Haverhill Mayor Hopeful City is Past the COVID-19 Peak, While State Reports New Increase

Gov. Charlie Baker said Wednesday the state was not ready to start talking about reopening parts of its economy. On salons and barber shops, Baker said, “we’re not going to do that until we get over the hump of the surge, period.” (Photograph by Sam Doran/SHNS.)

Hours after Gov. Charlie Baker cautioned against drawing conclusions from a five-day drop in new confirmed COVID-19 cases, that streak came to an end with the Department of Public Health’s report of 1,745 new cases Wednesday—up from 1,556 on Tuesday.

In Haverhill, however, Mayor James J. Fiorentini was optimistic. He said a Holy Family Hospital official relayed to him that the local peak may be over, noting admissions, including at the intensive care unit, have declined four days in a row.

“They are running well behind the peak of a week or so ago. They believe we are over the hump!” the mayor said in his daily report. He also noted the city had 11 new cases reported, bringing the city’s total to 338, and two more deaths for a total of seven.

Statewide, the number of deaths newly reported Wednesday, 221, is the highest of any single day of the pandemic, bringing the state’s fatality count to 2,182. Fifty-five percent of those deaths were in long-term care facilities.

Baker, in his daily briefing, said hospitalization rates are the “piece of data we watch most closely.” As of Wednesday, 9 percent of the 42,944 confirmed COVID-19 patients were hospitalized.

With schools to remain shuttered for the rest of the academic year, Baker and Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders on Wednesday announced a new stipend, under a federally approved pilot program, for families to buy healthy foods while their students are unable to access free or reduced-price school lunches.

In a separate effort also aimed at helping struggling families, the Senate Ways and Means Committee began moving a bill that would ban the Department of Transitional Assistance from denying family or individual assistance under a pair of programs because “countable resources” exceed allowable limits.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston reported 17 percent of homeowners with mortgages and 35 percent of renters with cash rent are at risk of falling behind on their payments amid the economic turmoil brought on by the pandemic and related public health measures. Despite another month of rising sale prices in March, the housing market faces an uncertain future.

As policymakers begin talking about what will likely be a highly regulated economic reopening on the other side of the COVID-19 surge, an independent policy research group is recommending roughly a doubling in current testing as one criterion to be met before the state is ready. The Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women put forward its own slate of recommendations for additional steps the state should take in its virus response, including measures around mental health, economic impacts, and access to care.

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