COVID-19 deaths rise to 433; state to collect data on race
BOSTON (AP) — The number of people in Massachusetts who have died from COVID-19 rose to 433 Wednesday, an increase of 77.
The number of residents who have tested positive for the coronavirus that causes the disease rose to nearly 16,800, according to the Department of Public Health.
Nearly 1,600 have been hospitalized since the outbreak’s start. More than 87,500 have been tested.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, pneumonia, or death.
In other developments:
DATA BY RACE, IDENTITY
Massachusetts is beginning to collect information on the race and ethnicity of those being tested for the virus.
Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said Wednesday that the state is requiring the dozens of labs conducting tests to gather the information.
“Obtaining racial and ethnic data on cases of COVID-19 is crucial for examining where and on whom the burden of illness and death is falling,” she said.
Sudders said the data will be included in the public daily updates on the spread of the disease. She cautioned the data may be incomplete, either because those conducting the tests could not determine race or identity or those being tested declined to offer the information.
The Massachusetts State Police Academy is shutting its physical operation and will provide accelerated online training so new troopers can help respond to the outbreak, officials said.
The academy’s current class had originally been scheduled to undergo training until late June, but officials are closing the academy as a precaution and plan to graduate 241 new troopers “in the very near future,” police spokesman Dave Procopio said. No trainees or staff members at the academy have tested positive for COVID-19.
Officials say the outbreak has increased the need for public safety personnel. Troopers have been working to support local police, bolster the state’s own safety operations and provide security at testing sites and a temporary medical examiner’s site in Fitchburg, Procopio said.
BOSTON POPS CANCELS SPRING SEASON
The Boston Pops is canceling its entire spring season for only the second time in its 135-year history.
Conductor Keith Lockhart said the step was taken to protect the health of the orchestra, the audience and other staff members. The season was meant to celebrate Lockhart’s 25th anniversary as conductor.
Decisions about this year’s Boston Pops fireworks spectacular and the 2020 Tanglewood season will be reached after conferring with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization as well as state and city leaders. Those decisions are expected by mid-May.
Town officials in Arlington asked residents to come out for a funeral procession honoring a U.S. Air Force Veteran who died with no living relatives.
Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine encouraged residents to line Massachusetts Avenue at a safe distance from one another on Wednesday to honor Mary Foley, who died Saturday at age 93. It’s unclear whether her death was related to the coronavirus.
Foley served during the Korean and Vietnam wars and was a longtime resident of the town. Chapdelaine said Foley deserved a tribute even though the military has suspended its program providing graveside honors to veterans.
SOLDIERS HOME DEATHS
Attorney General Maura Healey is launching an investigation into COVID-19 deaths at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home.
Officials said 27 residents have died, 20 of whom tested positive. Another 62 residents and 68 staff members have also tested positive.
Healey said Wednesday her office is trying to determine whether any legal action is warranted.
The attorney general’s investigation is separate from one launched by Baker, who named former federal prosecutor Mark Pearlstein to lead the probe
At the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home, seven residents have died, five of whom tested positive.
HELP FOR ARTISTS
The Mass Cultural Council is launching two relief efforts designed to help artists and cultural organizations facing tough economic times due to the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing measures.
A survey conducted by the independent state agency from March 16 to 22 found 566 cultural organizations reported losses of more than $55 million in revenue, while 595 individual artists, teaching artists and others reported nearly $2.9 million in lost personal income.
A new COVID-19 relief fund aims to support individuals whose creative practices and incomes have been harmed by providing unrestricted grants of up to $1,000. A second Safe Harbors Initiative is designed to help cultural nonprofit groups seek federal COVID-19 assistance while also helping them craft responsible fiscal strategies.