Coronavirus Updates For Western New England: Positive Tests In Mass. Climb More Than 1,000
Updated at 10:17 p.m.
More than 1,000 new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed by testing, Massachusetts officials said Saturday in their daily update on the new coronavirus — the largest single-day increase yet.
The state also said the number of deaths attributable to the disease climbed by nine, adding up to 44.
The Saturday report included sharp increases in cases in all four western Massachusetts counties. Patients testing positive doubled in Hampden County, from 90 on Friday to 183 on Saturday.
The most recent report also noted three new fatalities from Hampden County: a man in his 70s, a man in his 80s and a woman in her 90s.
Overall, Massachusetts reported 4,257 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19, out of 35,049 tests administered, a positive rate of about 12%.
Officials have said the numbers will continue to rise as testing capacity expands. They've also said the data are incomplete, as not all patients with symptoms associated with the disease are being tested.
Connecticut on Saturday reported six additional deaths. Overall — 33 residents of the state had died as a result of COVID-19, with 1,524 people testing positive.
Rhode Island on Saturday reported its first two deaths associated with the virus. It said 239 people in the state have tested positive, up from 203 on Friday.
Vermont's death total increased by two, to 12. The state on Saturday reported 211 cases, up from 184 Friday.
Maine on Saturday reported 211 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19, up from 168 on Friday. The state announced its first coronavirus-related fatality on Friday, a man in his 80s from Cumberland County.
New Hampshire reported Saturday a total of 214 laboratory-confirmed cases, up from 187 Friday. New Hampshire has recorded two deaths attributed to COVID-19.
All these 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.
With first COVID-19 deaths, Rhode Island governor says 'stay at home'
Governor Gina M. Raimondo on Saturday banned all gatherings in Rhode Island of more than five people and told residents to “stay at home” as part of new, broader measures to contain the coronavirus which health officials confirmed has resulted in the state’s first two deaths.
“Our best estimate is we have maybe 50% compliance’’ with the previous social-distancing orders, Raimondo said during a news conference. State officials are receiving reports of crowds gathered at the seawall in Narragansett, she said, in grocery stores and in big-box retailers. “Knock it off,’’ Raimondo said. “You are risking the lives of everyone in this state.”
Starting Monday, the governor ordered all “non-essential” retail businesses to shut down until April 13.
Mass. public health director tests positive
Massachusetts Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel, who has been at the center of the state's efforts to respond to the outbreak of a deadly coronavirus, has tested positive for COVID-19, according the Department of Public Health, and will recuperate at home as she continues to work remotely.
Bharel, in a statement, said she was tested Thursday night and received her results back Friday.
"As the public health commissioner and an essential state employee, I have been vigilant about practicing social distancing from my colleagues and members of the public. My symptoms so far have been mild. I have notified my appropriate close contacts and will rest and recuperate at home, while continuing to carry out my work responsibilities remotely," Bharel said in a statement.
The Department of Public Health said its offices, which are also headquarters for the coronavirus command center being led by Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders, will be "thoroughly cleaned over the weekend."
On Saturday, Gov. Charlie Baker said Bharel is a "rabid distancer" who stayed apart from others. He said he was not among Bharel's close contacts traced by public health officials and that he has not been in the same building as Bharel in about a week.
The governor said Saturday that he has not been tested himself, has not developed any symptoms and that his temperature was 97.7 degrees when the Red Cross checked it before allowing him to donate blood Saturday.
The Bakers push for more blood donations
The pre-donation temperature check is one precaution Red Cross officials said they are taking to ensure safe donations, along with social distancing efforts among donors and between donors and staff. Lauren Baker, who serves on the board of directors for the Massachusetts region of the Red Cross, said hundreds of blood donations need to be collected each day to meet the needs of Massachusetts hospitals.
"If you're healthy and you want to do it, please don't be afraid," she said. "Please make an appointment. Please donate blood. Every effort helps."
Anyone who has traveled to China, Iran, Italy or South Korea, or had contact with a person who has the coronavirus, will be asked to postpone their donation for 28 days.
Morse: Inmates making PPE deserve higher pay
With Hampden County jail inmates working to produce personal protective equipment for health care personnel, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse is urging passage of a bill that would establish a minimum wage for incarcerated workers. Sponsored by Sen. Will Brownsberger and Reps. Lindsay Sabadosa and Chynah Tyler, the bill (S 1336) was included in a Public Safety Committee study order in February.
"We cannot continue to discount the contributions of the incarcerated women and men making PPE to protect our frontline workers," Morse wrote in a letter Friday to Gov. Charlie Baker, Department of Correction Commissioner Carol Mici, Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Robert DeLeo. "We must affirm the dignity of their life-saving contributions to our fight against Covid-19 by paying them a fair wage."
Morse called it "unconscionable" that inmates at the Hampden Jail and Western Massachusetts Regional Women's Correctional Center are paid "no more than $1/hour for their life-saving work." He said more than 1,000 washable and reusable masks and gowns have already been manufactured through the Hampden sheriff's department's York Street Industries Program.
NEPR’s Sam Hudzik contributed to this report, which includes information from The Public's Radio and State House News Service.