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17 new COVID-19 deaths; BSO to require proof of vaccination

August 31, 2021 GMT

BOSTON (AP) — The number of new cases of COVID-19 increased by more than 1,500 Tuesday while the number of newly confirmed coronavirus deaths in Massachusetts rose by 17.

The new number pushed the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to 17,874 since the start of the pandemic, while its confirmed caseload rose to more than 709,500.

Nearly 600 people were reported hospitalized Tuesday because of confirmed cases of COVID-19, with more than 160 in intensive care units.

The average age of those who have died from COVID-19 was 75.

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The true number of cases is likely higher because studies suggest some people can be infected and not feel sick.

More than 4.5 million people in Massachusetts have been fully immunized against COVID-19.

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BOSTON SYMPHONY VACCINATION PROTOCOL

The Boston Symphony Orchestra will require all audience members attending performances at Symphony Hall this fall to provide proof of vaccination or proof of a negative test result, the orchestra announced Tuesday.

Patrons will also be required to wear a mask during concerts, unless eating or drinking, the organization said in an emailed statement. Physical distancing will not be required.

“By requiring vaccinations and masks, we hope that people will feel comfortable at concerts and know that we are doing all we can to create a safe environment to gather for the collective experience of live music,” President and CEO Gail Samuel said.

The orchestra went on a live performance hiatus because of the coronavirus pandemic. When it announced its new season in June, it said proof of vaccination and masks would not be required. That was before a surge in cases caused by the highly contagious delta variant.

Proof of vaccination includes showing a vaccination card, a photo of the card, or a digital vaccine record upon entering Symphony Hall, the BSO said. For children under 12 who are not yet eligible for a coronavirus vaccine, proof of a negative test will be accepted for entry.

Patrons who cannot show proof of vaccination can either show proof of a negative PCR test taken within the previous 72 hours, or an antigen test taken within the previous 24 hours.

The BSO has also been updating its air filtration system and cleaning protocols to ensure patron safety.

The new season starts Sept. 30.

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AMHERST COLLEGE-STUDENT PUSHBACK

Hundreds of students at Amherst College in Massachusetts are pushing back against what they call the school’s overly restrictive COVID-19 protocols that include double masking indoors, restrictions on off-campus activities, and no in-person campus dining.

In a letter sent to President Carolyn “Biddy” Martin a week ago, the students said “the guidelines are not based on any given data, have been developed without student input, are significantly stricter than our peer institutions, and are in conflict with (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines.”

The restrictions originally announced Aug. 24 and designed in response to the spread of the delta variant apply to the first two weeks of the fall semester, which began Monday.

The prestigious private liberal arts college celebrating its 200th anniversary this year had already mandated vaccinations for students, faculty and staff.

In response to the student pushback, Martin explained the necessity of the rules in another campuswide email on Aug. 27.

“We are in the midst of a surge, and you are arriving on campus from all over the country and the world, including from delta hotspots,” she said, adding later: “Now is not yet the time to relax key restrictions.”

She did, however, amend a near-universal outdoor mask mandate, calling it “unworkable,” and said masks are now only required outdoors at “high-density gatherings over a sustained time period.”

Students are allowed to leave campus to take care of personal business and to pick up takeout meals, but should not go to indoor restaurants, cafes, or bars, she said.

The school has about 1,850 students.

“The reason that the college put these protocols in place for two weeks is that, between testing and possibly isolating/quarantining individuals, we can establish a healthy baseline for our campus,” a college spokesperson said Tuesday.