People stand in line for food distribution outside City Hall, Friday, April 17, 2020, in Chelsea, Mass. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
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BOSTON (AP) — The number of COVID-19-related deaths in Massachusetts rose to 1,404 Friday. That's an increase of 159 in the past day, the highest daily total to date according to public health officials.

There were more than 2,200 new COVID-19 cases, for a total of more than 34,400 since the start of the outbreak.

Exactly half of deaths, 702, were reported at long-term care facilities.

Federal officials have “rightly deferred to states to make the right decisions” about when to ease stay-at-home advisories and allow businesses to reopen, Gov. Charlie Baker said at a Friday press conference.

“Before any state should consider efforts to slowly return to normal life, health experts urge states to look for infection rates and hospitalization to be on the decline for about two weeks,” the Republican said at a Friday press conference.

“Here in Massachusetts we’re still seeing daily increases in positive cases and hospitalizations," Baker added.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and the infirm, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.



The state’s highest court ruled Friday that the number of required signatures needed to secure a spot on the September 1 primary ballot be reduced by half because of the difficulty of gathering signatures during the coronavirus-related state of emergency and stay-at-home advisory.

Three candidates who were unable to go door to door seeking signatures asked the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to intervene.

The court also extended deadlines for candidates to submit nomination papers and ordered the state to allow the use of electronic signatures.



Guidance issued by the state to help hospitals that could face agonizing choices about which patients get access to potentially life-saving tools like ventilators doesn’t adequately account for existing health disparities in communities of color, top Massachusetts Democrats said.

The “crisis standards of care” guidance issued last week must be improved, Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Robert DeLeo said in a statement Thursday.

The guidance states that factors like “race, disability, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, ability to pay, socioeconomic status, perceived social worth, perceived quality of life, immigration status, incarceration status or homelessness” should not be considered in determining care.

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker has said the guidance is not mandatory and no hospital has yet been forced to make such decisions.



The hoops a chief physician executive at a Springfield hospital had to jump through to obtain personal protective equipment read more like a spy novel than supply run.

Andrew Artenstein, M.D. of Baystate Health said in Friday's New England of Medicine that the saga began with a tip from a friend of a friend of a member of their supply team about a lot of face masks and N95 respirators.

After pulling together the money — five times what the masks would normally cost — team members were flown to a small airport near an industrial warehouse in the mid-Atlantic region.

Artenstein arrived by car to make the final call. Two semi-trailer trucks, disguised as food-service trucks, met them there. The trucks would take different routes back to Massachusetts to escape detection.

Hours before the deal, they were told to expect just a quarter of the original order. Before they could wire the funds, Artenstein said two FBI agents arrived and started questioning him. Artenstein said he had to convince them the masks was headed to a hospital, not the black market.

Artenstein then learned the Department of Homeland Security was considering redirecting the equipment. He said only intervention from a member of the state’s congressional delegation prevented the federal government from seizing the gear.



Approximately 200,000 respirator masks are being distributed to local law enforcement officers and firefighters to make sure they have needed protective equipment, Baker said Friday.

The FDA-approved respirator masks will be distributed to all local law enforcement officers, including sheriffs and college and university police, and firefighters starting immediately, he said.



A Massachusetts hospital run by a for-profit company plans to furlough some nurses as the coronavirus pandemic cuts into services.

St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, which is owned by Tenet Healthcare of Dallas, said Thursday all the furloughs would be voluntary, according to The Telegram & Gazette.



Runners tempted to take to the course of the Boston Marathon on Monday should think twice and stay home, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said Friday.

“That’s not a smart thing to do,” the Democrat said at a press conference. “You’re not a champion. You’re actually not helping us. You’re putting people at risk.”

The race, which draws runners from around the world, has been postponed from Monday until Sept. 14.



The Boston Symphony Orchestra is tightening its belt after being forced to cancel concerts — including the 2020 Boston Pops season and the last seven weeks of the symphony’s 2019-2020 season — because of the coronavirus.

The BSO estimates it will lose $6.2 million from the concert cancellations and more than $4 million due to venue rentals, tour concert cancellations and other earned income.

The symphony said members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra have agreed to take a reduction in salary through the end of August. The symphony also announced the temporary furloughs of 70 full-time employees starting April 20. BSO President Mark Volpe will take a 50% base salary cut.