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Coronavirus Updates For Western New England: 10 Deaths In Conn., 9 In Mass., 5 In Vt., 1st In NH

An N95 protective mask.
Robin Lubbock
An N95 protective mask, which Tufts medical staff would wear if they were assigned to treat a patient suspected of having an infectious disease such as a coronavirus.

Updated at 7:19 p.m. 

Nine Massachusetts residents have died as a result of contracting COVID-19, the state reported Monday. Confirmed cases of the disease in the state rose to 777, up from 646 the day before.

Berkshire County has the most reported cases in the western part of the state, at 26. Hampden County has 15 cases, while Hampshire County has six and Franklin County has two.

Officials expect the number of cases to keep rising as testing capabilities expand. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker on Sunday said testing had increased 50% in each of the previous two days.

Also Monday, Connecticut’s reported cases increased to 415 — up from 327 the day before — with 10 deaths now attributed to the virus.

New Hampshire reported its first death from the virus on Monday — a male resident of Hillsborough County who was over the age of 60 and had several underlying medical conditions. New Hampshire's reported cases increased on Monday by 23 cases to a total of 101.

Vermont has five deaths attributed to COVID-19, and it has 75 cases, up from 52 the day before.

Maine reports 107 cases, up from the 89 announced Sunday. And Rhode Island reported 23 new positive tests Sunday, adding up to 106 cases. 

Those numbers include "presumptive positive cases" identified by state and private labs, as well as cases confirmed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Governor Baker orders non-essential business closures in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts governor ordered all non-essential businesses to close at noon on Tuesday and remain closed until at least April 7 in an effort to slow down the spread of the coronavirus. Baker said Monday the state Department of Health has issued a stay-at-home advisory, but stressed that it wasn't a shelter-in-place order.

Essential businesses include supermarkets and the businesses that support them, pharmacies, gas stations, and manufacturers of medical supplies and pharmaceuticals. Restaurants will continue to be allowed to stay open for takeout and delivery.

Vermont deaths from COVID-19

Vermont's health commissioner said three more people have died after contracting COVID-19. Dr. Mark Levine announced Monday that all three deaths were related to the ongoing outbreak at the Burlington Health and Rehabilitation Center care facility. The deaths bring the total number of fatalities in Vermont to five. The number of people testing positive for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 also jumped by nearly two-dozen patients to 75.

Governor Phil Scott said Vermonters should prepare for more restrictions to help stem the pandemic that is sweeping the state. Scott wouldn't describe those restrictions in detail, but he said it would not be a shelter-in-place order. 

Markey: Trump needs to enlist manufacturers in 'war' effort

Democratic Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts said President Trump must do more to ensure there are enough masks, ventilators and other medical supplies for doctors, nurses and first-responders. Trump has invoked the Defense Production Act, but — as Markey points out — the president has not used the law to force manufacturers into government service.

"We'll pay them, but we have to start mandating the private sector to deliver the protections, deliver what we need to fight this war," Markey told NEPR (mp3).

Markey said he's not been tested for COVID-19, but that five members of the Senate are in quarantine. He said he's worried the Senate will eventually not be able to have a quorum, unless the chamber votes to allow remote-voting, perhaps by Skype.

Triage tent set up at UConn Health to treat virus patients

The state's first triage tent for treating those believed to be infected with the coronavirus has been installed outside the emergency department at UConn's John Dempsey Hospital in Farmington, Connecticut. UConn Health said the tent is not a testing center, but will be used if the expected surge in COVID-19 patients occurs to give hospital staff additional work space. The hospital also has a separate drive-by testing site, which is open by appointment only.

Massachusetts state Senate election date pushed to May

The Massachusetts Senate on Monday moved the election date for two Senate races that were in their home stretches. It also sent to Baker's desk a bill allowing municipalities to postpone their 2020 elections because of the coronavirus pandemic. The special elections — for a seat held until January by Don Humason, now the mayor of Westfield, and a seat that state Senator Viriato deMacedo of Plymouth resigned on November 30, 2019 — were moved from March 31 to May 19. State Rep. John Velis, a Westfield Democrat, and Westfield Republican John Cain are squaring off for Humason’s seat.

Rhode Island postpones its presidential primary

Rhode Island is the latest state to postpone its presidential primary as the impact of the new coronavirus widens. Governor Gina Raimondo announced Monday the state will move its planned April 28 primary to June 2. Rhode Island joins Connecticut, Maryland, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana and Ohio in postponing their April 28 primary.  

Connecticut encourages sign-ups for emergency phone alert system

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont is urging residents to sign up for cell phone alerts about the coronavirus emergency. Lamont delivered a recorded message to more than four million phone numbers through the state's emergency alert system. He also posted that message on social media, urging residents to stay home. The governor said trips to pharmacies, groceries, and takeout restaurants are fine, so long as you keep your distance, and provided you’re not over 70 years old. He’s also advising those who can work from home to do so.

Meanwhile, Lamont has clarified his work ban on non-essential services, carving out dozens of exemptions centered on key areas like child and health care, food, law enforcement, utilities and transportation, finances and insurance. Also included on that list of essentials that can keep operating are guns and ammunition retailers and package stores. The administration posted dozens of examples of businesses that can remain open after Monday at 8 p.m. when the ban on non-essentials takes effect.

Child care options shrink in Massachusetts — but there are some 'emergency' options

An array of emergency sites are opening in Massachusetts to allow frontline workers in the battle against the coronavirus to get to their jobs as child care centers have closed their doors.  Options include reopened child care centers as well as home-based care offered by hundreds of individuals approved by state education officials to provide care on a temporary, emergency basis.

Massachusetts is calling on families to “keep children out of group care settings to the greatest extent possible,” according to a statement at Mass.gov, instructing families to use the emergency child care only as “back-up, drop-in care.” Priority under the new system will go to families considered “vulnerable” by the state, as well as to particular groups of people.

NEPR’s Alden Bourne, Heather Brandon, Sam Hudzik and Kari Njiiri contributed to this report, which includes information from State House News Service, WBUR, WNPR and The Associated Press.

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