- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 7, 2020

BOSTON (AP) - The number of people in Massachusetts who have died from COVID-19 rose to 356 Tuesday, an increase of 96 new deaths - more than three times the 29 deaths reported Monday.

The number of residents who have tested positive topped 15,200, according to the Department of Public Health.

More than 1,400 have been hospitalized since the outbreak’s start. More than 81,300 have been tested.

In other virus-related developments:

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CRITICAL CARE DECISIONS

Massachusetts public health officials are offering guidance to hospitals that may face agonizing choices about which patients get access to potentially life-saving tools like ventilators and intensive care beds if COVID-19 numbers spike.

The report said criteria for access to critical care must be based on biological factors related only to the likelihood and magnitude of benefit from medical resources.

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, the report said.

One principle calls for attempting to maximize life years saved, not only attempting to save the most lives.

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TESTING AT SENIOR HOUSING FACILITIES

Massachusetts has launched a program to allow for rapid on-site coronavirus testing of residents of long-term senior care facilities like nursing homes and rest homes, Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday.

He described the initiative as a partnership between the Department of Public Health and the Massachusetts National Guard and the BROAD institute.

The National Guard has so far been deployed to 80 facilities across the state and completed more than 1,300 tests since this program began last week, Baker said. They planned to visit another 20 sites Tuesday. There are approximately 1,000 senior care facilities in the state.

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VIRUS SAMPLES IN CRASH

A car carrying samples to be tested for the virus crashed Tuesday near the Massachusetts and Rhode Island border, but liquid found at the scene turned out to be coffee, not the samples themselves, state police said.

Responders were initially concerned the samples may have spilled when liquid was found at the scene, but a state hazardous materials team determined that the spilled liquid was the driver’s coffee, Massachusetts State Police Spokesman Dave Procopio said in an email.

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RAPID TESTING

CVS Health is opening a free, rapid testing site in Lowell, officials said Tuesday.

Up to 1,000 patients will be able to be tested per day and results will be given on site in about 15 minutes, officials said.

CVS is running similar rapid testing sites in Rhode Island and Georgia.

The testing in Lowell will take place in the parking lot of the Showcase Cinemas on Reiss Avenue. People must pre-register at CVS.com to schedule a time slot for a test, officials said.

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PUBLIC SAFETY SECRETARY

Massachusetts Public Safety Secretary Thomas Turco has tested positive for the virus.

Turco said he was screened for the virus this weekend after experiencing what he described as mild symptoms. He said he notified colleagues with whom he had close contact and is working from home but remains in frequent contact by phone and email with public safety agency heads and his senior staff.

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DASHBOARD CONFESSIONAL

A Roman Catholic priest in a parish north of Boston is taking drive-thru Holy Week confessions as the faithful combine social distancing and spirituality amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Rev. Brian Mahoney and fellow priests heard confessions this week while seated in the parking lot of the Chelmsford Catholic Collaborative, home to the St. Mary and St. John the Evangelist parishes.

Cars pull up next to an orange safety cone in front of the priests, who keep a distance of 6 feet from those wishing to confess in keeping with social distancing guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“In our times of greatest difficulty, we need God,” Mahoney said Monday.

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INMATE RELEASE CHALLENGE

A Massachusetts prosecutor wants a man facing second-degree murder charges who was released amid the pandemic to be returned to jail.

A judge ordered the release of William James Utley after his attorney argued a preexisting health condition made him more susceptible to the coronavirus. Utley was scheduled to face trial this month in the March 2018 death of 33-year-old Anthony Young.

Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins has asked a single justice of the state’s highest court to order Utley to be locked up.

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MORGUE CAPACITY

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said the city is ready to help local hospitals with morgue capacity as deaths from COVID-19 mount.

Walsh said Tuesday he has spoken with major hospitals to let them know the city can help them expand capacity in part expediting any permitting needed. He said any operations associated with expanded morgue capacity will not be visible to the public.

Walsh said the Boston convention center, which is being transformed into a field hospital, will begin accepting patients on Thursday. He said the first patients will likely be homeless individuals with COVID-19.

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Associated Press reporter Rodrique Ngowi contributed to this report.

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