BOSTON (AP) — Confirmed coronavirus deaths have surpassed 10,000 in hard-hit Massachusetts, health officials said Thursday, cautioning that the actual toll is likely much higher because of fatalities not attributed to COVID-19.
Massachusetts has the sixth-highest death toll in the nation behind New York, Texas, California, New Jersey and Florida.
Massachusetts’ pandemic nightmare began in late February, when a cluster of cases blamed on a conference at a Boston hotel organized by the Biogen biotech company seeded not just the state but the nation with the virus.
As of Thursday, the state — a Northeast hotspot — also had 174,953 confirmed cases, with 661 people currently hospitalized.
The biggest caseloads and death counts have been in and around Boston, in places where the Black and Latinx populations are largest, including Lawrence, Chelsea, Everett and Revere. But worrisome rates of infection increasingly have been reported around the state.
Despite the mounting death toll, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker has pressed ahead with reopening the economy, though officials have tapped the brakes as more cities and towns were deemed at high risk of infection.
As cases and deaths rise, Baker has come under fire for allowing restaurants to offer indoor dining, although he recently imposed a 10 p.m. curfew. Carlene Pavlos, executive director of the Massachusetts Public Health Association, urged the governor to roll back some aspects of the economic reopening to prevent a surge.
Baker, however, has blamed college students and other young people for throwing parties with few if any masks or social distancing.
The state recorded its first pandemic death on March 20, and the toll quickly grew amid deadly outbreaks in nursing homes and long-term care facilities — including the deaths of nearly 80 veterans at a soldiers’ home in Holyoke. Overall deaths topped 5,000 in early May.
Investigators dealing with the deadly outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home released a report pointing to “utterly baffling” decisions made by the superintendent and his leadership team that helped the disease run rampant at the home.