MEDICINE

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 / NEPR

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.

State officials have announced that they’re scaling back COVID-19 testing at nursing homes and assisted living facilities. It’s a policy shift that comes as a major union representing eldercare workers said 14 of its members died after contracting COVID-19. 

A health care worker calibrates a ventilator on the USNS Mercy.
U.S. Pacific Fleet / Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/compacflt

Early in the pandemic, hospitals were worried about having enough ventilators — since that’s a critical way to treat severe breathing problems that can come with COVID-19.

Over the past few months, some western Massachusetts hospitals have been trying to rely on ventilators less. 

On March 8, 2020 Gov. Ned Lamont announced the first declared case of coronavirus in a Connecticut resident. 

Just 12 weeks later, the death toll in the state surpassed 4,000. In between, life had radically changed for everyone in many different ways. 

Worthington Street storefronts in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Douglas Hook / MassLive / masslive.com/photos

Public health and community leaders want Massachusetts to put the brakes on reopening until there are better safeguards for low-income workers and people of color.

Holyoke Soldiers' Home Superintendent Bennett Walsh spoke at the 2020 Iwo Jima Day ceremony at the Massachusetts Statehouse.
Chris Van Buskirk / State House News Service

The suspended head of the Holyoke Soldiers' Home this week denied covering up a deadly COVID-19 outbreak at the state-run facility. More than 70 veterans testing positive for the virus have died there. 

The push to get more people screened for the novel coronavirus continued Thursday, as state and federal officials converged outside a community center in Hartford to promote a new mobile COVID-19 testing unit.

Connecticut has significantly expanded its testing capacity in recent weeks, but the state has struggled to increase the number of residents tested in communities hardest hit by COVID-19.

When dental workers perform any procedure, just about every powered tool they use – anything that spins, buzzes or shoots air or water – can spray droplets of the patient’s saliva into the air. If the patient happens to have COVID-19, then the coronavirus will get sprayed into the air, too.

So, now dental workers are taking extra care to reduce the danger.

“I get very close with my suction,” says Lorraine Santos, a dental assistant in New Bedford. “The patient, even if they talk, things can get in the air.”

Veterinarian Helen Spiegel Lee works at Mill Valley Veterinary Clinic in Belchertown, Massachusetts.
Courtesy of Helen Spiegel Lee

Unlike most medical offices right now, the Mill Valley Veterinary Clinic in Belchertown, Massachusetts, is busier than ever.

“Pets don’t know there’s a pandemic,” veterinarian Helen Spiegel Lee said.

Going to see your primary care provider, having an MRI or a colonoscopy, and being admitted to a hospital — all of these experiences will be different now on because of the coronavirus. Patients will be screened in advance for symptoms and may be tested. They may get a text when their exam room is ready, bypassing waiting areas if possible. And they will likely be asked to come to an appointment alone. 

Kevin Kulow, an emergency room physician, speaks with a patient in Panama City, Florida, in April 2020.
Dylan Gentile

A new study finds that visits to the doctor have rebounded somewhat from the beginning of the pandemic, but are still well below normal.

Telehealth is having a moment.

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, many people can’t, or won’t, visit their doctors in person. So, some are making virtual visits, instead.

This could be the future of medicine — or a fad that won’t last beyond the current outbreak. The idea that video calls could replace some trips to the doctor’s office isn’t new, and it never really caught on, until COVID-19 suddenly changed everything.

Dennis Watkins says in the initial weeks of the pandemic, he wasn’t worried about the coronavirus. That’s even though he’s homeless and stays among hundreds of other men at Boston’s public shelter on Southampton Street.

“It was no big deal. Not to me personally,” the 60-year-old Watkins says. “I didn’t think nothing of this coronavirus until it hit home.”

Reality hit a few weeks ago, after medical crews showed up at the shelter to test everyone.

The race for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts is getting heated, with Congressman Joe Kennedy III reviving an old charge against the incumbent, Sen. Ed Markey, that he spends too little time in Massachusetts.

This remains a puzzling primary race for many Massachusetts Democrats: a contest between two solid progressives who agree on just about every issue. But now, amidst the pandemic, the attacks are getting sharper.

Drive-through coronavirus testing centers in Hartford have been active for nearly two months, but many North End residents don’t have cars or rely on public transportation to get around. And other barriers, like a lack of health insurance or a doctor’s referral prevented others from getting tested for the disease.

After weeks of long lines at COVID-19 testing clinics, state and local officials said Connecticut is now facing a different problem: too many coronavirus tests and not enough people taking them. 

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