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8 free COVID-19 test sites to open; new deaths reported

July 9, 2020 GMT
Kevin Rokos, right, and his one-year-old son Merritt, both of Boston, attend a drive-in movie screening of the film "Moana," Wednesday, July 8, 2020, in a parking lot behind the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, in Boston. Access to the free July Drive-in Movie Series put on by the city is granted to Boston residents only. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Kevin Rokos, right, and his one-year-old son Merritt, both of Boston, attend a drive-in movie screening of the film "Moana," Wednesday, July 8, 2020, in a parking lot behind the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, in Boston. Access to the free July Drive-in Movie Series put on by the city is granted to Boston residents only. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Kevin Rokos, right, and his one-year-old son Merritt, both of Boston, attend a drive-in movie screening of the film "Moana," Wednesday, July 8, 2020, in a parking lot behind the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, in Boston. Access to the free July Drive-in Movie Series put on by the city is granted to Boston residents only. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
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Kevin Rokos, right, and his one-year-old son Merritt, both of Boston, attend a drive-in movie screening of the film "Moana," Wednesday, July 8, 2020, in a parking lot behind the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, in Boston. Access to the free July Drive-in Movie Series put on by the city is granted to Boston residents only. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
1 of 6
Kevin Rokos, right, and his one-year-old son Merritt, both of Boston, attend a drive-in movie screening of the film "Moana," Wednesday, July 8, 2020, in a parking lot behind the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, in Boston. Access to the free July Drive-in Movie Series put on by the city is granted to Boston residents only. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts is launching free COVID-19 testing sites in eight communities to help monitor the spread of the disease in part by also offering tests to asymptomatic individuals, Gov. Charlie Baker said Wednesday.

The eight communities were chosen because they have a higher number of cases than the statewide average and also have higher positive test rates. Baker said that despite the higher number of cases, the cities have also experienced a drop in testing levels since April.

“While the commonwealth has made progress on reducing the overall positive test rate, there are still communities where the number of positive tests is above the average of the rest of the state,” Baker said. “Focusing our efforts to increase testing in these communities will help identify new cases and stop the spread.”

The eight communities are Chelsea, Everett, Fall River, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, Marlborough, and New Bedford. The statewide positive test rate over the past two weeks is about 2%, but in the eight communities, 8% of tests have come back positive.

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The population of the cities also make up about 9% of the state’s population, but have seen 27% of the state’s positive tests in the last two weeks.

Baker is urging residents of the communities to take advantage of the new testing sites even if they are aren’t showing any symptoms. The sites are open to all Massachusetts, Baker said.

“Testing will remain a crucial tool in the months ahead,” Baker said.

The new sites will be open from July 10 to August 14.

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VIRUS BY THE NUMBERS

Massachusetts reported another 30 confirmed COVID-19-related deaths Wednesday, bringing the total number of confirmed and probable deaths since the beginning of the pandemic to 8,243.

There were 264 newly confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, reported Wednesday — bringing the total number of confirmed and probable cases to more than 110,600 in Massachusetts since the start of the pandemic.

There were 662 people reported hospitalized because of COVID-19, while 102 were in intensive care units.

The number of confirmed and probable COVID-19 related deaths at long-term care homes rose to 5,220 — or more than 63% of all confirmed and probable deaths in Massachusetts attributed to the disease.

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SCHOOL REOPENING PLANS

A threat by President Donald Trump to withhold federal funding if schools don’t reopen in the fall with children in the classroom amounts to “a federal edict” that doesn’t make much sense, Baker said Wednesday.

“It’s inappropriate for the feds to think about this as a one-size-fits-all,” the Republican governor said Wednesday. “What they ought to be doing is working with folks like us and others to come up with strategies that ensure that they and we can work together to ensure that schools have the resources they need to be able to open.”

Trump took to Twitter Wednesday claiming other countries including Germany, Denmark and Norway have reopened schools “with no problems.” He accused Democrats of wanting to keep schools closed for political reasons and not because of any risks associated with the coronavirus.

Under a school reopening plan Baker unveiled last month, school districts are required to prepare for three possible education models: in-person learning; hybrid learning combining both in-person learning and remote learning; and education that take place entirely remotely.

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CASINOS

Plainridge Park Casino reopened on Wednesday, the first of Massachusetts’ three casinos to start accepting wagers again under the third phase of Baker’s coronavirus economic recovery plan.

The slots parlor in Plainville has taken several steps to prevent the spread of the disease, including limiting capacity, reducing the number of machines available and installing signage and plexiglass dividers to enforce social distancing guidelines in areas where lines typically form.

Guests and workers will be required to wear masks and undergo a daily health screening, including a temperature check.

Encore Boston Harbor is scheduled to reopen July 12 and MGM Springfield expects to open on July 13.

Casinos in neighboring Rhode Island and Connecticut have already reopened.

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CATHOLIC SCHOOLS REOPENING

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Fall River announced Wednesday that all 22 schools in the diocese serving children in pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade will fully reopen this fall with in-classroom instruction.

Each school is able to follow the 3 to 6 feet of social distancing requirement and still provide 100% in-classroom instruction, the diocese said. Schools will also offer live streaming capabilities to ensure students choosing to learn remotely can do so.

The four Catholic high schools in the diocese will announce their plans for reopening on an individual basis.

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POP-UP DRIVE-INS

The city of Boston is kicking off a series of free, family-friendly drive-in movies Wednesday with a screening of “Moana” at 6:30 p.m. and “Yesterday” at 8:30 p.m.

The drive-in double feature will be set up in the rear parking lot at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.

Pre-registration is required.

The city will be using an LED screen that is visible during the day and at night.