BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts reported another 25 confirmed COVID-19-related deaths Thursday, bringing the total number of confirmed and probable deaths since the beginning of the pandemic to 8,268.

There were 295 newly confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, reported Thursday — bringing the total number of confirmed and probable cases to nearly 110,900 in Massachusetts.

There were 635 people reported hospitalized because of COVID-19, while 103 were in intensive care units.

The number of confirmed and probable COVID-19 related deaths at long-term care homes rose to 5,241 — or more than 63% of all confirmed and probable deaths in Massachusetts attributed to the disease.

A look at other coronavirus-related developments in the state:

 

UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE

More than 26,600 people filed initial claims for regular unemployment insurance from June 28 to July 4 — a decline of more than 2,400 over the previous week, the fourth consecutive week of decline.

From March 15 to July 4, more than 1 million individuals filed for regular unemployment insurance in Massachusetts.

Initial claims for a separate program — pandemic unemployment assistance — also fell.

Nearly 13,000 people filed initial claims for the assistance for the week ending June 27 — a decline of nearly 1,200 from the previous week.

Since April 20, more than 651,000 individuals have filed initial claims for the pandemic assistance.

 

CONTACT TRACING PROGRAM

Massachusetts has drastically scaled back its ambitious, statewide contract tracing effort to prevent spread of the coronavirus amid complaints from local health officials that it was unreliable.

The Boston Globe reports the state's multi-million dollar effort with the Boston-based nonprofit Partners in Health now has roughly 700 staffers, down from some 1,900 when it launched to fanfare in April as the first of its kind in the nation.

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker said Wednesday the effort simply had more staff than needed because the pandemic has been easing in Massachusetts. The rate of positive cases in the state has hovered around 2% since mid-June.

But local health officials complain the effort has been beset with computer glitches, inadequate training, and poor communication. 

That's led to delays in contacting infected residents, prompting some cities and towns to opt out of the initiative in favor of focusing on their own, in-house contact tracing efforts, the Globe reported.

Contact tracers identify anyone who may have been recently in contact with an infected person and help them get tested and quarantined to prevent larger outbreaks.

Partners in Health said it's rolling out improvements, including a new team of local health liaisons to improve communication with local health departments that'll start Monday. It's also setting a goal of reaching out to contacts of infected persons within 24 hours of receiving a new case.

The state has agreed to pay Partners in Health up to $55 million through December for the initiative, the Globe reported. Two other companies are also receiving a total of $39 million for related work.

 

VIRTUAL PARADE

Springfield's Puerto Rican Parade is going virtual this year because of the pandemic.

Organizers said the annual parade will not make its way down Main Street for its 30th anniversary on Sept. 20. Instead, a celebration will be broadcast live on the parade's Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Victoria Ann Rodriguez, the president of the Parade Committee, said the celebration will likely honor first responders as well as mark the parade's 30-year milestone.

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