Massachusetts U.S. Army National Guard soldier Colleen Bearce, of Hanover, Mass., places gallon containers of milk in the trunk of a vehicle at an event sponsored in part by Dairy Farmers of America, at Boston College High School, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Boston. Dairy farmers have a milk surplus because demand has dropped as schools and restaurants closed during the corona virus pandemic, and some farmers have had to pour excess milk away. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
View All (14)

BOSTON (AP) — More than 14,000 people with confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been contacted by Massachusetts' contact tracing program since it launched last month, Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday.

Each individual with COVID-19 is listing about two individuals they have been in contact with in the past two weeks. That number is less that anticipated in part because of the state’s ongoing efforts to encourage social distancing, Baker said Thursday.

Those who test positive will be asked about others they have been in contact within the past two weeks. Members of the team then try to reach out those contacts to let them know they might have been exposed to the coronavirus.

Here are the latest coronavirus-developments in Massachusetts:

___

COVID-19 UPDATE

The latest COVID-19 numbers include some hopeful signs.

The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care stands at about 850, down from more than 1,000 two weeks ago, while the total number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has also dipped from nearly 3,900 two weeks ago to more than 3,400 Thursday.

Despite the hopeful signs, Massachusetts still recorded another 132 confirmed COVID-19-related deaths on Thursday, bringing to 4,552 the total number of deaths recorded in the state since the pandemic’s start.

The total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Massachusetts neared 74,000 after the state reported an additional 1,700 individuals who tested positive for the disease caused by the coronavirus.

The number of deaths at long-term care facilities stands at 2,739 — or 60% of all COVID-19-related deaths in the state.

___

GOLF COURSES

Limited use of golf courses will be allowed, Baker announced Thursday as the state looks ahead to a gradual reopening of the economy starting May 18.

Baker said private owners of golf courses can now permit individuals access to the property as long as there are no gatherings of any kind and appropriate social distancing of 6 feet between individuals is strictly followed.

Baker said Thursday that he took a a model that was being used in other nearby states that addressed his concerns and then applied that to Massachusetts.

The decision also allows cities and towns to open municipal courses under the same guidelines if they choose.

Golf courses still can’t have employees working at the courses.

Therese Barry, one of the owners at the Bungay Brook Club in Bellingham, Massachusetts, said the course had just opened and is now facing another lost weekend due to the winter-like weather.

“Everything is against us, absolutely,” said Barry, who fought for weeks to open amid the state's stay-at-home advisory. She said restrictions still mean their driving range cannot open and golf carts won’t be allowed.

“We’re a weather driven business,” she continued. “To have this happen the minute we are open is quite unbelievable."

___

GUN SHOPS

Gun shops in Massachusetts will be allowed to reopen, a federal judge said Thursday after a group of owners sued the governor over his decision to include them in non-essential businesses shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock said during a virtual hearing that the governor’s order infringed on residents’ Second Amendment rights and must be overturned, The Boston Globe reported.

“There is no justification here,” the judge said. “These plaintiffs . . . have constitutional rights that deserve respect and vindication. And it becomes necessary for a court to do that.”

The judge said he will impose restrictions on gun shops, like requiring them to operate by appointment only.

___

ANTIBODY STUDY

The town of Brookline is conducting a coronavirus antibody study to better understand the spread of the disease.

Two hundred of the town’s first responders and essential workers will be tested on May 11 and 400 randomly selected residents will receive testing on May 15, the town said in a statement on its website Wednesday.

The testing is being done with the help of Massachusetts General Hospital and Fallon Ambulance, the statement said.

Testing is only meant for those who are asymptomatic and have never displayed symptoms of COVID-19.

___

MILK GIVEAWAY

Massachusetts dairy farmers are giving away 8,600 gallons of milk Thursday to people struggling because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The event at Boston College High School in Boston will go on until 4 p.m. or until all the milk is gone.

People are limited to two gallons each.

Everyone must have a face covering and adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Dairy farmers have a milk surplus because demand has dropped as schools and restaurants closed during the pandemic.

___

UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS

Massachusetts had more than 55,200 individuals file an initial claim for standard unemployment insurance from April 26 to May 2, the fifth consecutive week of fewer initial claims over the previous week.

Since March 15, more than 777,200 initial claims have been filed.

Since April 20, about 185,000 claimants have filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

____

Associated Press writer Alanna Durkin Richer contributed to this report.