BOSTON (AP) — The Easter and Passover holidays were accompanied Sunday by more relaxed restrictions on houses of worship and gatherings in New England, along with worries about the spread of COVID-19.
Many houses of worship required congregants to RSVP for a limited number of in-person service seats. Others held outdoor ceremonies. And, as has been the case throughout the pandemic, many had online services through Zoom, Facebook or YouTube.
Bishop Thomas Brown of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine said the Easter holiday felt different from last year. People now have a better understanding of the pandemic — and they see light at the end of the tunnel as more people get vaccinated.
"We are feeling the truth of raising new life. Last year at this time, it felt like a huge blanket of grief,” Brown told the Portland Press Herald.
Rabbi Andrew Vogel of Temple Sinai in Brookline, Massachusetts, said there's a confluence of hope surrounding the Jewish Passover, which ends Sunday evening, and the Christian celebration of Easter, also Sunday.
Passover and Easter “are still full of hope. Especially now that we’re turning the corner,” he told the Boston Globe.
Elsewhere around the region:
The University of Connecticut has put five dorms under quarantine after an outbreak of COVID-19 that officials say may be related to several large, off-campus parties last weekend.
Thirty-five positive cases had been identified on campus in the two days leading up to Friday, the Hartford Courant reported. Residents at the five dorms are able to receive meals at designated dining halls but aren't allowed to attend in-person classes or events.
Officials said the quarantine likely will last until the end of this week, when students are scheduled to leave for spring break and learn remotely the rest of the semester.
Recently, state data has showed Connecticut’s recent uptick in COVID-19 cases has been concentrated in residents under 40.
Maine employers are pondering when workers can return to offices as access to COVID-19 vaccines increases, with all Mainers over the age of 16 scheduled to be eligible by Wednesday.
It will have been more than a year by the time many offices reopen, and there are many legal and ethical considerations, including the question of mandating or incentivizing vaccinations.
“We’re kind of in a treading-water mode where people are asking questions but haven’t made any plans,” Dr. Dora Anne Mills, chief health improvement officer at MaineHealth, told the Portland Press Herald.
The number of people getting vaccinated in Massachusetts set a daily record over the weekend, approaching 100,000.
The daily vaccination report on Saturday showed 97,690 doses were administered across the state, officials said. So far, 1.45 million people are fully vaccinated in Massachusetts.
The state is expanding eligibility for the vaccine on Monday, when those 55 and older will be able to get vaccinated in addition to people who suffer from health conditions that put them at greater risk for COVID-19.
A federal appeals court will hear arguments Monday whether the New Hampshire House can continue to hold in-person sessions without providing remote access to medically vulnerable lawmakers.
Seven Democratic lawmakers sued Republican House Speaker Sherm Packard in February arguing that holding in-person sessions without a remote option during the coronavirus pandemic violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and the state and federal constitutions, and forces them to either risk their lives or abandon their duties as elected officials.
A U.S. District Court judge in Concord ruled that the speaker can’t be sued for enforcing House rules, prompting an appeal to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, which will hold oral arguments Monday.
Since the start of the pandemic, the 400-member House has met several times at the University of New Hampshire ice arena, outside on a UNH athletic field, and — after former Speaker Dick Hinch died of COVID-19 — from their cars in a parking lot.
They also met at a Bedford sports complex, and have three sessions scheduled for that location this week. ___
A vaccination clinic will be held for veterans and Department of Homeland Security employees at Middlebury College next weekend.
The White River Junction Veterans Affairs Healthcare System will be administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at the college’s athletic complex on Saturday. Veterans and pre-registered DHS employees must make appointments first to get the shot. DHS employees must register with their leadership before making an appointment, officials said.
“Partnerships within our communities across Vermont and New Hampshire are the key components in our vaccination deployment,” said Dr. Becky Rhoads, acting director for White River Junction VA Healthcare System, in a written statement.