2nd Massachusetts veterans home reports COVID-19 deaths

BOSTON (AP) — Two residents of another veterans care center in Massachusetts have died of COVID-19, officials said Wednesday.

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The confirmation of the deaths at the Chelsea Soldiers' Home come as state officials reported the deaths of 15 residents, at least six of which are coronavirus-related, at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home. Another 11 residents and seven staff members at the Holyoke facility have tested positive, officials said.

“COVID-19 cases in the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home are being isolated, closely monitored, and tracked daily, and we are deeply saddened to report today that a resident of our community died of this infection," home spokesman Timothy Leazott said in an emailed statement.

Gov. Charlie Baker said officials at the Chelsea facility “followed all the rules and protocols they’re supposed to follow with respect to both operating an elder care facility at a time of COVID-19 and reporting on critical incidents when they occur.”

Baker announced Wednesday that he has hired a former federal prosecutor, Mark Pearlstein, to investigate the deaths at the Holyoke facility.

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PROTECTION BOOTHS

A Boston hospital is building several freestanding isolation booths that allow medical workers to test people from behind the safety of a plastic panel.

Workers at Brigham and Women's Hospital can step into the three-sided booths and slip their arms through portholes into arm-length rubber gloves to collect samples from patients.

Kevin Giordano, Brigham and Women's senior vice president of clinical services, said the hospital plans to build 10 units and is providing information to other facilities.

In addition to keeping health care professionals safe, the booths help conserve personal protective equipment.

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ARENA FIELD HOSPITAL

A Massachusetts arena is being converted to a field hospital for COVID-19 patients and should be ready just as the number of cases in the state is expected to peak, officials said.

The 250-bed field hospital at the DCU Center in Worcester, will be for the “least sick” COVID-19 patients, who do not require intensive care, Dr. Eric Dickson, president and CEO of UMass Memorial Health Care, said Tuesday.

UMass Memorial Health Care will manage the field hospital. Dickson said he hopes to have it operational by the end of next week.

The number of people in Massachusetts who have died from COVID-19 rose to 122 on Wednesday, an increase of 33 deaths since Tuesday, according to the state Department of Public Health. More than 7,700 residents have tested positive.

Nearly 52,000 have been tested, and more than 682 have been hospitalized since the start of the pandemic.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death

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MAN CHARGED WITH MURDER RELEASED

A Massachusetts man charged with second-degree murder in a stabbing was released after his attorney argued a pre-existing health condition made him more susceptible to the coronavirus, prosecutors said.

A judge ordered the release of William James Utley, 40, on Tuesday, The Boston Globe reported. Utley was scheduled to face trial later this year in the March 2018 death of 33-year-old Anthony Young.

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PRIESTS STRICKEN

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston says eight of its priests have tested positive for COVID-19.

Two parish priests have already recovered, the archdiocese said in a statement Wednesday. The other six are senior priests who are receiving appropriate care either at home or at a hospital.

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MASKS FROM MUSICIANS

A Nantucket hospital is getting masks from the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

The orchestra said Wednesday it donated 450 protective masks to Nantucket Cottage Hospital. Dr. Robert Partridge, who works in the hospital’s emergency room, also serves as the symphony's tour physician when the symphony travels overseas to perform.

Partridge had collected the masks for a planned orchestra tour of Asia, but the trip was canceled because of the pandemic.

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Associated Press reporter Steve LeBlanc contributed to this story.