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Local Cases Continue Decline; Massachusetts Enters Phase II [COVID-19 Weekly Update]

There were five new coronavirus cases reported this week in the Downtown, North End, Beacon Hill, and Back Bay neighborhoods reported by the Boston Public Health Commission’s weekly report through June 4th. That represents about a 75% decrease in new cases from the prior week where there were twenty new cases. The total number of cases for the downtown neighborhoods stands at 459, a rate of 82.4 per 10,000 residents.

On Monday, June 1st, the Department of Public Health began reporting probable COVID-19 cases and deaths in addition to confirmed test results. The change comes from adhering to Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines to include probable coronavirus cases in reporting and data collection efforts. Therefore, retrospective probable cases and deaths from March 1st and onward were reflected in this week’s total reported numbers.

According to the COVID-19 case tracking dashboard, there were 251 new positive cases citywide this week with 12,932 total positive cases. The total number of deaths stand at 660 with 26 new deaths this week. In the City of Boston, approximately 57% COVID-19 patients have recovered.

The City has continued to focus on ramping up testing. Currently, approximately 1,500 tests per day are conducted throughout Boston. Under the City’s Strategic Testing Expansion Program (STEP), neighborhoods with a need for increased testing will be identified. The program aims to erect twenty additional testing sites by the end of July.

The Boston Hope Medical Center, an emergency hospital that was set up at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center for COVID-19 patients in April, released it’s last patients on Tuesday, June 2nd. Boston hospitals’ ICU capacity reached an 81% capacity this week, down markedly from the 120% capacity that was seen during the April surge. Boston’s Emergency Departments (ED) reported that 2.8% of all ED visits were for COVID-19-like illness (CLI). This is down from 3.5% the prior week.

On June 1st, Boston allowed offices to reopen at 25% capacity under Phase I of the phased reopening plan. However, many offices remained closed as employers continue to opt for work-from-home strategies while businesses attempt to reimagine their workspaces during the pandemic.

On Saturday, June 6th, officials are anticipated to announce Phase II of reopening including outdoor dining at restaurants starting on June 8th.

Governor Charlie Baker recently released an executive order that further detailed which businesses would be allowed to reopen during Phase II. Retailers, who have been restricted to curbside pickup and delivery only, will be allowed to open with limited capacity for in-store browsing and transactions. Amateur sports programs for youth and adults would also be allowed to resume with restrictions that prevent traditional contact sports. Essentially, only no-contact drills and practices would be permitted and must be limited to ten participants or less. A full list of businesses reopening in Phase II can be found here.

Mayor Walsh announced that the Boston Rental Relief Fund was injected with an additional $5 million which opened its second round to applicants today. The pre-screening form will be available until June 19th, giving applicants enough time to determine their eligibility. The lottery will be conducted on June 22nd.

In the State legislature, in an attempt to offer further coronavirus relief for hospitality businesses, the Restaurant Relief Act moved forward with a House bill on Tuesday that would cap third-party delivery service fees at 15% and expedite the process of getting outdoor dining licenses. In addition to the already allowed beer and wine sales, restaurants would be allowed to offer cocktails-to-go as long as the mixed drinks were served in a sealed container with no more than 64 ounces per order.

Massachusetts began allowing outdoor visitation at nursing home facilities, limiting visitation to only two visitors at a time, and requiring face coverings and social distancing. The North End Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center started limited visitation in the parking lot on Wednesday, June 3rd.

The state currently has 102,557 positive cases based on the most recent data. There were 7,045 new COVID-19 cases reported with 3,761 of those cases being probable cases. Approximately 16.3% of all tests have returned with a positive test result. There has been a total reported 7,235 deaths in Massachusetts. About 62% of all coronavirus-related deaths have been in long-term care facilities with 4,504 reported. There were 517 new deaths this week with 138 deaths being from probable coronavirus cases.