Virus in New England: Toy factory now making face shields; famed artist inspires
BOSTON (AP) — A look at developments around New England related to the coronavirus pandemic:
A Massachusetts factory that normally makes some of the nation’s most beloved board games, including Monopoly, Risk and Candyland, has pivoted to making personal protective equipment for heath care workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Charlie Baker said Saturday.
The Cartamundi-owned Hasbro factory is making 50,000 face shields per week for hospitals in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, the Republican said after a tour of the East Longmeadow facility.
Making games and making personal protective equipment have the same goal, President and COO John Frascotti said.
“It is our job to make the world a better place for children and their families,” he said.
Baker also said an investigation into the high number of COVID-19-related deaths at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home is progressing, but there is no timetable for completion.
Former federal prosecutor Mark Pearlstein has “free reign” to conduct his investigation, Baker said.
State health officials on Saturday announced an additional 174 coronavirus deaths, pushing the state’s total to more than 2,700.
The state also also reported nearly 2,400 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the state’s total number of reported cases to more than 53,000.
Maine health officials reported three more COVID-19 fatalities in the state on Saturday, for a total of 50 deaths from the virus. All three were woman above the age of 80, officials said.
With 25 more confirmed cases, the state has nearly 1,000 positive cases, the state Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced. Thirty-nine people remain hospitalized and more than 500 have recovered.
More than a dozen Maine health care industry groups representing hospitals, nursing homes, doctors and others are asking Gov. Janet Mills for civil and criminal immunity during the civil state of emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The request asks Mills to suspend the laws holding health care providers and their employees responsible for death or injury during the state of emergency, the Bangor Daily News reported Saturday.
Harm due to gross negligence would be an exception.
Because Maine’s Legislature has adjourned, the action would need to come through an executive order from the governor.
The governor’s office is still reviewing the request, Mills spokeswoman Lindsay Crete said.
Jeff Austin, a spokesman for the Maine Hospital Association, said its members were particularly concerned about having to reallocate resources in the event of a surge in cases.
The disproportionate number of Latino residents of Rhode Island infected with the coronavirus is “deeply concerning,” and the state is making efforts to address it, Gov. Gina Raimondo said Saturday.
The state is reaching out to the Latino community through press releases in Spanish, Spanish-language radio announcements and working with leaders in the community, she said.
The Democratic governor also encouraged Rhode Islanders to lift each other's spirits through the creation and sharing on social media of creative pieces using the hashtag #RIArts.
She also unveiled a work of art created by renowned artist Shepard Fairey meant to inspire, called “ Rhode Island Angel of Hope and Strength.”
Fairey is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design.
The piece “is meant to both celebrate the courage of health care workers specifically, and generally symbolize the spirit of hope, strength, compassion, and resilience that we can all summon in ourselves and share collectively," Fairey said in a statement released by the governor's office.
About 150 people calling themselves Rhode Islanders Against Excessive Quarantine protested what they called the “irreparable damage being caused by the statewide business shutdown, and the indiscriminately applied stay at home advisory" on the State House steps Saturday.
About half a dozen nurses wearing masks staged a counterprotest.
The new coronavirus has claimed another 13 lives in Rhode Island, bringing the state's death toll from the pandemic to 215, the state Department of Health reported Saturday.
There were 430 news cases of the disease, for a total of more than 7,100 positive cases, the agency said. There are currently 263 people hospitalized with the disease.
Officials have shut down more than 100 trailheads, shelters, picnic areas and other sites in New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest.
The U.S. Forest Service said Friday said the decision was based on federal, state and local guidance for physical distancing and to ensure the health and safety of employees, visitors and volunteers. It comes after officials reported an unseasonably high number of visitors who were “not able or willing” to follow social distancing recommendations.
Trails themselves remain open to those who can get to them on foot, but the state is under a stay-at-home order and officials have urged people to stay local for outdoor recreation.
Seven more people in New Hampshire have died from COVID-19, for a total of 50 coronavirus-related deaths, the state Department of Health and Human Services announced Saturday. All were in their 60s and older.
With 69 new positive test results, there have now been 1,787 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state.
The Vermont Health Department on Saturday reported 16 new cases of COVID-19 and two additional fatalities, bringing the state death toll from the disease to 46. A dozen people remain hospitalized, the department said.
Vermont residents cooped up because of coronavirus restrictions are itching to get outside and do some fishing, state wildlife officials say.
The Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife says it’s never had this number of fishing licenses sold this early in the season.
“Well, I don’t think there’s any question that this is related to the COVID crisis,” the department’s Christopher Saunders told WCAX-TV.
A second Connecticut prison inmate has died after contracting the new coronavirus.
The 57-year-old inmate from the Willard-Cybulski Correctional Institution in Enfield began showing symptoms on April 14 and was being put into a quarantine unit for testing when his condition worsened, the department said
He died at the hospital on Saturday morning, the department said.
The president of the University of Connecticut has told faculty, staff and students to prepare for the possibility of the continuation of online teaching this fall.
UConn President Thomas Katsouleas said he expects a decision by June 30.
Associated Press photographer Mike Dwyer contributed to this story from Providence, R.I.
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