32 new COVID-19 deaths; Mayflower II nixes Rhode Island stop

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts reported 32 newly confirmed deaths linked to COVID-19 on Thursday — bringing the total number of confirmed and probable deaths to 8,691 since the start of the pandemic.

It's the most deaths reported on a single day in a month. There were just two confirmed deaths reported on Wednesday.

The state also on Thursday reported 231 newly confirmed and probable cases of the disease caused by the coronavirus.

That brings the total number of confirmed and probable cases to nearly 119,900 in Massachusetts since the start of the pandemic.

There were 403 people reported hospitalized Monday because of COVID-19, while 73 were in intensive care units.

The number of confirmed and probable COVID-19 related deaths at long-term care homes rose to 5,541 or nearly 64% of all confirmed and probable deaths in Massachusetts attributed to the disease.

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MAYFLOWER II

The Mayflower II, a replica of the ship that brought the Pilgrims to the New World 400 years ago, has canceled a scheduled stop in Rhode Island because of new travel restrictions required of people who visit the state.

The 64-year-old reproduction is sailing from Mystic, Connecticut, to Plymouth, Massachusetts, after an $11 million renovation project. The Mayflower II made an unscheduled stop in New Bedford, Massachusetts, this week to shelter during Tropical Storm Isaias. It was scheduled to visit Newport, Rhode Island, on Thursday.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker earlier this week required people from Rhode Island or those who have visited the state to quarantine for two weeks because of a rising number of coronavirus cases there.

“Due to Governor Baker’s recent change to the restrictions on travel to states including Rhode Island, Plimoth Plantation has decided out of an abundance of caution to keep Mayflower in New Bedford ... until Saturday, August 8 when the ship will make its way to the Massachusetts Maritime Academy,” a press release said.

The ship is scheduled to arrive in Plymouth on Monday.

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FISHING INDUSTRY RELIEF

Massachusetts is pumping nearly $28 million worth of federal coronavirus stimulus money into the fishing industry to provide some relief from the financial struggles brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

The industry has been hit hard by restaurant closures and supply chain disruptions, state Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides said in a statement Thursday.

The state Division of Marine Fisheries worked with industry stakeholders to develop a plan to distribute the assistance, which has been approved by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“The fishing and seafood industries are integral parts of the economy, history and culture of Massachusetts,” Gov. Charlie Baker said in a statement. “Our administration remains dedicated to supporting these industries, and we look forward to getting these needed relief funds to impacted fishermen and businesses as quickly as possible.”

Eligible recipients include tribes, commercial fishing businesses, charter fishing businesses, aquaculture businesses, and seafood wholesalers and processors that have suffered at least a 35% loss of revenue due to the ongoing pandemic.

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HEALTH INSURANCE PREMIUM RELIEF

Health insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts will return $101 million to its customers by waiving or decreasing premiums.

The refund is in response to many patients postponing or delaying health care during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Since many elective procedures and routine visits have been deferred during the pandemic, our medical costs during the second quarter were lower than we originally anticipated,” Andrew Dreyfus, president and CEO of Blue Cross, said in a statement Wednesday.

Certain insurance customers of Blue Cross will be credited 15% of their May premiums in September. The insurer will also waive one month of premiums for Medicare Advantage customers before the end of the year.

Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, which serves customers across New England, announced in June it would provide certain members with a 15% credit on their September premiums.

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MBTA BUS SERVICE

The MBTA is amending its bus schedules later this month to meet increased demand and prevent overcrowding during the coronavirus pandemic.

Service is being added on 23 routes effective Aug. 30, while some routes with low ridership or routes with other service options nearby will have service frequency reduced or will continue to have service suspended, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority said in a statement Wednesday.

Also, routes that were halted during the pandemic will resume operations and some routes that have been operating on a reduced Saturday schedule will begin operating weekday service or close to it.

Also, effective Sept. 1, CharlieTicket and cash fares will be lowered to CharlieCard prices, the T said.