HEALTH

On a recent Tuesday morning, the English For Advancement class at Jewish Vocational Service was reviewing a lesson on team building. Like most academic classes this year, this English class for adult learners was also happening through a screen.

“Alright, we’re going to have a team meeting because you want to try to build your team’s confidence,” said teacher Wayne Griffin to the group of students appearing in boxes on the screen.

As a statewide deadline nears, school administrators across Massachusetts are deciding how to restart learning in a fall still overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic.

State officials — including Gov. Charlie Baker and Commissioner Jeff Riley of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education — have repeatedly recommended that districts invite as many students as possible back into school buildings this fall.

Connecticut issued its first fines Monday for violations of the state’s requirements for travelers from COVID-19 hot spot states, making an example of two residents returning from Florida and Louisiana.

“We wanted to send a message loud and clear,” Gov. Ned Lamont said. “I hate to do it, but we’re going to be serious and show people we are serious about this, and to date it’s made a difference.”

The former commissioner of the state Department of Public Health is firing back over her May termination ahead of an impending report this month on Connecticut’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two months after Gov. Ned Lamont announced her dismissal, Renée Coleman-Mitchell said in a written statement released late Monday night by the law office of Eric R. Brown that she was going to “set the record straight in my own words.” 

Voters go to the polls today in an unusual election year. With over 300,000 absentee ballots requested for the primary elections, much of the voting has -- or should have -- already happened. But between delayed ballot mailing and postal service disruptions from Tropical Storm Isaias, many voters received their ballots late.

As hundreds of thousands of Connecticut residents adjusted to life without power last week, Gov. Ned Lamont praised the state’s COVID-19 statistics, pointing to days without recorded deaths and a low positivity rate among test results.

Massachusetts Gov. Baker Orders New Enforcement, Gathering Size Limit

Aug 7, 2020
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on July 31.
State House News Service

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker is indefinitely postponing the next step of the state's reopening in response to the uptick in COVID-19 cases that Massachusetts has seen in recent weeks.

The campus of UMass Amherst.
Hoang 'Leon' Nguyen / The Republican / masslive.com/photos

Updated 4:25 p.m.

UMass Amherst has reversed its plans to allow students to decide whether to return to campus housing.

Before the first wave of COVID-19 infections hit Massachusetts last spring, nobody was sure exactly when it would arrive. Experts only knew that it was on the way. By the time testing showed cases were rising dramatically, thousands of people had already caught the coronavirus.

“You’re behind the virus. You’re chasing it, always trying to catch up, and speed is absolutely of the essence,” says William Hanage, an epidemiologist at Harvard University. “The pace with which some of our response has taken place has just been too slow for it.”

School Committees Face Tough Reopening Decisions

Aug 4, 2020
MAXPIXEL.NET / CREATIVE COMMONS

Massachusetts education officials are reviewing school districts' initial reopening plans and expect to issue guidance on athletics and extracurricular activities next week, Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley said Tuesday.

Caravan 4 Justice activists and protesters gather at the north side of the Connecticut State Capitol in Hartford to demonstrate against the systemic abuse of police power perpetrated against the black community, June 7, 2020.
Joe Amon / Connecticut Public

It’s been more than four months since Breonna Taylor was shot and killed in her home by Louisville Metro Police as they executed a no-knock search warrant. She was a 26-year-old Black woman who worked as an emergency medical technician and aspired to become a nurse.

A health care worker places a cotton swab into a vile after taking a sample from someone being tested for COVID-19 last month at a drive-through testing area at Somerville Hospital.
Jesse Costa / WBUR

Summer travel has increased the demand for COVID-19 testing in Massachusetts, which means less capacity and longer waits for results.

A regional plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants also made the northeast healthier, by reducing air pollutants like mercury and sulfur dioxide.

But a new study focused on children found the benefits were even greater than previously thought, preventing hundreds of childhood illnesses and saving an additional hundreds of millions of dollars.

The findings were published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Some shoreline cities and towns in Connecticut are reviving a controversial practice by restricting beach access to residents only on weekends in response to COVD-19.

The Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, the site of the worst COVID-19 outbreak in a Mass. nursing home, is once again suspending all outside visitors. The move comes one day after a veteran who had “clinically recovered” from COVID-19 started showing symptoms and was transferred to a local hospital where he tested virus-positive, a spokeswoman for Health and Human Services said.

