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Disaster declarations approved as New England virus death toll rises

BOSTON (AP) — Maine and New Hampshire join the ranks of states approved for federal disaster relief, and New England's death toll from the pandemic continues to climb.

A look at virus-related developments in the region besides Connecticut: 

RHODE ISLAND

Three more people have died from the virus in Rhode Island, Gov. Gina Raimondo said Saturday.

The deaths raise the state's total fatalities to 17. At least six are attributed to an outbreak at the Golden Crest Nursing Centre in North Providence.

Raimondo also said Saturday that the state has confirmed nearly 100 more people who have tested positive for the virus, increasing the state's total to more than 800 since the pandemic started.

More than 90 people are in the hospital because of the virus, she said.

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Roughly 100,000 Rhode Islanders are seeking jobless claims because of the pandemic.

State Department of Labor and Training data released Saturday shows that more than 91,000 residents have filed unemployment insurance claims for COVID-19-related reasons. Another 7,500 have applied for temporary disability benefits citing the virus, according to the data.

MAINE

Federal officials have approved Maine's request for a major disaster declaration, Gov. Janet Mills announced Saturday.

The Democrat said the approval means that state agencies and municipalities will be reimbursed for 75% of approved costs associated with their COVID-19 response.

The state's other requests for disaster assistance that would help support child care, behavioral health, and legal services are still pending, Mills said.

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State health officials confirmed Maine's 10th death from the virus on Saturday.

Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Nirav Shah said the latest victim is a man in his 70s from York County.

State officials also said they've confirmed 24 cases of the virus, bringing the state's total to more than 450 since the pandemic started.

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Six murder trials that had been scheduled for April and May in Maine have been delayed. Among them are two that date to 2017, the longest pending murder cases in the state.

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MASSACHUSETTS

The state's virus death toll has exceeded 200 after 24 more people died from the new coronavirus, Massachusetts health officials said Saturday.

Officials also reported more than 1,000 newly confirmed cases, bringing the state's total to nearly 12,000 since the pandemic started. Massachusetts continues to have one of the highest case counts in the nation.

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Advocates are calling for the state to step up its virus response in facilities for people with developmental disabilities.

The Massachusetts Coalition of Families and Advocates said Saturday that cleaning crews and virus testing teams need to be deployed to all group homes in the state Department of Developmental Services system. It also says homes with virus cases should be shut down and its residents transferred.

At least two people in the state system have died from the virus and more than 130 other people, including and group home staff, have tested positive, the organization said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Developmental Services wrote in an email they that were working with providers and the Department of Public Health to give the best care and clear guidance for those in facilities.

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The state National Guard has taken over at a nursing home in Littleton.

WBZ-TV reports the guard arrived Friday morning at the Life Care Center in Nashoba Valley.

Town officials earlier this week had complained the facility was not complying with COVID-19 guidelines. Life Care Center, in a statement, thanked the guard for helping administer tests to residents and employees.

Meanwhile, a nursing home in Wilmington has delayed plans to be turned into a temporary recovery center for COVID-19 patients.

The Boston Globe reports AdviniaCare postponed the plans because more than half its roughly 100 residents have now tested positive for the virus.

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The test to practice law in Massachusetts has been delayed. The Supreme Judicial Court and the Board of Bar Examiners on Saturday announced the bar examination slated for July has been rescheduled to Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 in Boston.

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The Boston Symphony Orchestra is making one of its recent concerts available online for free. “Concert For Our City” was videotaped live at Symphony Hall in Boston on Feb. 16. It will be available online from Sunday afternoon until May 20 on the orchestra’s website.

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NEW HAMPSHIRE

Federal officials have approved a disaster declaration for New Hampshire.

Gov. Chris Sununu said the decision makes the state eligible for 75% federal reimbursement for much of its virus response.

Nearly 550 people in New Hampshire have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Seven people have died, and more than 80 have been hospitalized.

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A Guatemalan man in New Hampshire is seeking release from federal immigration detention over concerns of contracting the new coronavirus in jail.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire said Saturday it has filed an emergency federal lawsuit for Pedro Gonzalez Guarcas.

The organization also asking a judge to consider releasing other immigration detainees housed at the Strafford County Department of Corrections in Dover, where Gonzalez Guarcas has been detained since Feb. 28.

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Prison officials are seeking donations to make masks for New Hampshire inmates. The Department of Corrections said inmates have run out of polyester or polyester-cotton blend fabric and quarter-inch elastic for the masks.

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Portsmouth has laid off nearly 90 part-time city employees in its public works and recreation departments as well as at the city library. City officials say they're concerned about a loss of revenue under the state’s stay-at-home order.

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The popular Story Land amusement park won’t be opening on May 23 as planned. The managers of the theme park in Glen said Friday it’s too soon to say when it might open for the season.

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VERMONT

State Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore is urging Vermonters to enjoy the outdoors in order to help maintain physical, mental and spiritual well-being. She also reminded residents to avoid crowded trails and to stay within 10 miles of their homes.

The state has nearly 400 confirmed cases and about 17 deaths from the virus.

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