The pre-kindergarten group from the Boys and Girls Club visit through the window with members of the supportive daycare program at the Froio Senior Center in Pittsfield, Mass., Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020. (Ben Garver/The Berkshire Eagle via AP)

BOSTON (AP) — The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is doing its part to control the spread of COVID-19 by handing out free face coverings at several subway stations and trolley stops.

The service that launched Monday is backed by athletic footwear company New Balance, which donated 100,000 masks to the MBTA.

MBTA commuters have been required to wear face coverings since early May. Transit police can fine people not wearing a mask up to $300.

“Wearing a face covering is one of the most effective ways to combat the virus,” MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said in a statement. “We ask that riders do their part by wearing face coverings while within the MBTA system and distancing while on public transit.”

The masks will be offered during peak morning and evening commute times at the Charles/MGH, Downtown Crossing, Forest Hills, Hynes Convention Center, Maverick, Orient Heights, Park Street and Quincy Center stations.

___

VIRUS BY THE NUMBERS

The number of people hospitalized in Massachusetts is continuing to climb.

There were more than 950 people reported hospitalized Tuesday because of confirmed cases of COVID-19, and more than 200 in intensive care units.

The number of newly confirmed coronavirus deaths increased by 20 on Tuesday and more than 2,200 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19.

The new deaths pushed the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to 10,319 and its confirmed caseload since the start of the pandemic to more than 204,000.

The true number of cases is likely higher because studies suggest some people can be infected and not feel sick.

The number of probable or confirmed COVID-19 deaths reported in long-term care facilities rose to 6,697.

___

BERKSHIRE BUSINESS HELP

The Berkshire Regional Planning Commission has created a grant program to help area small businesses pay for COVID-19-related expenses.

Businesses and organizations with up to 25 employees can apply for funds to cover the purchase of personal protection equipment and other COVID-related supplies, along with general businesses expenses, which include rent, utilities, payroll and insurance, The Berkshire Eagle reported.

Grant awards range from $5,000 to $15,000, depending on the number of employees.

“We urge minority-owned businesses to apply for these funds and will look to issue awards as quickly as possible," Thomas Matuszko, executive director of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, said in a release.

Applications will be accepted beginning Dec. 1.

_____

SMITH SPRING RETURN

Smith College has announced that it intends to welcome more than 1,800 students back to campus for the spring semester, President Kathleen McCartney said in a message to the school community Monday.

Even though COVID-19 cases are surging around the country and on some college campuses, Smith feels well-equipped to manage the pandemic, she said.

“This is a serious situation, and one we are monitoring carefully,” McCartney said. “At the same time, well-managed campus communities provide a number of insights that suggest we can continue to keep campus positivity rates very low with students in residence.”

The women's college in Northampton has about 2,400 undergraduate students. The college operated remotely in the fall and had three positive COVID-19 cases.

Students have until Dec. 1 to decide if they want to live on campus during the spring. Those who choose to live on campus will get tested for the coronavirus twice a week. Some classes will be offered only remotely.