Courts, museums in Massachusetts shutter amid virus

BOSTON (AP) — A rundown of coronavirus-related developments in Massachusetts:

TESTING CAPACITY

The number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 continues to grow in Massachusetts, rising to 102 cases on Thursday.

More than 80 cases were associated with a meeting of executives of the firm Biogen at a Boston hotel last month, eight are associated with Berkshire Medical Center and 10 have been hospitalized, the state Department of Public Health said. The hotel — the Marriott Long Wharf — has been shut.

The new numbers were released as Gov. Charlie Baker pressed the Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to speed approval for private labs and hospital labs to begin testing for COVID-19, the disease the virus causes.

Baker said currently only the state Department of Public Health lab has the ability to run the tests. The Republican said the state now has enough capacity to test an additional 5,000 people beyond the previous capacity to test several thousand.

For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.

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STATE FUNDS

The Massachusetts House and Senate on Thursday approved a $15 million supplemental budget to help the state respond to the rise in COVID-19 cases. Democratic Senate President Karen Spilka said last week that the goal of the funding is to help state and local officials better prepare for the impacts of the virus.

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TRIALS DELAYED

Massachusetts federal courts are delaying jury trials scheduled to begin before April 27 in order to protect public health, limit large gatherings and reduce unnecessary travel.

Individual judges can still hold hearings, conferences and bench trials but are encouraged to use telephone or video conferencing where possible.

Court officials are also barring anyone who has recently traveled to China, Italy, Iran, Japan and South Korea from entering the federal courthouses or probation offices in the state.

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CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS CLOSE

A number of major cultural institutions in the Boston area are shuttering, including the Museum of Fine Arts, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and the New England Aquarium.

The Boston Symphony Orchestra said it will also cancel all performances at Symphony Hall in Boston and at the Linde Center at Tanglewood from March 13 through March 28.

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COMIC CON, MAYFLOWER CELEBRATION POSTPONED

The ACE Comic Con was scheduled to be held March 20-22 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center — an event that was set to draw Marvel and Star Wars movie stars Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Ewan McGregor and Keri Russell, as well as more than 30,000 fans.

The organization said it is working to reschedule the event.

The opening ceremony of the Plymouth 400 Commemoration, marking the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower voyage, had been scheduled for April 24 but is now being postponed to June 26.

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CENSUS COUNT CONCERNS

Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin says that making it possible to fill out the census online may be the best option, although he was initially skeptical of that.

Galvin said his office is also grappling with is how to ensure college students are counted — particularly at a time when many colleges are sending students home.

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