Soldiers’ Home employees test positive again

  • A passers-by, right, walks past a storefront window, Tuesday, July 28, 2020, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) Steven Senne

  • Passers-by, right, enter and exit a subway station while a man using a wheelchair, center, uses a mask out of concern for the coronavirus, Tuesday, July 28, 2020, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) Steven Senne

Published: 7/30/2020 6:40:47 PM

BOSTON (AP) — Six employees at the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke who had previously been cleared to return to work after recovering from COVID-19 tested positive for the virus for a second time this week, officials said.

All six employees tested positive for the virus months ago when the outbreak began. Each was considered “clinically recovered,” Brooke Karanovich, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Executive Office for Health and Human Services, told

None was showing symptoms prior to the most recent positive test result and they were sent home “out of an abundance of caution,” she said.

A resident of the veterans’ care facility who had recovered from COVID-19, but started showing symptoms again, tested positive for a second time earlier this week. A second test on that resident given Wednesday came back negative.

The virus is blamed for the deaths of 76 veterans at the home, one of the worst outbreaks at a long-term care facility in the country.

New cases

The state Department of Public Health reported 304 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus on Thursday, but said the number was inflated because of a technical reporting error by a hospital group that caused a delay in its laboratory test results being reported to the state.

Those test results were included in Thursday’s report.

Still, the seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Massachusetts has risen over the past two weeks from 249.29 new cases per day on July 15 to 266 new cases per day on July 29, according to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

The state also reported 15 new coronavirus-related deaths, for a total of nearly 8,400.

Hospitalizations dropped to 367, 23 fewer than the previous day. The number of patients in intensive care dropped to 55, down from 62.

Teachers push for remote learning

The state’s largest teachers union wants school districts to continue remote learning from home this fall — at least at first — and is asking its more than 350 local affiliates to negotiate such working conditions with their respective districts in the coming weeks.

The Massachusetts Teachers Association says the state has not done enough to ensure that school buildings will be a safe environment for students and staff, even if everyone wears masks, practices good hand hygiene, and exercises social distancing.

“Sending people back into the buildings only increases the risks of our most vulnerable students contracting the virus, and it puts staff members at risk too,” Merrie Najimy, the association’s president, told The Boston Globe on Thursday.

The union emphasized that educators are eager to return to their classrooms and be with their students, but the conditions of too many buildings are problematic and there has been a recent uptick in coronavirus cases in Massachusetts.

Gov. Charlie Baker has said he wants districts to bring back as many students for in-person learning as possible this fall for the well-being of children.

Vaccine hopes

An executive at a Massachusetts facility helping create a potential vaccine for the coronavirus said Thursday that the company hopes to have the treatment ready by the end of the year.

“We have the potential, subject to technical success and regulatory authorization, to manufacture up to 100 million vaccine doses by the end of this year and up to 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021,” said Meg Ruesch, research and development leader at Pfizer Inc.’s Andover, Massachusetts, facility.

The vaccine candidate, a collaboration between Pfizer and BioNTech, “introduces into the body the genetic instructions for the cell to make a specific protein — in this case a SARS-CoV-2 protein — which is intended to stumulate an immune response,” she said.

The data on the trials has been encouraging, she said at a news conference with Gov. Charlie Baker.

She also put to rest concerns that the vaccine process is being rushed.

“We don’t cut any quality corners,” she said.

The Trump administration last week announced that it would pay Pfizer nearly $2 billion for December delivery of 100 million doses of their COVID-19 vaccine under development.

Pfizer earlier this week announced it had started a study of its vaccine candidate in the U.S. and elsewhere. That study aimed to recruit 30,000 people.

“A vaccine or a treatment is critical to breaking the cycle of this insidious virus, and helping us all return to something more like regular normal” the Republican governor said.

Baker, expressing concern about clusters of new confirmed cases of COVID-19 associated with private parties, warned residents not to relax when it comes to mask wearing and social distancing.

“To all our residents, I can’t express this enough, don’t be careless or complacent,” he said.

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