Coronavirus testing limitations in Massachusetts a growing concern for Governor Baker

By Colin A. Young and Matt Murphy
State House News Service

As the state works to manage the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday issued his most forceful call yet for the federal government to allow private labs and hospital facilities to test for the virus as the number of cases statewide climbed to 108.

Testing has emerged as a key aspect of the national response to the outbreak of the newest coronavirus and the COVID-19 respiratory illness it causes. Without enough tests, public health officials are not able to wrap their arms around the full scope of the outbreak.

Guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control generally determine who should be tested, but anecdotal evidence suggests that not all people who have been exposed to the virus qualify to be tested at this point.

After meeting with local officials in Pittsfield, where it appears the coronavirus has spread among the community without a known link to an infected person or high-risk region of the world, Baker said Massachusetts recently got enough testing supplies to test an additional 5,000 people but still needs to significantly ramp up its testing.

“We certainly believe we have what I would describe as an adequate supply today, but as I said in my remarks, we need the federal government — the CDC and FDA in particular — to give hospitals and testing facilities here in Massachusetts that have the capacity to test the material and then the approval they need to actually begin to test themselves,” Baker said.

“The fact that the state lab is the single source of testing at this time is not adequate,” he said.

Baker would not say exactly how many people have already been tested in Massachusetts, but said the state now has the ability to test 5,000 people in addition to the “several thousand” it had the ability to test before getting the latest supply.

On Tuesday, Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel said the state had recently received enough kits and supplies to test 2,000 new people and had already tested roughly 400 patients. Bharel said an approval from the federal government to automate part of the testing process would also allow the state to increase its testing capacity from 50 to 200 per day.

“Thankfully, the Massachusetts DPH lab is more advanced than some other states. That enables the lab to now process four times as many samples as it was last week,” Baker said Thursday. “But we need more testing capability. And we need the federal government to get there.”

Baker said his administration has been in touch with the state’s Congressional delegation and the Trump administration about securing approvals for additional testing sites, including hospitals and private labs.

“We have hospitals in eastern Massachusetts, central Massachusetts, western Massachusetts, we have labs not related to hospitals, independent privately operated labs, all of which have the capacity to do this if they can get several requirements and authorizations from the feds,” Baker said.

The number of cases of coronavirus in Massachusetts reached triple digits on Thursday, with the Department of Public Health reporting a total of 108 cases, including six confirmed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. That’s 13 more cases than were reported on Wednesday.

A total of 82 cases, up from 77 a day earlier, are being linked to the Biogen leadership meeting at the Long Wharf Marriott in late February.

Worcester County was the only county with known exposure to COVID-19 to not see an uptick in cases Thursday, while there still have been no reported cases Hampshire, Hampden, Franklin, Bristol, Plymouth, Barnstable, Dukes and Nantucket counties.

Berkshire County, where Baker was in the afternoon, now has a total of nine cases. Public health officials also added a new category to its tracking to report that eight cases are associated with Berkshire Medical Center.

At that hospital, Baker said from Pittsfield, officials are concerned about their ability to appropriately staff the facility given the fact that some workers have been quarantined out of concern that they might have been exposed to the coronavirus.

But because of the emergency declaration he ordered this week, Baker said the state’s Board of Registration in Nursing “put in place an emergency procedure that will make it possible for licensed out-of-state medical professionals and nurses to get licensed here in Massachusetts in one day.”

“One of the things we heard from the delegation and from the mayor about was a more aggressive process for nurses and other medical professionals who are licensed and qualified in other states to be able to get licensed and qualified in Massachusetts quickly,” the governor said after meeting with Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer, Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, Sen. Adam Hinds and others.

Hinds tweeted Thursday afternoon that the steps the state has taken so far to help Berkshire County are only the start.

“The Berkshires is the first area of the Commonwealth where we are seeing community transmission of COVID-19 of unknown origin. Approving interstate medical licenses to practice in Massachusetts, supporting public and private labs to test and expedite COVID-19 results, and provide cutting-edge equipment to hospitals and healthcare organizations in our region is just the beginning of what is necessary for the Berkshires to mitigate and curb the virus’ spread,” the Pittsfield Democrat posted.

Reps. William “Smitty” Pignatelli and John Barrett III, both from the Berkshires, also have filed legislation to create a new fund to assist hourly wage workers who may have to miss work due to infection, quarantine or isolation related to COVID-19.

