Massachusetts has quickly become a hot spot of coronavirus infections with the state’s death toll expected to double in less than a week.
COVID-19 deaths are expected to surpass 2,000 this week in Massachusetts where officials are scrambling to boost hospital capacity and trace new infections to curb the spread of the disease.
The rising death toll and number of infections in the state has drawn the concern of federal officials and promises of aid from hard-hit New York.
Dr Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, said officials are ‘very much focused’ on Massachusetts, particularly the Boston area.
There were 103 new deaths reported in Massachusetts on Monday, bringing the state’s death toll to more than 1,800.
More than 1,500 new cases were reported, bringing total infections in the state for more than 39,500.
It compares to the more than 14,000 deaths in New York state and 41,000 fatalities across the country.
New projections from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation indicate that Massachusetts shouldn’t loosen social distancing until June 15.
The model, which is regularly updated and often cited by state public health authorities and White House officials, recommended that states reopen only if they have infection rates of less than one in 1 million people.
Massachusetts is hoping to bend the curve by using a group of ‘contact tracers’ to alert people who may have come in contact with someone who tested positive for the virus so they can self-quarantine or be tested themselves.
As of last Thursday, contact tracers had reached out to 765 people who had tested positive and the subsequent 1,000 people that they had been in close contact with.
As the number of hospitalizations and deaths dropped in New York, which has been the epicenter of the outbreak in the US, Gov. Andrew Cuomo pledged to send 400 ventilators to Massachusetts if needed.
New projections from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation indicate that Massachusetts shouldn’t loosen social distancing until June 15
‘You were there for us and we are going to be there for you,’ Cuomo said on Sunday.
Two field hospitals designed to deal with an expected surge of COVID-19 patients opened Monday in Massachusetts, joining two other sites that have been up and running. A fifth one is expected to open in about a week.
There were more than 150 patients on Saturday at a medical center called Boston Hope set up at the city’s convention center. The 1,000-bed hospital could reach capacity as the cases peak.
‘If the surge really happens, which it feels like it´s here and escalating, then in fact we will be filling all of our beds,’ Jeanette Ives Erickson, co-director of the field hospital, told The Boston Globe.
In the hard-hit community of Chelsea, officials are urging residents not to leave their homes at all as the cases surge unless they are an essential worker or have an essential need.
The densely populated city just outside Boston, with a large Latino immigrant community, has Massachusetts’ highest rate of infection – nearly four times the statewide rate.
The city’s more than 40,000 residents live across just about two square miles in crowded housing units and many work in essential services like grocery stores.
‘We have to get it under control here,’ said City Manager Thomas Ambrosino.
Boston has been ramping up efforts to slow the spread in neighborhoods with the highest rates of infection.
But Mayor Marty Walsh said that as temperatures climbed on Sunday, some people ignored directives to stay at home and gathered with friends or played soccer and golf.
They were ‘not understanding the severity of what´s happening here in this country and in Boston, in Massachusetts,’ Walsh said on CNN.
‘It’s just wrong.’
The city has outfitted public work trucks with speakers that are circling hard-hit neighborhoods broadcasting messages about social distancing, washing hands and covering faces.
‘The worst is yet to come for a lot of people,’ Walsh said Monday.
‘Even when we’re beyond the curve, we’re going to have positive cases of coronavirus, we’re still going to have loss of life.’