Earlier in the day, President Trump approved a disaster declaration for Massachusetts and ordered federal assistance to support recovery efforts here as Governor Charlie Baker urged healthy people to donate blood to address a severe shortage brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
The nation’s blood supply relies heavily on individual donations, which have fallen off dramatically since social distancing restrictions were put into place. Hundreds of drives have been cancelled.
“This really is a way for people to save lives,” Baker said at a news conference held at a Red Cross donation center here. “It’s pretty much as simple as that.”
The disaster declaration makes federal funding available for state and local recovery efforts, crisis counseling for individuals, and emergency protective measures. The Baker administration said the Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse 75 percent of costs incurred by local governments, state agencies, and certain non-profit organizations associated with response and emergency protective measures.
FEMA will also provide funding to the state Department of Mental Health for crisis counseling to help people recovering from the psychological effects of the outbreak through electronic phone and chat technology.
Speaking at a news conference at the American Red Cross Donor Center in Dedham, Baker said one of the main goals of social distancing is to prevent the hospital system from becoming overwhelmed so that people with “solvable and curable medical conditions” can receive the treatment they need, even in a time of intense crisis.
Baker said state officials have spoken with the US Army Corps of Engineers about setting up “alternative treatment facilities” for coronavirus patients. The state has also been working to obtain more protective gear for medical staff, Baker said, but often finds itself in direct competition with the federal government.
“My big concern is that we got a clear message from the federal government and the White House to develop our own supply lines,” he said. “FEMA has made clear to us they understand this is an issue and certainly hope that turns out to be true.”
More than 20 labs are now processing coronavirus tests, Baker said.
On Friday, Baker urged anyone arriving from out-of-state to self-quarantine for two weeks — the latest attempt to curb the spread of a pandemic that has now killed nearly three dozen people here.
The state’s number of confirmed cases of COVID-19, the severe respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus, surged 34 percent to 3,240 on Friday. The 823 new cases represent the largest single-day total to date. The state also announced 10 new deaths, mostly among people in their 80s and 90s.
In Boston, Mayor Martin J. Walsh said Saturday he is considering taking down basketball hoops in city parks to discourage people from playing pickup games, gatherings that have drawn complaints from neighbors.
“We had parks yesterday and today where people were playing basketball,” he said in a CNN interview. “This is a serious issue, and these numbers are going to continue to grow, people are going to continue to get sick, people are going to continue to lose their life. And those people being irresponsible right now, quite honestly, are going to make the spread even worse.”
“Our playgrounds are closed, but if we have to take more advanced measures, more drastic measures, we’re going to have to do that,” he added. “We’re doing it to keep people safe.”
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