Mass. Schools To Start 2 Weeks Later After State, Teachers Union Ink Planning Period Deal

Jul 28, 2020
Massachusetts Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley in June 2020.
Pat Greenhouse / Boston Globe / pool / State House News Service

Officials in Massachusetts signed a memorandum of understanding (PDF) Monday that will officially reduce the 180-day school year requirement to 170 days. The agreement accommodates a 10-day period for districts to prepare to reopen school buildings that have been closed since March.

COVID-19 Case Counts On The Rise Again In Massachusetts

Jul 27, 2020
A packaged COVID-19 test at the Urgent Care Center of Connecticut in Bloomfield on March 25.
Joe Amon / Connecticut Public / NENC

There were nearly 500 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Massachusetts over the weekend, and the percentage of tests that come back positive for the coronavirus is rising.

Maggie Melchiorre of Lyonsville Farm wears a mask as she helps a customer at the Greenfield Farmers Market in Greenfield, Massachusetts.
Mary Byrne / Daily Hampshire Gazette / gazettenet.com

Some members of the Massachusetts public expressed their displeasure on Friday about a proposed state regulation that would formalize the mask order Governor Charlie Baker issued in early May.

When Massachusetts urgently needed masks and other supplies for frontline workers facing a surge of infections, the federal agency handling protective gear sent large shipments to states with smaller populations and far fewer coronavirus cases.

In a glimpse of the sporting “new normal,” Connecticut’s top pro soccer club hosted a league game in the middle of a pandemic.

Hartford Athletic held its home opener at Dillon Stadium, four months after it was supposed to be played.

Public health officials often refer to heat as a “silent killer.” While an estimated 12,000 Americans die from heat-related health problems every year, high temperatures tend to get less attention than other weather extremes.

A pop-up testing site for the new coronavirus was set up in Manchester Wednesday. This comes after more than 40 people tested positive for COVID-19 at the local urgent care clinic earlier this week.

Worcester City Hall in Worcester, Massachusetts.
File Photo / Masslive / masslive.com/photos

The city of Worcester says it’s received more than 25 complaints in the past several weeks about local businesses and their customers not following COVID-19 protocols. 

Slot machines at the MGM Casino in Springfield, Massachusetts, with one shut down to promote social distancing on July 9, 2020.
Alden Bourne / NEPR

The MGM Casino in Springfield, Massachusetts, says it’s ready to re-open and will strictly enforce the wearing of masks.

Data shows Connecticut is succeeding in slowing the spread of COVID-19, even as cases of the virus spike in other states.

EEE Detected in Mosquitoes Earlier Than Anticipated In Massachusetts

Jul 7, 2020
A mosquito.
Malcolm Tattersall / Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/malcolm_nq

The risks of COVID-19 transmission are higher indoors, and as summer ramps up, Massachusetts is beginning to see signs that another public health hazard is emerging again outdoors.

The rolling seven-day average of positive COVID-19 cases in Connecticut was less than 1% over the past week, lower than every other state except Vermont, Gov. Ned Lamont said Monday.

With fewer than 100 new confirmed infections a day, 885 contact tracers are able to follow up on 96% of all reported cases within 48 hours, but fewer than half of those contacts result in interviews useful in the prevention of outbreaks, Lamont said.

If you’ve missed hitting the gym or your Pilates class since the pandemic shut down the state in mid-March, there’s good news — starting Monday, your gym, unless it’s in Boston or Somerville, can reopen.

(Boston and Somerville indoor fitness centers can open next Monday, July 13.)

It’s a familiar moment. The kids want their cereal and the coffee’s brewing, but you’re out of milk. No problem, you think — the corner store is just a couple of minutes away. But if you have COVID-19 or have been exposed to the virus, you’re supposed to stay put. Even that quick errand could continue the chain of transmission.

Luisa Schaeffer’s first call of the day is to a woman poised at the door to her apartment in Brockton, debating whether to take that quick walk. Schaeffer’s job is to help the woman make the best choice for the public’s health.

The Town House in North Brookfield, Massachusetts.
Doug Kerr / Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/7327243@N05

The town of North Brookfield, Massachusetts, has canceled a Fourth of July celebration after the local board of health and the governor raised concerns.

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