BOSTON (AP) — More than 1 million Massachusetts residents have now been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Gov. Charlie Baker announced in a tweet Friday.
The number is a major milestone in the state’s efforts to ramp up vaccinations in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“Massachusetts has now fully vaccinated over 1 million people and continues to be a national leader in vaccine administration,” the Republican tweeted Friday. “Thank you to everyone who has supported this progress!”
The state reported on Thursday that more than 2.7 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Massachusetts, including nearly 1.7 million first doses.
As of Friday, the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll stood at 16,469 since the start of the pandemic, while its confirmed caseload rose to more than 576,000.
The number of newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 increased by nearly 1,900 Friday, while the number of newly confirmed coronavirus deaths rose by 43. There were an estimated 26,000 people with current active cases of COVID-19 in the state.
The true number of cases is likely higher because studies suggest some people can be infected and not feel sick.
There were fewer than 600 people reported hospitalized because of confirmed cases of COVID-19. The average age of those hospitalized was 61.
The number of probable or confirmed COVID-19 deaths reported in long-term care facilities rose to 8,827.
More than 2.8 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Massachusetts, including nearly 1.8 million first doses and 955,000 second doses.
BRISTOL COUNTY VACCINATIONS
Residents of Bristol County in Massachusetts are getting their own regional COVID-19 vaccination program.
The mayors of Taunton, Fall River and Attleboro as well as Somerset's town administrator announced Thursday that the state Department of Public Health has approved of the program that will rotate through several communities.
Each site will be required to be able to deliver at least 750 vaccines per day.
“Having a clinic located within city limits, as well as several clinics in surrounding towns, will make an enormous difference to residents, particularly those who cannot travel far for their vaccines,” Taunton Mayor Shauna O’Connell said in a statement.
Fall River Mayor Paul Coogan and New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell in January expressed concern over the lack of vaccination sites in the southeastern part of the state.
“This regional site is proof of an excellent partnership between several towns and cities, which will result in more vaccines for all of Bristol County,” Coogan said.
Participating cities and towns will finalize their clinic details in the coming weeks, but when the program starts is dependent on vaccine deliveries from the state.
Health officials in Massachusetts are investigating a cluster of COVID-19 cases linked to a youth cheerleading training facility.
There are at least 37 cases connected to the Cheer Sports Sharks in Weymouth, according to the community's health department. The cases are across 14 cities and towns. Nurses are working to complete contact tracing to make sure quarantine and isolation requirements are being met.
The training facility's owner in a statement said they are cooperating with the health department and they have been following safety protocols for the past year, including temperature checks at the door, masks, social distancing, frequent sanitization and a reduction in athletes inside.
“In my 25 years as a cheer coach and cheer gym owner I have never put anything but my athletes health and wellness first," Kel Fichtner's statement said. “Neither I nor any staff member or parent knowingly permitted a known positive COVID case to use our facilities."
PANDEMIC UNEMPLOYMENT BILL
The Massachusetts Senate approved a bill that would ensure all Massachusetts workers have access to paid leave if they are unable to work as a result of a COVID-19 infection or a quarantine order.
The bill, which passed the Senate on Thursday, would also seek to stabilize the state’s Unemployment Insurance trust fund and push back the state’s tax filing deadline this year from April 15 to May 17 to match the new date set by the Internal Revenue Service.
“As we continue to recover from the COVID-19 emergency, these measures will provide stability to our economy, and keep workers safe,” Democratic Senate President Karen Spilka said in a written statement.
The bill would also let workers use the paid time off to receive a COVID-19 vaccine shot or take time to care for a family member unable to work because of COVID-19.
Under the measure, workers would be eligible for up to five days of paid leave, at their regular rate of pay, capped at $850 per week. Employers covered by federal legislation providing for paid leave will have the cost of providing such leave paid for through the federal tax credit.
For all other employers, the bill creates a $75 million fund to reimburse eligible employers for providing their employees with emergency paid sick leave.
The bill would also authorize up to $7 billion in borrowing to replenish the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund and to repay all federal UI loans.
The bill now heads to the Massachusetts House.