- Associated Press - Monday, June 1, 2020

BOSTON (AP) - Massachusetts officials on Monday began reporting both confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases and deaths, a move that significantly increased both totals.

Under the new method - which includes probable cases dating back to March 1 - total cases of COVID-19 in Massachusetts have now topped 100,000.

The number of new deaths reported Monday, which also includes probable deaths, stood at 189, bringing the total number of confirmed and probable deaths in the state since the start of the pandemic to 7,035. Of the deaths reported Monday, 48 were newly confirmed deaths and 141 were probable deaths.

State health officials said the change was made following guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Probable cases include individuals who haven’t been tested by the standard viral (molecular) test.



Instead, the individuals have either had a positive antibody test and either had COVID-19 symptoms or were likely to be exposed to a positive case, or did not have an antibody test but had COVID-19 symptoms and were known to be exposed to a positive case.

Probable cases also include individuals whose death certificate listed COVID-19 as a cause of death but who were not tested.

The number of probable and confirmed COVID-19 deaths at long-term care facilities rose to 4,349 or about 62% of all deaths.

Other numbers released Monday indicated progress.

There were 1,747 individuals hospitalized with COVID-19, down from 2,533 two weeks ago. The number of individuals in intensive care units stood at 404, down from 674 two weeks ago.

Other coronavirus-related developments in Massachusetts:

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CHILDCARE CENTERS

Childcare programs and summer camps could soon begin operating again in Massachusetts as part of phase two of the state’s reopening plan, under an executive order signed by Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday.

Childcare programs must submit plans outlining how they will handle screening and sanitizing protocols. Recreational camps will be allowed to operate with activity restrictions and limited openings for groups smaller than 12 - with each camp allowed multiple groups of 12 campers.

Retail businesses that fall into phase two can also begin putting in place safety requirements needed to welcome back customers.

The order also includes details about additional requirements needed for the safe resumption of amateur youth and adult sports and outdoor dining at local restaurants.

Baker said he will make an announcement on Saturday about when phase two will officially begin, which could be as soon as June. 8.

Under the order stores will be required to monitor customer entries and exits and limit occupancy to either 8 persons - including staff - per 1,000 square feet of accessible, indoor space, or 40% of the retail store’s maximum permitted occupancy, whichever is greater. Grocery stores and pharmacies must provide at least one hour of dedicated time for adults 60 or older.

Malls can also operate at 40 percent occupancy.

Organized amateur sports programs for young people and adults can also begin in phase two, provided they limit sports to no-contact drills and practices, prohibit games, scrimmages, and tournaments and separate participants into groups of 10 or fewer.

The order will also let restaurants offer outdoor dining with restrictions at the start of phase two and the possibility of allowing indoor dining later in phase two.

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CORONAVIRUS RESTRICTIONS-LAWSUIT

A group of Massachusetts business owners and others have filed a lawsuit accusing Gov. Charlie Baker of overstepping his authority with his coronavirus restrictions.

The lawsuit was filed Monday by Washington, D.C.-based New Civil Liberties Alliance on behalf of a group including salon owners, pastors and the headmaster of a private school. The lawsuit says the Republican “unlawfully exercised legislative police power” by declaring a state of emergency under the state’s Civil Defense Act and ordering certain businesses to close.

“Fear of a deadly virus is not a reason to abandon constitutional governance,” Michael DeGrandis, senior litigation counsel for the New Civil Liberties Alliance, said in an emailed statement.

An email requesting comment was sent to Baker.

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PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT FOR BUSINESSES

A new program has been launched to help small businesses in the Merrimack Valley get a hold of masks and other protective equipment they’ll need as they reopen and follow new rules to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The Greater Lawrence PPP Procurement Program addresses the logistical burden of finding and securing high-demand products, especially in smaller quantities, The Eagle-Tribune reported Sunday.

Hundreds of businesses have already received a month’s worth of masks along with a visit from a local inspector to explain new regulations.

Money to support the effort has been provided by the Merrimack Valley Business Resiliency and Recovery Fund, said Derek Mitchell, executive director of the Lawrence Partnership, one of the organizations coordinating the effort.

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ZOO BY APPOINTMENT

The Buttonwood Park Zoo in New Bedford is planning to reopen to the general public on Wednesday, but visitors will have to make a reservation.

“We’ve been doing a ton of work to modify the zoo grounds and try to make this as normal as possible,” Director Keith Lovett told The Standard-Times.

The number of people allowed into the zoo will be limited to make it easier to adhere to social distancing guidelines, Lovett said.

Visitors will also be required to wear face coverings.

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