BOSTON (AP) — After thousands of demonstrators took to the streets across Massachusetts following the killing of George Floyd, public health officials worried the mass protests could give the coronavirus a chance to spread.
On Tuesday, Gov. Charlie Baker said about 2.5% of those who were checked last week at dozens of pop-up facilities opened for demonstrators have tested positive for the virus.
The test rate was in line with what the state has been experiencing in general, Baker said at a press conference. About 17,600 were tested at the facilities.
Baker said many of the protesters took steps to help lower the possibility of spreading the virus.
“We’re obviously pleased to see that the percentage of positive tests was quite low considering the frequency and the size of those protests and demonstrations,” he said.
“Vast majorities of the folks who participated in those demonstrations were wearing masks or face coverings of one kind or another. In many cases they were moving, which I think made a big difference, and of course they all took place outside, which we all agree is a far safer environment than indoors,” Baker added.
Floyd, who was Black, died last month after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee on his neck as he pleaded for air, prompting protests across the country.
In general, officials say, Massachusetts is continuing to make progress in its efforts to curb against the coronavirus.
There has been a 74% drop in the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 in the state since April 15, Baker said Tuesday.
The 7-day average for positive cases of COVID-19 is also down to about 1.8% — a 93% drop since April 15.
VIRUS BY THE NUMBERS
State health officials on Tuesday reported that the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 ticked up slightly to 953 compared to the 920 reported on Monday.
The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care rose by a single patient — from 180 on Monday to 181 on Tuesday. The number of patients requiring intubation also ticked up from 107 on Monday to 112 on Tuesday.
The state reported 16 new deaths, bringing the total number of COVID-19 related deaths to 7,890 since the start of the pandemic.
There were 229 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, bringing the total number in Massachusetts since the pandemic’s start to more than 107,400.
The number of probable and confirmed COVID-19 deaths at long-term care homes rose to 4,970, or nearly 63% of all deaths in Massachusetts attributed to the disease.
This year's Massachusetts sales tax-free weekend scheduled for Aug. 29-30 is a chance to support local businesses struggling because of the coronavirus pandemic, Baker said in a statement Tuesday.
“This pandemic has created enormous challenges for the Commonwealth’s small businesses, and the sales tax-free weekend is one way that we can encourage more economic activity to help Main Street businesses and local economies,” the Republican governor said.
Baker signed legislation in 2018 to make the annual sales tax holiday permanent.
Under the law, items of up to $2,500 purchased within the state are exempt from the state's 6.25% sales tax.
Motor vehicles, meals, tobacco and marijuana products, and alcoholic beverages are among the items that do not qualify for the tax exemption.