New Bedford Public Schools weekend event information; What’s off, what’s on, and what’s postponed

OFF: Thursday, March 12, 2020: Dual Enrollment Info Session at NBHS

The Dual Enrollment Information Session scheduled for tonight at New Bedford High School from 5:30-6:30 has been canceled. Information about the program will be posted on the New Bedford High School website nbhs.newbedfordschools.org along with the application. Please contact Mrs. Cardoza directly with questions regarding the program or application process at jcardoza@newbedfordschools.org or 508-997-4511 x20507.

POSTPONED: Friday, March 13, 2020: Pops Concert at NBHS

Out of an abundance of caution, the New Bedford High School Pops Night, which was scheduled for Friday, March 13, 2020 has been postponed until further notice.

ON: Saturday, March 14, 2020: SAT Testing at NBHS

College Board SAT Testing at New Bedford High School remains on schedule for Saturday, March 14. Students registered to take the SAT are to report on time per College Board instructions. Students will be divided into small groups throughout the high school.

A message from New Bedford’s Zeiterion Theater about upcoming performances, school-time shows, classes and events

“For the health and safety of our audiences, artists, volunteers, and staff, we have decided to postpone or cancel all performances, classes and events through March 31.

We understand that many of you had concerns about gathering in a large group. We share those concerns and are taking the precautions necessary to stem the tide of this virus. For updates, please visit www.zeiterion.org/coronavirus-update.

If you are attending a performance, event or class in the month of March, you’ll receive an email about next steps. Right now, we are working with artists and their representatives to evaluate all our options, and will keep you informed as the details emerge.

We thank you for your continued support and understanding during these challenging times. Like all nonprofits, The Zeiterion Performing Arts Center is dependent on its patrons, members and donors who are the heart and soul of our mission to bring people together to experience the magic of live performance.

Wishing everyone good health,

Massachusetts Restricts Visitors to Nursing Home, Rest Homes to Reduce Risk of Coronavirus

The Baker-Polito Administration released policies restricting visitors to nursing homes and rest homes in order to protect older adults at higher risk for Coronavirus (COVID-19) and other respiratory illness. Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders, Department of Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel and their teams reviewed the guidance with long term care facility operators via teleconference today.

This action follows Governor Charlie Baker’s Tuesday declaration of a State of Emergency in Massachusetts that was ratified by the Public Health Council earlier today granting the Commissioner of Public Health with the authority to implement the Governor’s State of Emergency.

With this authority, the Commissioner of Public Health issued an order requiring all facilities – nursing and rest homes – to actively screen all visitors and to take measures to restrict visitors under certain circumstances.

“Everyone has a role to play to mitigate the spread of the Coronavirus outbreak in Massachusetts, and it’s particularly important that we take precautions to keep older adults and those with health conditions safe,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “This new guidance for long-term care facilities is critical to protecting older adults from COVID-19 and we appreciate the public’s willingness to observe these important rules for the foreseeable future.”

“Today’s actions are being taken to protect older adults that are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus and other respiratory diseases, as we have seen as its spread across the world, including the United States,” said Secretary Marylou Sudders. “Massachusetts, as we all know has an aging population – with 20% of residents being over 60 – and so we needed to act to protect our older residents, especially those in long term care facilities.”

“Our goal at DPH is to protect the health and well-being of all Massachusetts residents, especially those at highest risk for COVID-19,” said Commissioner Monica Bharel, MD, MPH. “We will continue to update our guidance as this outbreak evolves.”

This guidance outlines how these facilities should protect older adult residents, who are at higher risk for Coronavirus. The guidance includes the following restrictions:

· Banning visitors who show signs or symptoms of a respiratory infection (fever, cough, shortness of breath, or sore throat)
· Visitors will be prohibited if in the last 14 days they had contact with someone with a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19, are under investigation for COVID-19 or has been sick
· Visitors will be prohibited if they have travelled internationally in the last 14 days or are residing in a community where community-based spread of COVID-19 is occurring
· Visitors will not be allowed to visit long term care facilities if they currently feel sick or exhibit symptoms

In addition to specific recommendations for long term care facilities, the Administration updated its guidance to the general public, specifically urging older adults and those with health issues to avoid large crowds and events. Individuals who live in households with vulnerable people, like elderly parents, should also consider avoiding crowds to mitigate risk. This guidance is posted on the Department of Public Health’s website, www.mass.gov/2019coronavirus.

The public is reminded of steps to take to limit the spread of COVID-19:

· Cover your mouth – when you cough or sneeze use a tissue or your inner elbow, not your hands
· Wash your hands – with soap and warm water or use an alcohol-based sanitizing gel
· Stay home if you are sick – and avoid close contact with others

The Administration will continue to update the public on further developments and individuals are encouraged to consult both the Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention websites for the most up to date information.

