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Boston, MGH launch antibody study; VT town to vote in cars

April 26, 2020 GMT
A man places his arm around a woman, left, as they wait safely distanced in line to enter a supermarket, Sunday, April 26, 2020, in Chelsea, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
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A man places his arm around a woman, left, as they wait safely distanced in line to enter a supermarket, Sunday, April 26, 2020, in Chelsea, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
1 of 3
A man places his arm around a woman, left, as they wait safely distanced in line to enter a supermarket, Sunday, April 26, 2020, in Chelsea, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

BOSTON (AP) — A look at developments around New England related to the coronavirus pandemic:

MASSACHUSETTS

The city of Boston and Massachusetts General Hospital announced a partnership Sunday to test 1,000 asymptomatic city residents to evaluate community exposure to COVID-19 through antibody testing.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nationally 25% of people infected with COVID-19 are asymptomatic, and may not know they are a carrier of the virus, or that they could be infecting others, according to a statement.

“Data from this testing in Boston will provide vital clues into the spread of the virus and will help us develop strategies to slow down or stop this invisible foe,” hospital President Dr. Peter Slavin said.

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The city is randomly selecting participants in the hard hit neighborhoods of East Boston, Roslindale and Dorchester.

“The more we can expand our testing, the more we can learn how to use our medical resources more efficiently, and how we need to focus our current efforts to contain the virus,” Mayor Marty Walsh said.

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Massachusetts health officials reported 169 news COVID-19 deaths Sunday, bringing the the total number of deaths in the state since the pandemic began to 2,899.

The state also reported 1,590 new cases, for a total of almost 55,000 cases.

More than 1,600 of the deaths were in residents of long-term care facilities, and more than 98% of all the people who died had underlying health conditions, the department said.

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MAINE

The number of people with confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Maine passed the 1,000 mark on Sunday with 25 new cases, bringing the total to 1,015, the state Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported in its daily update.

The number of deaths from the disease in Maine remained unchanged at 50, the agency said.

Also, 532 people have fully recovered, and 39 people remained hospitalized with the disease.

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VERMONT

There were eight new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Vermont on Sunday, for a statewide total of 851, the state Health Department reported. The number of deaths remained unchanged at 46 statewide. Eleven people are still hospitalized with the disease, the department said.

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Officials in Barre Town plan to hold a “drive-thru” election rather than have voters cast ballots by mail in its annual election in June.

The town pushed the election back from May to at least June 2 amid Gov. Phil Scott’s stay-home order in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

This week the Select Board unanimously approved the drive-thru voting system and sending voters postcards about the election, The Times Argus reported. Town Clerk Donna Kelty had recommended that the election be held by mail but some select board members had concerns with that.

Voters can still request a ballot and vote by mail.

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NEW HAMPSHIRE

U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan and other Democrats are calling for the IRS to do more about scammers trying to steal coronavirus stimulus checks.

Hassan wrote to a letter Friday asking for greater fraud prevention efforts, including educating people about scammers who are impersonating the IRS. She said some people who depend on the payments for rent or groceries have logged onto the IRS website only to find that scammers have already claimed their payments.

New Hampshire officials reported 77 new cases of the virus Sunday, bringing the state’s total number of cases to 1,864. The state reported that 60 people have died.

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Health care workers and first responders working erratic hours won’t have to worry about parking in Portsmouth.

The city is providing free parking starting Monday for such workers in the form of hangtags to place on the rearview mirrors of their vehicles. The goal is to allow them to park as close as possible to their homes at a time when many are working late hours.

The passes will be valid through June 30.

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RHODE ISLAND

Gov. Gina Raimondo and state Department of Health medical director Dr. James McDonald used their daily coronavirus news conference Sunday to remind Rhode Islanders to maintain their mental, oral and physical health during stressful times.

“It’s OK not to be OK,” the Democratic governor said.

She told residents struggling with mental health issues and addiction to reach out for help, reminding people that she has issued an executive order requiring health insurance companies to cover telemedicine consultations.

Th state also has telephone help lines for people struggling, including a behavioral health triage service and referral line exclusively for children, called Kids’ Link RI, run by Bradley Hospital.

McDonald said residents should keep brushing their teeth regularly and get regular exercise, even when stuck indoors.

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The Rhode Island Department of Health reported 11 new COVID-19-related deaths in the state and 310 more positive cases on Sunday.

Of the 11 new deaths, 10 were nursing home residents and five were in their 90s, McDonald said.

The state has had 226 deaths and nearly 7,500 positive cases of the disease.

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CONNECTICUT

There were 687 new coronavirus cases reported Sunday in Connecticut, bringing the statewide total to 25,269, Gov. Ned Lamont said.

The virus has killed 1,924 people in Connecticut, an increase of 62 over Saturday, Lamont said. The number of people hospitalized declined by 44 Sunday to 1,766.

“When you take a broad look at the data over the last two weeks, we’ve shown that we can flatten the curve and control the spread of this virus through kinds of social distancing measures that we’ve implemented,” Lamont said in a statement. “But we are not out of the woods yet.”

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A judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut seeking a significant reduction in the number of people in the state’s prisons and jails to protect them from the coronavirus.

Judge Barbara Bellis’ decision said that although it is clear the coronavirus presents a serious risk, there was not sufficient evidence to suggest the state Department of Corrections wasn’t taking strong enough measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, the Hartford Courant reported Saturday.

The ACLU expressed disappointment in the ruling in a statement Saturday.

Two state prison inmates have died of the disease.