BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday the state is currently reviewing all of the protocols associated with testing and contact tracing and isolation and quarantining at colleges and universities in Massachusetts following a coronavirus outbreak at Boston College last week.
Baker said the state had put in place what he described as a "very robust platform" for testing and contact tracing at the more than 100 colleges in the state.
With regular testing going on at the vast majority of those campuses, the state has seen a low rate of transmission, the Republican said at an afternoon press conference. He said the state plans to be in touch again with colleges.
"Clearly we need to make sure we stay on top of this," he said.
Boston College last week announced it was suspending activities for its men's and women's swimming and diving program after some team members tested positive for the coronavirus. A college spokesperson said the athletes who tested positive were in isolation.
Overall, the state continues to have one of the lowest positive test rates in the country, something Baker credited to residents adhering to key public health guidelines like wearing a mask in public and maintaining social distance.
"While they may seem annoying at times and pedantic, they are effective," he said. "The people of Massachusetts have done an extraordinary job staying vigilante."
Baker said there has been another benefit of the effort made to protect against the transmission of the coronavirus. He said health professionals have been seeing far fewer cases of traditional respiratory diseases like sore throat, strep throat and earaches.
NANTUCKET JOB SITES
Health officials in Nantucket are planning to step up efforts to fight the transmission of COVID-19 at local job sites.
The move comes after it was confirmed that most of the 30 cases reported since Wednesday on the island came from people working in landscaping, construction and other trades, many of whom shared transportation to job sites.
The Cape Cod Times reported that at an emergency meeting on Monday, the local board of health voted unanimously not only to increase its outreach efforts to tradespeople regarding social distancing and mask-wearing but also to issue up to $300 to employers for each violation.
The town can also shut down businesses that have more than three violations over a three-day period.
School officials have also announced that classes — which are scheduled to begin Wednesday — would be 100% remote through at least Sept. 30.
VIRUS BY THE NUMBERS
Massachusetts reported six newly confirmed coronavirus deaths and nearly 300 newly confirmed cases Tuesday, pushing the state's confirmed COVID-19 death toll to 9,016 and its confirmed caseload to more than 123,400.
The seven-day weighted average of positive tests was less than 1%. The true number of cases is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.
There were about 300 people reported hospitalized Tuesday because of COVID-19, and more than 50 in intensive care units.
The number of confirmed and probable COVID-19 related deaths at care homes rose to 5,915 or about 64% of all confirmed and probable deaths in Massachusetts attributed to the disease.
TAX RELIEF MEASURES
Businesses harmed by the coronavirus outbreak — especially those in the restaurant and hospitality sectors — will be able to take advantage of an extension of tax relief measures.
The extension was announced Tuesday by Baker and Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Robert DeLeo — both Democrats.
The change includes the extension of the deferral of regular sales tax, meals tax, and room occupancy taxes for small businesses due from March 2020 through April 2021. They will instead be due in May 2021.
Businesses that collected less than $150,000 in regular sales plus meals taxes in the 12 months ending February 29, 2020 will be eligible for relief for sales and meals taxes. Businesses that collected less than $150,000 in room occupancy taxes in the same 12-month period will be eligible for relief for room occupancy taxes.
No penalties or interest will accrue during the extension.
For businesses with meals tax and room occupancy tax obligations that do not otherwise qualify for this relief, late-file and late-pay penalties will be waived during this period.