Massachusetts Coronavirus Quarantine Numbers Pass 1,000, Most Have Completed Monitoring

By Chris Lisinski
State House News Service

More than 1,000 Massachusetts residents have been subjected to quarantine since the start of a coronavirus outbreak in the state, about 60 percent of whom have completed monitoring.

The latest numbers from the state released Wednesday showed 445 individuals are under quarantine or undergoing monitoring for the COVID-19 illness, while another 638 finished that process and are no longer in quarantine.

Since last week, the last time public health officials released quarantine numbers, the total number of Bay Staters who are in or have completed quarantine increased about 300. Over that same span, the amount of confirmed COVID-19 cases ballooned from just one to 92.

A daily update on cases is expected around 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Gov. Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency on Tuesday and imposed limits on state employee travel as the state began shifting its approach to focus on mitigation. The governor encouraged employers to let employees work remotely, if possible.

Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel said the state is “at a critical point in this outbreak,” particularly because some of the seven cases in Berkshire County could not be traced back to international travel or to an isolated and known source of transmission.

On Wednesday morning, Bharel received new authority to take prompt actions as necessary during the state’s response to the virus.

Following a vote from the Public Health Council, Bharel will have the sole authority to order isolation or quarantine for patients in coronavirus cases, which under statute normally requires action from her in conjunction with the council. Local boards of health can also issue similar orders.

The council also voted unanimously Wednesday to give Bharel broader authority to take prompt action in response to any unforeseen developments as part of the public health emergency.

“Our goal is to prevent the spread in our communities and reduce the number of people infected,” Bharel said.

The emergency declaration, she said, “prepares us for the potential of what’s to come.”

All but one of the state’s 92 COVID-19 cases are presumptive positive, meaning they have not yet been confirmed by the CDC. Public health officials said 70 cases trace back to a late February executive meeting that Biogen held in Boston.

Council members raised concerns at the meeting about the impact on health care workers and on municipalities. Dr. Edward Bernstein, a professor of emergency medicine at Boston University, asked about plans to limit exposure for hospital workers and other providers as well as patients.

Bharel replied that the state would offer frequent communication across the health care system, and she said the state received confirmation Tuesday that it will receive additional personal protective equipment from a national stockpile to supplement “dwindling supplies.”

“In Berkshire County, we’re working with them so their health care workers and their patients can be prioritized to be tested there,” Bharel said, noting that Centers for Disease Control guidelines currently allow the tests only for patients displaying symptoms.

Responding to a question from Upton Town Manager Derek Brindisi about municipal access to protective equipment and hand sanitizer, Bharel said materials the state will receive from the national stockpile are ‘for all individuals who need it appropriately.”

The state expanded its testing capacity from 50 patients per day to 200 and recently received another 2,000 testing kits, each of which can handle multiple patients. However, only the State Public Health Laboratory can conduct tests, and other hospitals or commercial laboratories cannot due so until they get approval from federal authorities.

Bharel said it will be “very helpful” for other labs to gain that ability as council members noted the importance of further increasing testing capacity.

“It doesn’t seem that 2,000 tests is going to meet the exponential curve we’re seeing in other states,” Bernstein said.

With Emergency Declaration, Massachusetts Adopts New Coronavirus Strategy

By Matt Murphy and Colin A. Young
State House News Service

With the number of cases of coronavirus more than doubling from the day before, Gov. Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency Tuesday and imposed broad restrictions on travel for many state employees as Massachusetts moved into a new phase of its response to the global viral outbreak.

Baker had been in Utah on vacation since Friday night, but opted to return to Massachusetts a couple days early as the situation on the ground worsened and the number of coronavirus cases climbed to 92, up from 41 just a day before.

Seventy of those cases, public officials said, were linked to a leadership meeting of Biogen employees in Boston in late February, but additional cases, including a handful in the Berkshires, had no known origin and are being treated as the first evidence of “community spread.”

Massachusetts Public Health statistics as of 10 March.

Baker’s declaration of a state of emergency puts Massachusetts in the company of neighboring states like Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island, where those state governors have already taken a similar step.

The escalation of the state’s response came as a wide array of private institutions began limiting large gatherings and canceling conferences and non-essential travel, and the city of Boston canceled its upcoming St. Patrick’s Day parade and the political breakfast on Sunday.

