People enter a socially distanced line to get their COVID-19 vaccinations at Gillette Stadium, Monday, Feb. 8, 2021, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
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BOSTON (AP) — A new call center launched last week aimed at assisting those 75 years and older has been “very successful” at helping residents sign up for vaccination appointments, Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday.

“A lot of people have called it, and a lot of people got appointments as a result,” Baker said. Many older residents had trouble navigating the state’s vaccine website on their own.

Baker said it’s not time yet to open up vaccination appointments to those 65 and older saying there are 430,000 people over the age of 75 in Massachusetts and only about 200,000 have received their first dose so far.

“I think we’ll probably want to leave it open for a little while longer to see if some more 75-year-old folks sign up,” Baker said.

U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, the Massachusetts Democrat who chairs the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, joined Baker at the Statehouse.

Neal said he expects officials will pass a $1.9 trillion pandemic aid package by mid-March and that his committee “will write $941 billion of that responsibility” this week between Wednesday and Friday.

Neals said the economy is still in rough shape because of the pandemic. He said 19 million Americans are receiving unemployment insurance and 10 million jobs lost during the pandemic have not returned.

He also said lawmakers will make good on promised $2,000 checks by passing $1,400 checks to supplement what was approved in December and that he supports a $3,600 benefit for children under 6 and $3,000 for older children.

“We will not get the economy back up and running until we defeat the virus,” Neal said.



The number of newly confirmed coronavirus deaths rose by 55 on Monday, pushing the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to 14,753 since the start of the pandemic.

The number of newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 increased by nearly 1,300 and its confirmed caseload rose to nearly 518,000.

The true number of cases is likely higher because studies suggest some people can be infected and not feel sick.

There were about 1,400 people reported hospitalized Monday because of confirmed cases of COVID-19, with about 330 in intensive care units.

The average age of those hospitalized was 68. There were an estimated more than 58,000 people with current active cases of COVID-19 in the state.

The number of probable or confirmed COVID-19 deaths reported in long-term care facilities rose to 8,255.



Many Massachusetts businesses are allowed to welcome more customers starting Monday as Gov. Charlie Baker relaxes restrictions meant to control spread of the coronavirus.

Restaurants, gyms, museums, and movie theaters are among the businesses that can increase capacity from 25% to 40%.

The relaxed rules also apply to houses of worship.

The rules were loosened because of the progress made in fighting the pandemic, Baker has said, although he urged continued vigilance.

Health experts have expressed concern about another spike in cases sparked by Super Bowl parties, as well as the rise of more transmissible variants of COVID-19.



The University of Massachusetts Amherst is moving all classes online and requiring students to stay in their residences for at least two weeks in response to a surge in new coronavirus cases.

The university raised its COVID-19 risk level to “high” after nearly 300 students tested positive for the disease over a three-day period last week, Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy said in a statement.

Students who live both on campus and off are required to stay at home except for coronavirus testing, meals and medical reasons, the school said.

“Failure to comply will result in disciplinary action, which may include removal from residence halls and/or suspension," the school said.

The school has also suspended all varsity sports games and practices for two weeks.

“Let this moment be a stark reminder to any of you who may have been cavalier about COVID-19 that your individual behavior has a profound impact on everyone in your community," Subbaswamy said.

The restrictions will only be lifted when public health conditions improve substantially, the school said.