MEDICINE

RN Alyssa Anderson administers a COVID-19 test at Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford in March 2020.
Joe Amon / Connecticut Public / NENC

With virus rates rising across the state and the holidays looming, western Massachusetts residents who want to get a COVID test are often waiting in hours-long lines, if they can get one at all.

Beginning Monday, Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks will add a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site open to travelers and all other community members.

The Connecticut Airport Authority is partnering with Hartford HealthCare to run the site in parking Lot 3 off Schoephoester Road. This will be the health organization’s ninth permanent testing location in the state. 

Rapid Result Virus Tests Launching In 134 Massachusetts School Districts

Nov 18, 2020
An N95 protective mask.
Robin Lubbock / WBUR

Starting in early December, 134 Massachusetts school districts, charter schools and special education collaboratives will have access to rapid COVID-19 tests for students or staff members who show symptoms of the respiratory disease while school is in session.

The state’s new covid exposure app for cellphones has reached over 600,000 downloads in less than a week.  Launched last Thursday, the app for iPhone and Android systems lets people know they may have been exposed to COVID-19.

Virus Trends 'Show No Signs of Changing' In Massachusetts, Says Governor

Nov 11, 2020
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker.
Stuart Cahill / Boston Herald / Pool / State House News Service

The second surge of COVID-19 in Massachusetts is showing no signs of slowing down, Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday as he and hospital officials outlined steps they are planning to treat the growing number of people with the disease, including plans for the re-establishment of emergency field hospitals.

Two former top officials at Holyoke Soldiers’ Home pleaded not guilty to criminal charges related to their handling of one of the country’s deadliest coronavirus outbreaks at a long-term care facility during their arraignment Thursday.

After the COVID-19 spring surge, nurse Jennifer Williams started taking a blood pressure medication and seeing a therapist. Her stress level dropped this summer, but now, as her COVID-19 unit at Sturdy Memorial Hospital fills again, Williams says she feels the panic rising. Some days, after work, she sits in her car and cries.

“I didn’t realize the impact that it had on me during the spring because it was busy, and it was new,” she says. Now “emotionally, I have to brace myself.”

This time around Williams knows, in advance, how devastating the disease can be.

Like a lot of people with loved ones in long-term care facilities, Priscilla Flint-Banks spent much of the spring worried about her 87-year-old mother, Ruby Kinney. Kinney, who had dementia, lived in the Edgar P. Benjamin Healthcare Center, a predominantly Black nursing home in Roxbury.

In early April, Flint-Banks called to check on her mom and spoke to a nurse. She says she asked whether the home had any COVID-positive residents.

“She’s like, ‘No. Nobody got COVID here,’ ” Flint-Banks says. “So I said, ‘OK, thank you.’ And then two weeks later, my mom dies.”

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont said the state needs to do more to convince Black residents that a COVID-19 vaccine will be safe and effective. 

A location in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, used by the think tank American Institute for Economic Research.
genericface / Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/genericface

Great Barrington, Massachusetts, recently played host to a meeting that’s causing controversy in the scientific community and caught the attention of the White House.

Just before lunchtime on October 1, a blue tent popped up outside Watertown middle school. In a sky checkered with clouds, a cool breeze rustled trees tinged with the yellows and oranges of fall. It was perfect weather for collecting coronavirus tests.

Every few minutes, teachers and staff from around the school district pulled up in their cars and took a swab kit from one of two nurses, who mimed the twirling of the cotton fluff with their fingers.

Town Hall in Amherst, Massachusetts.
John Phelan / Creative Commons / commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Faolin42

With Amherst, Massachusetts, in the state’s COVID-19 red zone, the town manager says the numbers don’t reflect nuances in the population. 

RN Alyssa Anderson administers a COVID-19 test at Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford in March 2020.
Joe Amon / Connecticut Public / NENC

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said Wednesday that COVID-19 hospitalizations have climbed to over 100 for the first time since June, prompting officials to announce new initiatives to combat the rising coronavirus infection rate.