“There’s no question that the efforts to mitigate the spread of this virus will be disruptive,” Baker said, later adding, “I want to be clear that state government will continue to operate uninterrupted.”

Baker said the declaration would give his administration more “flexibility” to respond to the outbreak, including ordering the cancellation of large events or accessing buildings to store protective equipment for first responders.

Under his order, executive branch employees will be restricted from traveling out of state for work, and the administration is encouraging employees to postpone personal international travel. He also said state workers should, if possible, work from home, and asked private employers to follow suit whenever possible. The restrictions will be revisited in 30 days, or sooner if the situation allows, Baker said.

“We are at a critical point in this outbreak. We’re making specific recommendations that will have a big impact on limiting the spread of disease in our communities. These measures are based on the evidence and facts that we know about this disease and in consultation with the CDC,” said Department of Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel. “We will need everybody’s cooperation and assistance. We understand that these actions may have a significant impact on the lives of our residents.”

Baker said he was advising older residents and those with underlying health issues to avoid large crowds, including concert venues, conferences and sporting events, though he said he was not prepared to ask schools or professional leagues to cancel their events. He said there was still time for the Boston Athletic Association to make a call on the marathon in April.

“We think large gatherings are probably not a great idea,” Baker said.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders said there were 51 new presumptive positives cases to report Tuesday. About three-quarters of the total cases — 70 of the 92 — have connections to the Biogen conference in Boston last month which has been linked to dozens of infections, Sudders said, and four were directly related to international travel. The remaining 18 cases are “under investigation because they’re newly reported,” she said.

Fifty-two of the patients are men and 40 are women. Six of the patients are hospitalized.

Middlesex County has the greatest number of presumptive cases, 41, followed by 22 in Norfolk County, 20 in Suffolk County, seven in Berkshire County, and one each in Essex and Worcester counties.

The seven cases in Berkshire County seem to be most concerning to state public health officials because they cannot link all of those cases to recent international travel or to isolated and known chains of transmission.

“Here in Massachusetts, person to person transmission of the virus in the community is beginning to occur among individuals without identifiable risk factors,” Bharel said. “As community transmission of COVID-19 becomes more common, the public health approach shifts to one of mitigation and that is reducing the impact.”

At one point during Tuesday’s press conference, Baker referred to “the Berkshire issue” as one of the reasons, along with the increase to 92 total cases, that he “would have to say the risk is increased.” Previously, the governor and other state officials had said the coronavirus risk in Massachusetts was “low.”

Bharel said DPH is assisting local officials in the Berkshires by facilitating the surveillance and testing of health care workers and patients and is in contact multiple times a day with the local authorities. DPH has also dispatched a public health expert to be on the ground in the Berkshires to assist.

The public health commissioner also announced Tuesday that the state’s request last week for personal protective gear from the stash maintained by the Strategic National Stockpile had been granted.

She said DPH specifically asked for stores of face masks, gowns, gloves and eye protection from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the gear is expected to arrive “shortly.” Some of it will be immediately sent to Berkshire County.

Health care providers currently have enough equipment, but the stockpile delivery will be needed to meet expected demand, Bharel said. She said the lab was running 24 hours a day and had “adequate supplies and adequate staffing” to meet demand at this time. The current turnaround time for tests is 24 to 48 hours, and the state just received another 2,000 testing kits.

The commissioner also said Massachusetts received a key approval to automate part of the coronavirus testing protocol that will increase the State Laboratory’s capacity to test patients from 50 per day to 200. Bharel said the state has tested roughly 400 people since it began testing a little more than two weeks ago.

Sudders said DPH on Wednesday also will update the guidance it issued to nursing homes on Feb. 27 and will then hold a call with nursing and rest home operators to discuss the details before it is implemented statewide.

“Specifically, nursing homes will be directed to actively screen and restrict access to visitors to ensure the safety and health of residents and staff. No visitor access for anyone who displays signs or symptoms of a respiratory infection, such as fever, cough, shortness of breath or sore throat, or in the last 14 days has had contact with someone with a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 or is an individual who is under active investigation for COVID-19,” the secretary said.

She added, “We will also be asking rest home operators and nursing homes to confirm that their employees are not sick, they’ve not had travel, they’ve not had close proximity to sick persons, to a sick person with under investigation for COVID-19 for 14 days.”

People who have traveled outside the United States in the last 14 days or who live “in a community where community-based spread of COVID-19 is occurring” will also be barred from visiting nursing homes, Sudders said. Exceptions will be made for people in end-of-life or hospice care, she said.

