fb-pixel

Mass. reports 1,337 new coronavirus cases, 29 new related deaths

Governor Charlie Baker.
Governor Charlie Baker.Sam Doran/Pool

Massachusetts’ death toll from the novel coronavirus pandemic climbed to 260 people Monday, as the state girded for more bleak milestones in the days ahead.

Twenty-nine more people died from the virus, all but three of whom were in their 70s or older, officials announced. And some 835 residents and workers at long-term facilities, such as nursing and rest homes, have also now tested positive, a 50 percent spike from Sunday.

Governor Charlie Baker has said the state is prepping for a surge in hospitalizations, perhaps as early as Friday, that threatens to overwhelm the state’s health care systems.

With 1,337 newly confirmed cases, 13,837 people have now tested positive across Massachusetts, state officials said. The number marks an 11 percent jump in a single day and is largely consistent with what the state has reported since the calendar turned to April, when there’s been an average of about 1,200 new cases each day.

The trend line on cases is “starting to bend a little," he said, but the governor warned against drawing conclusions from small samples of data — particularly on a newly emerging illness that lacks hard scientific research.

Advertisement



“People care a lot about [the daily numbers] and want to see them every day. But I think it’s a mistake to draw big conclusions about whether or not a day number is a trend or even a two-day [number] is a trend," Baker said at a Boston news conference Monday afternoon, where he and his wife, Lauren, announced the creation of a relief fund for people whose lives have been disrupted by coronavirus.

“I know people want to look for trends in this, especially positive trends given the anxiety that’s created by the presence of the virus in the first place,” Baker added. “But I think the best way to look at this is over time.”

Advertisement



Time offers its own array of challenges as officials try to ramp up their testing efforts to more quickly capture COVID-19′s true spread. Baker said officials on Tuesday will announce a Lowell-based testing site, in partnership with CVS, that will be able test up to 1,000 people a day, “probably” on an appointment basis. And another site is slated to open, likely later this week, at the Big E in West Springfield, he said.

Baker also said that the state has begun distributing the 100 ventilators it received through the federally controlled Strategic National Stockpile to community hospitals and medical centers.

“The ones we have are working,” Baker said of the ventilators received so far. “The big issue is, we’re going to need to get more of them.”

The state had initially requested 1,400 and had been approved to receive 1,000. In a letter sent Monday to Peter T. Gaynor, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the state’s congressional delegation warned that hospitals in Massachusetts could run through their supply of ventilators in a matter of days.

“Given the growing need in Massachusetts, approving and sending only 100 ventilators to Massachusetts is absurd, and FEMA can and must do more to help Massachusetts during this crisis,” the lawmakers wrote in a copy of the letter shared with the Globe.

Based on statistical modeling, Baker said, the state should be prepared for a spike in hospitalizations by Friday, though modeling also suggests it could come as late as April 20.

Advertisement



Around the state, there were more distressing updates.

In Holyoke, officials said that four more veterans died at the Soldiers’ Home there over the weekend, bringing the death toll at the elder care facility to 25 since March 24. At least 18 of the deceased have tested positive for COVID-19, though it was not clear whether the most recent deaths were linked to the illness.

At the state’s Chelsea Soldiers’ Home, where 21 staffers and veterans have now tested positive and three residents have died, officials said they’re waiting test results on another 258 veterans, raising the potential of the case load mushrooming there.

And on Monday, Thomas A. Turco, Baker’s public safety secretary, said he was told late Sunday that he had tested positive for COVID-19 after he began “experiencing mild symptoms.” Turco — who oversees the Department of Correction as it juggles dozens of inmates who, too, have tested positive — said he remains in contact with staff by phone and his office’s work “will continue without interruption.”

At the same time, officials are also trying to wrap their arms around the economic crisis into which the virus has thrust the state and country.

The Baker administration and legislative leaders are slated to hold an economic roundtable Tuesday at the State House, with input from Eric S. Rosengren, the president of the Boston Federal Reserve; state Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg; and several economists to help gauge not how, but to what degree, the state’s finances could crater in the coming months.

Advertisement



The projections are expected to be dire. State officials in January had expected revenue growth to hit 2.8 percent in the fiscal year, which starts in July, but economists are expected to warn that the harsh times await, likely requiring the state to dip into emergency savings.

“Thank God for the rainy day fund,” Goldberg said of the state’s $3.5 billion savings account.

Goldberg said that within her office, revenues from the state lottery have already fallen dramatically, with instant ticket sales in the fourth week of March down to their lowest point in 15 years.

“I think the recovery will stretch well into 2021,” said David G. Tuerck, an economist and director of the Beacon Hill Institute who is slated to participate in Tuesday’s roundtable.

“We’re all going to be guessing,” he said of projections, but warned that cuts to transportation infrastructure, absent federal help, may be among the harshest. “All of it: the MBTA, bridges, roads. It’s going to be under pressure for spending cuts."

Mayor Martin J. Walsh on Sunday recommended a new curfew for Bostonians in an effort to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, saying that city residents should stay in their homes between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. starting Monday.

Asked Monday whether he is considering a similar measure to Walsh’s, Baker called the city’s guidance both a recommendation and a message.

“I would echo the same message,” Baker said, though he did not say whether he’d adopt the same guidance statewide.

Advertisement



Baker said the state has seen a 60 percent drop in retail and recreation activity since March 7 or so, citing Google data.

“We’ve been pretty aggressive about our messaging . . . and we have seen a very dramatic drop” in gatherings and mobility, Baker said. “People get the fact that they’re supposed to stay home.”

Walsh on Monday appeared on CNN, where he criticized the Trump administration for sending mixed messages.

“I think you’re going to have an impact on everyone’s response when you have people talking, the president talking, about . . . services happening for Easter,” Walsh told anchor Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room." “You can’t be doing that. I mean, that wouldn’t be responsible — it certainly wouldn’t be responsible in the city of Boston to be doing that.”

Jaclyn Reiss, Hanna Krueger, and Andrew Rosen of the Globe staff contributed to this report.


Matt Stout can be reached at matt.stout@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mattpstout