Massachusetts field hospital scheduled to open Sunday

A 220-bed field hospital at a sports and convention center in Worcester is scheduled to open Sunday, and the state is already working on establishing a second to care for an expected torrent of coronavirus patients, Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday.

“Field hospitals play a critical role in our preparedness strategy that helps us alleviate pressure on the health care system generally, and enable hospitals to focus on non-COVID patients,” the Republican governor said after touring the field hospital set up at the DCU Center in Worcester and run by UMass Memorial Health Care.

Baker also said there are plans to establish a field hospital in Lowell.


Marylou Sudders, the state Secretary of Health and Human Services, said the state is also looking into the possibility of another field hospital in the southeastern part of the state.

The visit to Worcester came a day after the state reported 4,613 new cases of the coronavirus, the highest single-day total since the pandemic began, with nearly 1,300 patients in the hospital.

“Obviously the numbers that were reported yesterday indicate that we have community transmission across the Commonwealth,” Baker said.

There is some concern about staffing the field hospitals, and Sudders implored health care professionals to come forward.

“If you have the skills, the ability, the can-do attitude, and have time to work in a hospital, we need you,” she said. “Now is the time to step up, serve your neighbors, your community, your loved ones in the Commonwealth.”

In addition to all the medical equipment and amenities its needs to care for patients, the Worcester facility also has some features aimed at helping patients dealing with the isolation they often feel because family can’t visit, including common areas and exercise bicycles, said Dr. Eric Dickson, president of UMass Memorial Health Care.

The DCU Center also hosted a field hospital in the spring, and Dickson said he hopes this is the last time it’s needed.

“We don’t want this to be the second surge, we want this to be the final surge, and it will only be the final surge if everyone follows the rules every day,” he said.

Baker said he sees light at the end of the tunnel. The state is on track to receive 300,000 doses of a coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year.

“I do want to close by pointing out there is some reason for optimism given all the news we’ve been hearing about vaccines over the past few days, but there is still much work ahead to stop the spread of COVID from infecting more people here in Massachusetts.”

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BU HOCKEY

Boston University has suspended men’s hockey program activities and canceled its season opener against UConn scheduled for this weekend after someone closely associated with the program tested positive for the coronavirus.

The positive test came from a member of the team’s Tier 1 personnel, which includes players, coaches, managers and support staff, the school said in a statement on its website.

Those people are tested three times a week in accordance with NCAA, Hockey East and university protocols.

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NANTUCKET SURGE

An upsurge in new confirmed coronavirus cases on Nantucket has brought a plea from leadership at the island’s hospital for residents to protect themselves and prompted community schools to shift to remote learning.

Nantucket Cottage Hospital reported 46 new confirmed cases of the virus on Monday and Tuesday, “by far the largest number of new cases we have reported over a two-day span,” hospital President and CEO Gary Shaw said in a statement Wednesday.

A total of 81 new cases have been identified over the past week, and the seven-day positivity rate for the island is now at 7.6%, he said.

“This represents a significant spike in transmission of the virus on Nantucket, and we must take this situation extremely seriously,” he said.

Shaw urged residents on the resort island to cooperate with public health officials and contact tracers and to quarantine themselves if they have been exposed.

Nantucket Public Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Hallett said island schools will switch to remote learning for the rest of the week, and all sports events and school-related activities have been cancelled for the week.

Nantucket has about 11,000 year-round residents, according to the town’s website.

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