To give local school districts the flexibility to make decisions about temporary coronavirus-related closures, Baker said the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is going to give school systems “relief from attendance and school year requirements.”

He said no school will be required to stay in session for the school year beyond its scheduled 185th day of classes and that DESE will calculate chronic absenteeism at schools — part of the state’s usual accountability measures — as of Monday, March 2 so as to not count absences for the remainder of the year against a school.

Baker thanked the Legislature for its commitment to pass a $15 million coronavirus aid bill next week, and said he anticipated that a large portion of the money would be directed into communities for first responders. A Senate official said the funding bill will be flexible for the adminsitration and DPH to use as it sees fit.

Harvard University and Amherst College were among a number of higher education institutions that said Tuesday they were canceling class for the rest of the semester and transitioning to online learning for students to finish their course work.

But when asked if the University of Massachusetts or other state universities and community colleges should take similar precautions, Baker said that was the subject of ongoing discussions on the campuses.

“That’s obviously very disruptive,” Baker said.

Some of what the administration was recommending was already being adopted in the private sector.

The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce announced within about 15 minutes of the governor’s press conference Tuesday that “effective immediately through Friday, May 1, 2020, in-person Chamber programs and events will be rescheduled, include a virtual option, or be only virtual.”

Massachusetts High Technology Council President Chris Anderson said he has spent the past several days seeking guidance from member companies about what they’re doing to protect the health and safety of employees.

Anderson said, in an email, that consistent with the input he received the council will postpone all events expected to attract 25 or more attendees through April, including its March 26 Women in Leadership Initiative Roundtable and the council’s inaugural MATTERS Growth and Competitiveness Conference on April 7.

The Massachusetts Democratic Party said that based on the afternoon updates from public health officials it was temporarily postponing party caucuses, which have been taking place on weekends to elect delegates to the Democratic Party Convention in Lowell in May and have been an early battleground for the Ed Markey and Joseph Kennedy III Senate campaigns.

Mayor Marty Walsh Discusses St. Patrick’s Day Parade Cancellation, Sports Events

By Colin A. Young, State House News Service

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh defended his decision to cancel Sunday’s St. Patrick’s Day parade in Boston because of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak and said the city’s progress in containing the virus will determine whether the Boston Marathon is run next month.

Walsh scrapped the parade just after the state announced that the number of people in Massachusetts who have tested positive for the coronavirus-caused COVID-19 had climbed to 41, including at least nine in Boston.

“The best way of trying to prevent the spread of it is by not having large groups of people together, particularly that there’s no way to kind of watch what’s going on there,” Walsh said Tuesday morning on WEEI’s Greg Hill Show. “So we have a parade and you have 1.1 million people coming into a neighborhood that it’s very easy, potentially, to spread the virus and it’s pretty dangerous.”

The city’s goal, the mayor said, is to contain the virus and to keep it from spreading outside of known links, like contact with other patients. Walsh said all of Boston’s cases except one are tied to the Biogen executive conference held in Boston last month at which dozens of people became infected. The other positive test came from a young man who had recently returned from China.

“So there’s some containment there and we don’t want to go beyond that because if we do, we’re in a whole different category,” Walsh said. “We will be talking about canceling schools, we’ll be talking about canceling a lot more than the parade on Sunday.”

The big event coming up on Boston’s calendar is the Boston Marathon, planned for Monday, April 20. Asked whether canceling the marathon is inevitable, Walsh said he’s been talking with race organizers and “it’s a day-at-a-time situation.”

“I’m not saying we’re there yet, I think we have many conversations to happen. It’s about can we do a good enough job as a society to self-contain this where we’re not at a situation where it’s kind of out of our control,” he said.

Though Walsh highlighted the importance of containing the virus, he also told WEEI that he expects the virus to continue its spread.

“I’m expecting that number to grow as we move forward here and this is something that’s going to spread wide potentially,” Walsh said of the number of positive cases in Massachusetts. At another point in the 20-minute interview, he said, “at some point, that number of 41 is going to be bigger and we’re going to know somebody that has coronavirus and when it hits your house it’s going to be a lot more different conversation.”

And if the virus does continue to spread and the marathon is thrown into question, Walsh said he and race organizers at the Boston Athletic Association will consider the cultural, philanthropic and economic impacts of the annual event.

“The economic impact to Boston is in the hundreds of millions of dollars, so everything has to be taken into account,” he said. “The conversation is, if the situation came where the marathon had to be postponed or canceled, do we postpone it? Do we move it to a new day? There are a lot of conversations.”

