COVID-19 deaths pass 10,000 mark in Massachusetts

BOSTON — Imagine a town with no people. Where the soccer fields stay empty, the mail goes undelivered, no one cares to play the lottery or get their hair done.

If all the people who died of COVID-19 in Massachusetts came from Southborough, that’s almost what it would be like.

“It’s really sad and kind of shocking to think that would be Southborough,” said one resident, on learning the number dead of Covid in the state crossed the 10,000 mark Thursday, about the same population as her community.

“It’s sad and it’s really overwhelming that so many people are affected by Covid today,” added resident Ernie Sachs.

Cases of Covid in Massachusetts and elsewhere are rising sharply. But the pace of deaths has slowed significantly since spring -- when it wasn’t uncommon for overwhelmed hospitals to report more than a hundred deaths daily.

Little wonder it took just a bit longer than seven weeks -- from March 20 to May 11 -- to go from the first Covid-19 death in Massachusetts to the 5,000th, according to data from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

The second 5,000, by contrast, edged up over the next six months.

“Our ability to identify cases is dramatically better than it was back then,” said Governor Charlie Baker.

Also helping: better medical knowledge of the effects of Covid-19 and how best to treat it. Once thought to be nothing more than a respiratory virus, doctors learned the coronavirus affected the cardiovascular system in some patients, the kidneys in others. They also learned how quickly patients could deteriorate, with some going from a seemingly normal, conscious state to death within hours.

In spring, Massachusetts ranked near the top when it came to total coronavirus cases and deaths. Since then, the state has dropped to 22nd in number of cases. But the death rate remains stubbornly high, largely because of the statistical damage inflicted by the thousands who died in spring. Only New Jersey and New York have higher death rates per 100,000 people among the U.S. states.

Of course, Covid-19 did not wipe out entire towns. It took away pieces of many of them.

In Worcester, nearly 400 have died. In Marlborough, the virus killed 72. In Southborough, so far, only one person has died of Covid-19. That happened late last June.

Some fear, though, that person won’t be the last.

“I think a lot of people individually don’t know someone that died,” said Francesco Siniscalchi. “But when you put it all (in terms of) the size of Southborough. It kind of puts it in perspective a little more.”

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