Testing offered to protesters; nursing home visits resume

BOSTON (AP) — Boston is offering those who were involved in protests following the killing of George Floyd access to coronavirus testing.

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Mayor Marty Walsh said at a news conference Wednesday that his administration is reaching out to organizers of the demonstrations and is working to create a mobile pop-up testing site in the Boston neighborhood of Roxbury that will be open to everyone, whether or not they are showing signs of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

“There is no special screening or requirements,” Walsh said. “As people lift their voices to fight racism and injustice, we want to make sure that we keep them safe as well.”

Floyd, who was black, died last month after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee on his neck as he pleaded for air.

Since the killing, there have been widespread protests in Boston and in cities and towns nationwide.

Many, but not all, of the protesters were wearing masks, which can help stem the spread of the virus.

Walsh said he was concerned for the health of the protesters and also the possibility that they could bring the virus home and cause others to become sick.

Other coronavirus-related developments in Massachusetts:

NURSING HOME VISITS

Massachusetts residents with family members in nursing homes and some other long-term care homes were allowed to visit their loved ones again starting Wednesday.

Visits had been limited since mid-March to help protect a particularly vulnerable population. Still, more than 60% of the state’s coronavirus-related deaths have been in nursing home residents, according to data.

Under the guidelines, visits must be scheduled and take place in designated outdoor areas, with the exception of end-of-life situations.

Nursing home residents are allowed only two visitors at a time, and everyone must wear a mask and stay at least 6 feet (2 meters) apart. Residents with confirmed or possible cases of the disease cannot have visitors, although those who have recovered can.

Visitors will have their temperature taken and be screened for symptoms.

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VIRUS BY THE NUMBERS

State officials on Wednesday reported the total number of confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 in Massachusetts now stands at more than 104,000 with the addition of the 267 newly reported cases as the state continues to make progress against the disease.

There were 46 new deaths reported, bringing the total number of confirmed and probable deaths in the state since the start of the pandemic to 7,454.

There were 1,345 people hospitalized with COVID-19, down from about 2,100 two weeks ago. The number of people in intensive care units fell to 319, down from 556 two weeks ago.

The number of probable and confirmed COVID-19 deaths at long-term care homes rose to 4,671, or nearly 63% of all deaths.

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PUBLIC TRANSIT

Even as ridership remains low, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is preparing to ramp up service across all of modes of transit, including subways, buses, ferries and commuter rail.

Beginning June 21, regular weekday subway service will operate on the Blue Line while increased weekday service will operate on the Red, Orange, Green, and Mattapan lines.

Service will also be increased for nearly 60 high-demand bus routes in the metropolitan Boston area. On June 22, commuter rail service will be increased and ferry service will resume on weekdays.

The changes come as the state begins to reopen after months of a stay-at-home advisory meant to help curb the spread of the coronavirus that led to plummeting ridership on the public transit system.

MBTA officials said that while passenger volume continues to be just a fraction of prepandemic levels, they will continue to closely monitor ridership and undesirable crowding and make adjustments as needed.

Riders are required to wear masks and try to maintain social distance when possible.

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OUTDOOR DINING

Restaurants in Massachusetts are searching for outdoor spaces as they begin welcoming back diners.

In Boston, officials have received nearly 500 requests for temporary extensions into outdoor space. More than 200 have already received full or conditional approval to do so to serve diners.

The process is proving more challenging in some of the city’s more densely populated neighborhoods, including the North End.

The state began allowing outdoor dining this week as part of its reopening plan.