Coronavirus Updates For Western New England: An Easter In Isolation
Massachusetts reported another 2,615 cases of coronavirus on Easter Sunday as the death toll from the disease climbed to 756 and families across Massachusetts did their best to celebrate a major religious and cultural holiday remotely.
Seventy new deaths were reported by the Department of Public Health, including a male in his 30s from Plymouth County who had underlying health conditions.
A total of 7,954 new tests were conducted, bringing the number of people tested to 116,730 or about 1.7% of the population of Massachusetts.
Gov. Charlie Baker had no public events or press briefings on Easter but has warned of “a very difficult couple of weeks” as an expected surge in cases hits the state. “And it could be four depending upon how this whole thing plays out.”
The number of patients hospitalized on Sunday with the coronavirus was 2,235, up from 2,120 on Saturday. The state reported that 6,455 people infected with COVID-19 have not required hospitalization and the bulk of cases — 16,785 — are still "under investigation."
In Connecticut, the number of deaths the state says are “associated” with the disease rose 60 in Sunday’s update, to 554, as the number of total laboratory-confirmed cases now tops 12,000.
Nursing homes continue to be hard-hit
Twelve percent of all cases in Massachusetts and 45 percent of deaths can be traced to a nursing home or long-term care facility, according to state reporting.
That likely includes 21 deaths announced late Friday by JGS Lifecare in Longmeadow, home to the facility formerly known as Jewish Nursing Home of Western Massachusetts.
The letter to families from executives said the virus had "found its way within" the short-term rehabilitation center and long-term nursing home. They said their "early efforts to stop the spread were blinded by both limited access to testing and overly restrictive criteria to test."
So JGS said it hired a private lab, and now more than half the staff and residents have tested positive.
The announcement of the deaths was the first time JGS had publicly acknowledged fatalities from COVID-19. Asked when the deaths occurred – and, if spread out over a number of day, why the company announced all 21 at once, a spokeswoman declined to comment.
“At this time all our efforts remain focused on the care and safety of our residents and staff and communicating directly with our families,” wrote Susan Kimball Halpern, vice president of development and communications.
The announcement from JGS came the same day Longmeadow officials stopped posting daily updates on the number of confirmed cases in town.
“[T]he decision to suspend posting was the lack of reliability and accuracy,” Town Manager Lyn Simmons wrote in an email. “However, it was not solely related to JGS, the concerns with the data were for all case counts.”
Meanwhile, the toll continues to rise at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home, where 32 residents who died have now tested positive for the disease.
The Justice Department on Friday announced it would investigate patient care at the state-run facility. This comes on top of a probe launched by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, and another led by a lawyer appointed by Governor Charlie Baker.
NEPR's Sam Hudzik and Matt Murphy of State House News Service contributed to this report.