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Coronavirus tracker: Statewide update for Tuesday

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Gov. Charlie Baker may amend or update a week-old executive order on Tuesday that originally required all non-essential businesses to close through April 7 as the state prepares for at least several more weeks of the new normal during the coronavirus crisis.

The White House on Sunday extended guidelines for Americans to maintain social distancing through April 30. A day later, Baker forecast that the start of the virus's peak in Massachusetts is at least a week away and could hit between April 7 and April 17.

Effects from the extended shutdowns and from the enormous strain on the health care system continue to spiral out. A policy research group estimated Tuesday that state leaders could see a "dramatic collapse" of tax revenue between $1.8 billion and $3 billion over the next 15 months, while lottery sales are plummeting.

Schools are closed through at least May 4, and a group of Boston city councilors argued Tuesday that the dramatic conditions should delay state intervention into the city's schools.

Total COVID-19 cases in the Bay State surpassed 5,000 on Monday afternoon, up to 5,752 as the death toll rose to 56.

Eleven residents of the Holyoke Soldiers' Home died recently, including at least five who were confirmed to have the coronavirus, prompting state officials to announce a leadership change Monday night.

Testing capacity often cited by Baker as a key component of the response has increased significantly. On Monday, the Department of Public Health reported 42,793 patients had been tested, more than four times as many as a week earlier. 

Crisis Drives Down Gas Prices: Gasoline prices in Massachusetts are down to $2.09 per gallon on average Tuesday, with 40 percent of stations selling self-serve gas for less than $2 per gallon, AAA Northeast announced in a press release. Prices have been dropping during the coronavirus pandemic with fewer drivers on the road, a global economic slowdown and what AAA described as a crude oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia.

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"AAA expects gas prices to keep dropping as cheap crude combines with the realities of people are staying home and less demand for gas," said Mary Maguire, AAA Northeast Director of Public and Legislative Affairs, in a press release.

The national average gas price was $1.99 per gallon on Tuesday, the first time in four years it dipped below $2. Meanwhile, the average crude oil price hit its lowest level since 2002 at $20 per barrel, according to AAA. 

MassFiscal: Shutdown Extension Warrants Tax Relief: A think tank argued Tuesday that Massachusetts leaders need to prioritize relief for small businesses if they extend a shutdown order set to expire on April 7.

Hours ahead of Gov. Charlie Baker's daily press conference where he hinted he will update an executive order closing non-essential workplaces, the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance said lawmakers and the administration "must demonstrate they have skin in the game and immediately offer temporary tax and regulatory relief for those businesses still hanging on."

"Any effort by our state leaders to extend the emergency order must come with a clear plan for these businesses, their employees, and families," MassFiscal spokesman Paul Craney said in a statement. "It is a scary time for all of us, but the small business owners are fighting a two-front war. Stay healthy and stay in business. Any extension must include temporary measures to show that they are not abandoned."

Warren Calls for Greater State, Local Funding: After fighting for greater oversight of a $500 billion corporate loan and aid fund in the latest federal coronavirus relief package, Sen. Elizabeth Warren called Monday for the money instead to be directed to state and local governments.

Warren told WGBH's "Boston Public Radio" that she wrote to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin earlier that day to direct that funding first to non-federal government agencies, which are set to receive a separate $150 billion under the new law, that are facing budget shortfalls. "Right now, Massachusetts has already said we're going to be about $3 billion short in our budget," Warren said, noting that revenues would be delayed by a postponed tax filing deadline. "That's at the same time that we're out here trying to buy masks and respirators and keep employees working, so my view is: I want to fight for that money to be spent for our state and local governments. They need it and they will help both the health of the American people and the American economy the most if they're the ones that get the money first."

Baker Daily Update Coming at 2 p.m.: The Baker administration will give its daily coronavirus response briefing at 2 p.m. Tuesday, officials announced Tuesday morning. Gov. Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders will address reporters in the State House's Gardner Auditorium and livestream the event. At the end of Monday's press conference, Baker said he would make an announcement Tuesday about extending an executive order closing non-essential businesses and speak "a little later this week" about efforts to trace contacts of those who contract COVID-19.


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