The BAA said Monday that its leadership “continues to meet and work closely with city and state officials to ensure a safe and successful Boston Marathon … and as local and national developments come to light have been planning under the guidance of health and municipal agencies.”

Asked about the possibility that the Boston Red Sox could hold their home opener on Thursday, April 2 without fans in the Fenway Park grandstands, or the Boston Bruins or Boston Celtics could begin a playoff run without having fans in the crowd to cheer them on, Walsh said those decisions would be made by the leagues.

“There might come a point where our teams are playing with no fans in the auditorium,” he said. “I’m hoping that never comes, that seems to be the worst-case scenario. I don’t think we’re at that point yet.”

The 2020 New Bedford Half Marathon Has Been Cancelled Due to Safety Concerns

In a Facebook posting this afternoon on the City of New Bedford official page it states the following:

2020 New Bedford Half Marathon CANCELLED

The City of New Bedford and the New Bedford Half Marathon Committee together are announcing that the 2020 New Bedford Half Marathon, scheduled for Sunday, March 15, has been cancelled to ensure the health and safety of residents and runners.

The risk level in Greater New Bedford remains low and there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the area, but the unique nature of the event poses a risk that is higher than other public gatherings. The race attracts as many as 3,000 runners, including many from places where COVID-19 cases have been confirmed. At the race’s starting line, runners are massed tightly in a corral in close contact for an extended period, raising the risk of disease transmission. There is similar risk to the thousands of spectators along the route and the City’s emergency personnel. Under the circumstances, canceling the race is the prudent course.

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell said, “This decision is not made lightly. The New Bedford Half Marathon is one of the oldest and most popular half marathons in the country. While no other public events in New Bedford have been cancelled, decisions regarding future public events in the city will be based on the overall risk level and the nature of the event. I wish to thank all of the volunteers who have worked hard to organize the race and I ask for their understanding, along with those local businesses that benefit from the race, that this decision is made to protect the public.”

Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade Cancelled Amid Coronavirus Spread

Colin A. Young, State House News Service

Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade has been canceled “out of an abundance of caution to ensure that we are doing what is needed to keep the residents of Boston safe and healthy” during the ongoing global outbreak of a coronavirus, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh announced late Monday afternoon.

There are 41 coronavirus cases in Massachusetts, including at least nine in Boston, the state said Monday. Walsh’s office said the decision to cancel the parade, which was scheduled to step off Sunday at 1 p.m. and wend its way through South Boston, was made in consultation with other elected officials and parade organizers.

“While the risk in Boston remains low, this situation is changing very quickly and we are closely monitoring any local cases,” Walsh said in a statement. “Our top priority is preventing any new cases, to the best of our ability, and we are paying close attention to guidance from public health officials.”

The mayor’s announcement came about three hours after the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council said that the parade “is still currently on” and that organizers “will rely on the determination of public health officials as to whether outdoor public gatherings in the City of Boston should be curtailed.”

15 New Presumptive Positive Cases of Coronavirus Identified by Massachusetts State Public Health

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) today announced 15 new presumptive positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of confirmed or presumptive positive cases in Massachusetts to 28. All 15 cases had a direct connection to the Biogen employee conference in late February. The presumptive positive cases include five from Suffolk County ranging in age from 30s to 60s; five from Middlesex County ranging in age from 40s to 60s; four cases from Norfolk County ranging in age from 40s to 60s; and a female whose age and county of residence are unknown at the time of this release. Among today’s presumptive positive cases were eight men and seven women. With today’s release, 23 of the presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 identified in Massachusetts are associated with the Biogen employee meeting held in late February. All of today’s presumptive positive cases are isolating at home.

Yesterday, DPH announced five new presumptive positive cases, three of which had a direct connection to Biogen’s employee conference, one with recent international travel, and a fifth case for whom there is no current known linkage to the Biogen conference or foreign travel.

The risk of COVID-19 to the general public in Massachusetts remains low at this time.

The State Public Health Lab’s result is considered “presumptive positive” and the specimens will now be sent to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for confirmation.

The Department of Public Health is providing daily updates on the number of confirmed and presumptive positive cases at mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-cases-quarantine-and-monitoring. Case-specific information will be updated on the site Monday, March 9.

As of Wednesday, March 4, 719 people have been subject to self-quarantine in Massachusetts because of COVID-19. Of those, 470 people have completed monitoring and are no longer quarantined, while 249 are currently quarantined. This information is updated online each Wednesday.

For more information on COVID-19 visit mass.gov/2019coronavirus.

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