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Michael Dukakis hospitalized in California for pneumonia, tested negative for coronavirus

Former Governor Michael Dukakis.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Former Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis has been hospitalized in Los Angeles with bacterial pneumonia but has twice tested negative for the new coronavirus, his son said Tuesday night.

Dukakis and his wife, Kitty, were staying at their second home near the University of California, Los Angeles, where Dukakis teaches each winter quarter, when he experienced respiratory symptoms, John Dukakis said.

Dukakis, 86, who served as governor from 1975-1979 and again from 1983-1991, was admitted to the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center on Friday night, his son said.

He was tested twice for COVID-19, both tests came back negative, and he has been diagnosed with bacterial pneumonia.


The former governor’s condition is improving, his son said, but because of precautions taken by the hospital in response to the coronavirus pandemic, he cannot have visitors. He is able to speak by phone with family and friends, and he has been speaking daily with his son.

“He sounded better today than he did yesterday,” John Dukakis, 61, said Tuesday night by telephone from his home in Brookline. “He’s only upset that he doesn’t have a copy of any newspaper. He’s been savoring the New York Times from yesterday, just going through it. There’s not much he can do, so he’s a little bored. This is not his kind of thing.”

Dukakis, who ran unsuccessfully for president in 1988, remains active in Democratic politics, and he has long enjoyed generally good health, his son said.

“He’s been blessed with great health and a commitment to recreational sports that has served him well,” John Dukakis said. “He’s been told for a long time that he has the body of a younger man. But older people get pneumonia more easily, and that’s what happened here.”

Before the former governor went to the hospital, his son said, his family had concerns that he might become exposed to COVID-19 or might expose others if he turned out to have the illness, his son said. His respiratory issues were similar to the virus’s symptoms.


“We weren’t sure what it was, but of course that’s on the minds of everybody right now,” he said. But ultimately, his condition was serious enough that “there really wasn’t a choice.”

Now he is recovering, and the Dukakis family is hoping its patriarch will be out of the hospital within the next few days.

“He’s raring to get out of there,” John Dukakis said.

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at Follow him @jeremycfox.