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Massachusetts unveils plan for tenants, owners

BOSTON — Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has unveiled a new $171 million initiative that he said will help tenants and landlords cope with the fiscal challenges of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The Republican governor said in a statement Monday that the goal of the initiative is to keep tenants in their homes and ease the ongoing expenses of landlords once the state’s pause on evictions and foreclosures expires on Saturday.

About $100 million will go to expand the capacity of the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition program to provide relief to renters and landlords struggling because of the pandemic. Another $49 million will go to rapid rehousing programs for tenants who are evicted and at risk of homelessness.


Other funds will help provide tenants and landlords with legal services during the eviction process and support mediation programs to help tenants and landlords resolve cases outside of court.

Landlords have called the pandemic eviction ban unconstitutional, arguing that it restricted their free speech and their ability to acquire compensation for unlawful land taking. Meanwhile, housing advocates have called for passage of a comprehensive eviction prevention measure intended to help stabilize renters, homeowners and small landlords for a year.

When the state moratorium expires Saturday, a moratorium established by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will take effect in Massachusetts and prevent evictions through December for qualified tenants.

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett faces Senate despite virus

— Trump insists he’s free of virus, ready for campaign trail

— Britain expected to tighten restrictions on hard-hit northern cities like Liverpool

— EU nations gear up to adopt traffic-light system to identify outbreaks

— Four Swiss guards who protect 83-year-old Pope Francis have the virus

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— Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

CARSON CITY, Nev. — Nevada COVID-19 response director Caleb Cage said Monday that he had tested positive for the virus on October 6 after developing symptoms over the prior weekend.

Staff working in the governor’s office began working from home following his diagnosis.

Those who had come into contact with Cage were also tested, including Gov. Steve Sisolak, who tested negative.

Officials also reported 569 new confirmed cases and 3 new deaths on Monday. The number of new cases and positivity rate remain higher than they were in early September, before Sisolak relaxed restrictions on gatherings and before a state task force loosened thresholds for “high risk” counties.

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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Officials at a West Virginia health system have said the network is again banning visitors from its hospitals as community spread of the coronavirus increases in the region.

News outlets reported that Mountain Health Network announced Monday that most visitors will not be allowed in its medical centers, including at St. Mary’s in Huntington, one of the largest hospitals in the state.

Officials say essential caregivers will be allowed for patients in labor and

Massachusetts coronavirus deaths rise 16, cases up 570, daily positive rate hovers around 4%

Massachusetts health officials on Sunday reported 16 new coronavirus deaths and 570 new cases, as the daily positive rate continued to hover around 4%.

The 570 new cases follows a spike above 700 on Friday — one of the highest numbers since the spring.

The 16 new coronavirus deaths and one new probable coronavirus death bring the state’s COVID-19 death toll to 9,604, the state Department of Public Health said. The three-day average of coronavirus daily deaths has dropped from a peak of 161 in May to 11 now.

The state has logged 138,903 cases of the highly contagious disease, an increase of 570 confirmed cases since Saturday. Of the 138,903 total cases, at least 116,364 people have recovered.

On Wednesday, Massachusetts health officials reported that 40 communities are now in the high-risk category for coronavirus —  a state record after 23 cities and towns were on the list last week.

The daily percentage of tested individuals who are positive continues to hover around 4%. That figure at the start of September was between 1% and 2%, but the rate was 4.1% on Thursday, 4.4% on Friday and 4.2% on Saturday — the most recent day of available data.

The seven-day weighted average of the state’s positive test rate ticked down from 1.1% on Saturday to 1.0% on Sunday.

Coronavirus hospitalizations went down by 20 patients, bringing the state’s COVID-19 hospitalization total to 511.

The highest peak of Massachusetts’ coronavirus hospitalizations was 3,965 on April 21. The three-day average of coronavirus hospitalizations has jumped from 308 three weeks ago to 514 now.

There are 85 patients in the ICU, and 29 patients are currently intubated.

An additional 15,797 tests have brought the state’s total to more than 4.7 million tests.

The state reported 25,198 residents and health care workers at long-term care facilities have now contracted the virus.

Of the state’s 9,604 total coronavirus deaths, 6,189 are connected to long-term care facilities.

More than 214,000 Americans have died. The country’s death toll is the highest in the world, which eclipsed 1 million deaths last week.

The U.S. has recorded more than 7.7 million coronavirus cases — also the most in the world. More than 3 million people have recovered.

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‘Twindemic’ test: Massachusetts, many colleges mandate winter flu shots

“This is a brave new experiment by the state of Massachusetts,” said Lawrence Gostin, who heads a university-based center on health law that serves as an official collaborating institute with the World Health Organization. “If it turns out to be a wholesale success, that should influence other states to go a similar route, not just with flu but with other vaccines. But if it causes a backlash and only marginal benefit, states might be hesitant to adopt that model in the future.”

In New Jersey, Democratic lawmakers introduced a bill in the state Legislature late last month that would mandate flu shots for kids in preschool through college. Vermont public health officials also have been considering a vaccine order of their own.

Early evidence suggests the pandemic is widening a nationwide vaccination gap. Preliminary data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services show vaccination rates for typically given shots dropped by 22 percent this spring compared to last year, among young children enrolled in Medicaid and the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Fewer than 50 percent of adults opt to get vaccinated against the flu in a typical season, a rate CDC Director Robert Redfield hopes to elevate to 65 percent this season.

While states have “the absolute right” under the Constitution to require vaccinations, Gostin said, the stakes are still high for officials who want to expand flu immunity without aggravating anti-vaccine tensions.

“There are a lot of my colleagues, and me included, that worry there’s such large numbers of people in the United States that are vaccine-hesitant or even outright anti-vaxxers, that a mandate might create a vicious backlash not only against influenza vaccines but all vaccines. So, you have to tread very carefully,” said Gostin, director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University.

Before Massachusetts’ move, Gostin found that no state required influenza vaccinations for adults or K-12 students. Only a handful of states require flu shots for kids enrolled in childcare or preschool, according to the Immunization Action Coalition, even though the American Academy of Pediatrics and CDC recommend the vaccine for children older than 6 months.

Supply isn’t the issue. Flu vaccines are inexpensive, easy to find and often effective. But experts say time is running short before the annual flu season accelerates in the Northern Hemisphere.

“Many places have already gotten their supply of vaccines. They just need people to take it,” said Tina Tan, a Chicago pediatrician and infectious disease specialist at Northwestern Medicine. “This month is going to be the critical month to try and implement these types of mandates and get people vaccinated.”

Tan said flu shot requirements for school kids did not catch on before now for two main reasons: Doses are often unavailable when students start classes each school year, plus there are misconceptions that the flu shot is unsafe.

In Massachusetts, the governor has defended the flu shot mandate but acknowledged “some people are troubled” by a sweeping requirement that follows