people in Salem in October,” Baker said. “It’s like the swallows going home to Capistrano.”

Baker said he’s had “a whole bunch of people say to me why don’t you just cancel Halloween.”

“The reason we’re not cancelling Halloween is because that would have turned into thousands of indoor Halloween parties, which would have been a heck of a lot worse for public safety and for the spread of the virus than outdoor, organized and supervised trick-or-treating,” he said.

Salem officials in August announced plans to call off some city Halloween celebrations because of the coronavirus.

Baker also said Tuesday that he’s glad President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump appear to be recovering from COVID-19, but added “it’s incredibly irresponsible for the president or any other public official to ignore the advice” of the public health community.

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VIRUS BY THE NUMBERS

Massachusetts reported eight newly confirmed coronavirus deaths and about 450 newly confirmed cases Monday, pushing the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to 9,323 and its confirmed caseload to more than 133,300.

The seven-day weighted average of positive tests remains just over 1%. 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 490 people reported hospitalized Monday because of COVID-19, and more than 80 in intensive care units.

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CORONAVIRUS COMPLAINT HOTLINE

Complaints about a stripper not wearing a mask, packed house parties, and personal attacks directed at Gov. Charlie Baker are just some of the calls received by a state hotline for people to report suspected violations of coronavirus restrictions.

More than 200,000 calls have been logged by the state’s 211 coronavirus compliance system since March, according to state records reviewed by the Boston Herald.

An adult entertainment club lost its liquor license after a dancer and others were seen not wearing masks, the state said.

Other complaints included residents of Nantucket concerned about “sick people from other states” arriving on the island, and Harvard Business School students “playing loud music and drinking” without face coverings.

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POLL WORKER MASKS

A Massachusetts office furniture manufacturer is providing face masks to all poll workers and Election Day volunteers in the state, the company said Tuesday.

Leominster-based AIS Inc. is working with Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin’s office and city and town clerks to ensure that the masks are delivered and distributed to poll workers well in advance of the Nov. 3 presidential election.

The company has already had requests from 200 clerks for mask donations in quantities ranging from 10 to 1,500. The company expects to supply a total of 20,000 masks.

“Our democracy relies on the ability of all citizens to be able to freely and safely cast their votes in person on Election Day,” Bruce Platzman, CEO of AIS, said in a statement.

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JAIL OUTBREAK

A coronavirus outbreak at a Massachusetts county jail is growing.

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Nearly 140 inmates and more than 30 employees of the Middleton Jail and House of Correction have tested positive in the past two weeks, Essex County Sheriff Kevin Coppinger said in a video message posted on the department’s website Monday.

Most of the people who have tested positive are either asymptomatic or have displayed only mild symptoms, he said. No one has required hospitalization.

All inmates and employees are now being tested, he said.