Number of COVID-19 deaths rises to 11 in Massachusetts

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BOSTON (AP) — The number of people in Massachusetts who have died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, increased to 11 on Tuesday.

Public health officials said the number of residents who have so far tested positive for the disease jumped to 1,159 as the state ramped up its testing capacity. More than 13,700 have been tested.

It's a dramatic increase from the total of 777 reported on Monday. At least 94 people have been hospitalized.

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HARVARD PRESIDENT

The president of Harvard University and his wife have tested positive for COVID-19, the school announced Tuesday.

In a letter to students and faculty, President Lawrence Bacow said he and his wife, Adele, started experiencing symptoms including a cough, fever and chills on Sunday. They were tested Monday and received the positive results on Tuesday.

Bacow and his wife had been working from home and limiting their contact with others since March 14 as a precaution. The state's Department of Public Health will contact anyone who had recently been in contact with the couple, Bacow said.

“We will be taking the time we need to rest and recuperate during a two-week isolation at home,” Bacow said in the letter.

Harvard said 18 of its community members have tested positive for COVID-19 or are presumed to have the illness. The school shut down much of its campus March 17.

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FRUSTRATION WITH CONGRESS

Gov. Charlie Baker said he was frustrated Tuesday by the failure of the U.S. Senate to approve coronavirus aid legislation.

“The debate around the economic aid package in the Senate — well, frankly, it’s been appalling. But I can’t say I’m surprised,” Baker said during a press conference.

Baker said Congress should follow the lead of governors, mayors and local officials who have put aside partisan differences.

“Make a deal,” the Republican said. “I think it’s critical that these folks find a way to yes.”

Baker defended the decision to allow construction to continue in Massachusetts saying he plans to issues guidelines soon. He also said that his office is working with Attorney General Maura Healey to create social distancing guidance for grocery stores.

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JAILS AND PRISONS

Public defenders and defense attorneys in Massachusetts are asking the state's highest court to order the release of certain inmates to limit the spread of the coronavirus in jails and prisons.

An emergency petition filed with the Supreme Judicial Court Tuesday asks the justices to reduce the number of people entering jails and prisons, order the release of certain pretrial detainees and free those serving sentences who are nearing the end of their term, vulnerable to COVID-19 or don't pose a threat to the public.

The petition was filed by the ACLU of Massachusetts, Committee for Public Counsel Services and the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

Several Massachusetts district attorneys have said they are working to release some inmates because of the virus.

Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan said Tuesday that his office has agreed to free 19 of 76 pretrial detainees held in the Franklin and Hampshire county jails. He said they should be released in the coming days.

Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan's office said it has agreed to release about 30 pre-trial detainees.

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EASING MUNICIPAL LAWS

Gov. Charlie Baker filed a bill Tuesday designed to help local municipalities and school districts better deal with restrictions in place due to the coronavirus.

The bill would modify local permitting processes, let municipalities extend tax and finance deadlines, and delay deadlines for certain education requirements.

Among other changes, the bill would let restaurants licensed to sell alcohol with meals to sell beer and wine for take-out and delivery provided it’s sold along with a meal.

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AUDUBON, TRUSTEES CLOSE

Two organizations that have been providing an outdoor respite for Massachusetts residents feeling cooped up because of the coronavirus pandemic are closing their doors to visitors on Tuesday.

Mass Audubon and the Trustees of Reservations both announced they are shutting down their outdoor facilities in line with Gov. Charlie Baker's order requiring all nonessential businesses to close for two weeks.

The Trustees said their agricultural facilities will remain in operation, but they will be closed to visitors.

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ABOUT THE VIRUS

For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death. The vast majority of people recover.


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