Mass. Attorney General Maura Healey is bringing criminal charges against the former superintendent of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, Bennett Walsh, and the facility’s former medical director, Dr. David Clinton, for their roles in the deadly COVID-19 outbreak that swept through the facility earlier this spring and killed 76 veterans.

Baystate Health CEO Mark Keroack.
Don Treeger / The Republican / masslive.com/photos

Massachusetts officials report the rate of COVID-19 infections in the state has been relatively steady in recent days. But the head of Baystate Health Systems says the number of patients admitted to his hospital has increased slightly during the same period.

AJAY SURESH / CREATIVE COMMONS / FLICKR.COM/PHOTOS/AJAY_SURESH

A western Massachusetts group focused on opioid abuse is offering this week the first in a series of online trainings on administering an opioid overdose reversal drug.

Weeks of state investigations, monitoring and intervention at Three Rivers Nursing Home in Norwich following a COVID-19 outbreak has culminated in the imminent relocation of all residents.

In a rare and unprecedented move, the Department of Public Health's acting commissioner Deidre Gifford signed an emergency order Wednesday requiring the facility to discharge its 53 residents to other long-term care facilities. 

Last week, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont remarked that he needed to work with Black-led churches on education initiatives that would help Black residents learn about COVID-19 vaccines. Some faith leaders say Lamont ignored the history of racial abuse in the medical industry that led to distrust of new treatments or studies among some in the Black community.

Ann Becker of UMass gives direction on how to administer a COVID-19 test at the Mullins Center.
Adam Frenier / NEPM

Carly O'Connell is excited to go back to UMass as a sophomore in legal studies. She'll be among about a thousand students allowed to live on campus — some are taking hands-on classes, and others, like O’Connell, got special permission for personal reasons.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.)

Naomi London of Northampton, Massachusetts, survived a serious case of COVID-19.
Courtesy of Naomi London

While some parts of the country are seeing surges in COVID-19, cases in Massachusetts are down — but not gone. So, with the governor's reopening plan underway, early survivors of the virus are hoping their experience will convince others to be cautious.

Visitors From 7 States May Now Visit Massachusetts Without Quarantining

Jun 30, 2020
A road sign on the Massachusetts border.
State of Massachusetts

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday he's lifting a 14-day self-quarantine directive for anyone traveling into Massachusetts from any of the other five New England states, New York or New Jersey. 

Holyoke Soldiers' Home Superintendent Bennett Walsh Challenges Pearlstein Report

Jun 25, 2020
Bennett Walsh, superintendent of the Holyoke Soldiers' Home, speaking at a memorial service in 2017.
The Republican / masslive.com/photos

The superintendent at the center of the Holyoke Soldiers' Home crisis is challenging an independent investigator's conclusions about his qualifications for the job and hinted at potential legal action to fight his impending termination. 

The Holyoke Soldiers' Home on May 1, 2020.
Greg Saulmon / The Republican / masslive.com/photos

Updated at 8:22 p.m.

Lawmakers, officials and others weighed in Wednesday on findings of an independent report that said leadership at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home made "substantial errors and failures" in handling a deadly COVID-19 outbreak. 

Report Details 'Utterly Baffling' Decisions at Holyoke Soldiers' Home

Jun 24, 2020
Soldiers from the Massachusetts National Guard walk down one of the halls of the Holyoke Soldiers' Home in Holyoke, Massachusetts, on April 1, 2020.
Army Spc. Samuel D. Keenan / Massachusetts National Guard

A report released Wednesday into the deaths of at least 76 veterans with COVID-19 at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home flags "substantial errors" the facility's leadership team made in responding to the outbreak.

Massachusetts Veterans Affairs Secretary Francisco Urena Vacates Post

Jun 24, 2020
Massachusetts Veterans Affairs Secretary Francisco Urena in a file photo.
File photo / State House News Service

There's a change in leadership coming to the Massachusetts veterans affairs office, which oversees the soldiers’ home in Holyoke where one of the nation's deadliest outbreaks of COVID-19 occurred earlier this year.

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