BOSTON (SHNS) – Additional restrictions on businesses will remain in place for at least two weeks longer than originally planned, and a single-day record in the number of new COVID-19 cases reflects deepening worry about the state’s public health outlook.
Gov. Charlie Baker announced Thursday that the post-holiday capacity reductions and smaller allowable gatherings will now last through Jan. 24, while hospitals will be given flexibility to redeploy nurses as they cope with rising numbers of emergency patients.
Available hospital capacity continues to dwindle, sitting at about 11 percent of non-ICU beds statewide on Thursday, while cases have not slowed. The 7,136 newly confirmed cases are a single-day record for Massachusetts during the pandemic, though they came from enough tests to push the average positive test rate down slightly.
Summing up the worsening conditions, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh warned that in the two days since he similarly extended business restrictions, COVID metrics have gone “in the wrong direction.”
Through Tuesday, Massachusetts public health officials have administered more than 141,000 vaccine doses in the early stages of rolling immunization out to medical personnel and long-term care residents and staff.
Sen. Julian Cyr, a Truro Democrat who has criticized the state’s testing infrastructure on several occasions, said Thursday that he has no frustrations with the current vaccination efforts, noting that experts are working “as best as they can.”
- Schools Report 431 New Cases: Massachusetts public schools reported a total of 431 new cases of COVID-19 among students and staff with building access during the period from Dec. 24 through Jan. 6, a period that includes many schools’ winter breaks. Some schools have also opted to return from break in a remote learning mode out of concerns about post-holiday spread. The weekly report from the Department of Elementary and Secondary logged 178 cases among students who are participating in hybrid or in-person learning and had been in a school building within seven days before report of the positive case, and 253 cases among staff. Marshfield had the highest number of student cases, with nine, followed by eight each in Hudson and Melrose. The most staff cases were Worcester’s 12, followed by Arlington’s 10.
- Single-Day Record 7,136 New Cases: Massachusetts public health officials on Thursday reported the highest one-day total of newly confirmed COVID-19 infections since the pandemic began, though the rolling average positive test rate declined slightly. The 7,136 cases in Thursday’s update lagged only the number of new infections in Dec. 26 and Jan. 2 daily reports — 7,424 and 8,542, respectively — both of which covered two days of data because they immediately followed holidays when reports were not published. While new cases have skyrocketed in Massachusetts in recent months, far more tests are being performed than during the first surge in the spring, and the DPH counted 108,412 new tests in Thursday’s report. The seven-day average percent positivity rate dropped from 8.25 percent on Wednesday to 7.83 percent on Thursday. With 71 more fatalities among those with confirmed COVID-19 cases, the cumulative death toll in Massachusetts increased to 12,634 on Thursday, or 12,909 when counting those who died with probable infections. Thirty fewer patients in Massachusetts hospitals had COVID-19 Thursday as a day earlier, but the state’s health infrastructure remains enormously strained, and only about 11 percent of all non-ICU beds were available in Thursday’s report.
- 1,213 Fully Vaccinated in Mass.: A total of 141,108 doses of COVID-19 vaccines had been administered in Massachusetts as of Tuesday, according to the state’s latest vaccine data update. That’s a 14 percent increase over the previous week, according to the report, and includes the first 1,213 second doses issued in the state, to people who are now fully vaccinated. Of the total doses administered, 111,983 were in hospital settings and 16,283 were in long-term care through a federal pharmacy partnership. The state has so far received a cumulative 328,000 doses, including 140,400 Pfizer vaccines and 187,600 Moderna vaccines.
- Healey Issues Tenant Advisory as Eviction Cases Mount: Citing an increase in eviction cases, Attorney General Maura Healey on Thursday issued a tenant rights advisory to help ensure that people at risk of losing their homes are aware of their rights and ways to access assistance. “Families across the state are continuing to suffer financial hardship from this pandemic and we want to ensure those who may be at risk of losing their homes know their rights,” Healey said. “If you’ve received an eviction notice, you do not have to move out immediately and you are entitled to a court hearing. This advisory helps tenants and landlords understand the resources available to them, including financial and legal assistance.” Healey’s office noted that she had called on Gov. Charlie Baker in October to extend the state’s eviction moratorium; Baker opted against extending it and instead launched and funded an eviction diversion program. There were more than 4,000 eviction cases filed between Nov. 2 and Dec. 14, Healey’s office said.
- Connecticut Confirms Two COVID Variant Cases: Public health officials in Connecticut have confirmed that the first two cases of the COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7 have been detected in the state, Gov. Ned Lamont announced Thursday. One individual has completed their self-isolation period, and the other is self-isolating at their home and will remain there until they are 10 days past the onset of symptoms and they are symptom free, officials said. Officials said it is the same variant initially discovered in the United Kingdom. The two individuals are between the ages of 15 and 25 and both reside in New Haven County. Both recently traveled outside Connecticut – one to Ireland and the other to New York State – and both developed symptoms within three to four days of their return, according to Lamont’s office. “The U.K. variant is widely assumed to be more highly transmissible than other strains of the virus,” Connecticut Public Health Acting Commissioner Dr. Deidre Gifford said. “However, our current vaccines should be effective against this strain, and we continue to urge everyone who is currently eligible to get the vaccine to do so. Not everyone who tests positive will know whether they have this particular strain of the virus, so it is imperative for people to continue to follow all the public health guidance – continue to wear masks, social distance, and avoid gatherings with anyone outside your household. And if you test positive for COVID-19, you must isolate and take all precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.”
- Walsh Says He’ll Get Vaccine But Wait His Turn: Boston Mayor Martin Walsh on Thursday said he plans to receive the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to him but is not interest in getting the shot before that point. “I honestly feel that, you know, my doctor will probably yell at me for saying this but I’m not going to jump the line,” Walsh said, using language similar to what Gov. Charlie Baker has said about his own intents for vaccination. “I shouldn’t jump the line.” Walsh, 53, said he wants to receive the vaccine but doesn’t want “to take a vaccination away from somebody who is entitled to it before me.” –