APRIL 2 -- The Department of Public Health confirmed 2,160 new cases of COVID-19 and announced 32 recent deaths as the number of people hospitalized and the state's seven-day average positivity rate both inched up Friday.
DPH said there were 705 people hospitalized with COVID-19, an increase of five patients from Thursday's update. With the 2,160 new cases confirmed Friday from 93,214 tests, the seven-day average positive test rate ticked up from 2.49 percent Thursday to 2.55 percent Friday.
Since the pandemic began more than a year ago, the coronavirus has infected 602,792 people and has killed 17,249 people in Massachusetts when counting 341 people who died with likely, but not test-confirmed, cases of COVID-19. DPH estimated Friday that there are 33,424 active cases of the respiratory disease.
As of Friday's vaccine update from DPH, there were 1,409,402 people in Massachusetts who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Baker administration on Friday also announced that more people will now become eligible Monday for a COVID-19 vaccine. The administration adopted the U.S. Centers for Disease Control's updated list of conditions linked to an increased risk of severe COVID-19 illness.
Among those who newly eligible on Monday, in addition to all people 55 and older and people with one previously-listed underlying health condition, will be people who have dementia or other neurological conditions, people who are overweight, and people who have substance use disorder.
In all, more than one million people will become eligible for a vaccine Monday. Though the state is expecting a one-time shipment of 100,000 doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine next week, the Baker administration said it could take weeks for all eligible residents to score an appointment at one of more than 300 vaccination sites, including 269 pharmacies and seven mass vaccination sites.
DPH will not publish its daily COVID-19 data dashboard Sunday due to the Easter holiday and will instead publish two days of data in its Monday report. -- Colin A. Young
CDC: Fully Vaccinated Can Travel in U.S. at Low Risk to Themselves: In a pair of new travel updates, the Centers for Disease Control on Friday said that fully vaccinated people can resume domestic travel and do not need to get tested before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel. Also, fully vaccinated people do not need to get tested before leaving the United States (unless required by the destination) or self-quarantine after arriving back in the United States, the CDC said. "Fully vaccinated travelers are less likely to get and spread SARS-CoV-2 and can now travel at low risk to themselves within the United States," the agency said. "International travelers need to pay close attention to the situation at their international destinations before traveling due to the spread of new variants and because the burden of COVID-19 varies globally. CDC prevention measures continue to apply to all travelers, including those who are vaccinated. All travelers are required to wear a mask on all planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations." - Michael P. Norton 12:24 PM Fri
Four Charged for Alleged Unemployment Scheme: Prosecutors charged four Springfield residents with allegedly stealing more than $77,000 from the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program by filing fraudulent claims using personal information of prison inmates, Attorney General Maura Healey announced Friday. A Suffolk County grand jury indicted Darnell Harris, 38, Marie Tavernier, 56, Ebony Harris, 36, and Gregory Harris 39, each on 13 counts of unemployment fraud, 10 counts of larceny over $1,200, three counts of attempted larceny, one count of money laundering, and one count of conspiracy. Healey's office said the scheme originated in Worcester County Jail in May 2020 when Darnell Harris began providing personal identifying information from fellow inmates and others to Tavernier, Ebony Harris and Gregory Harris. The trio then allegedly filed 13 claims for unemployment benefits and received more than $77,000 to which they were not entitled, according to Healey. Prosecutors also allege the defendants used the funds to help post a $100,000 bail for Darnell Harris's release from pretrial detention in Worcester County Jail. All four defendants will be arraigned in Suffolk Superior Court on June 7. - Chris Lisinski 12:24 PM Fri
Voc Schools Can Reopen Restaurants, Salons: Updated guidance from state education officials allows the culinary and cosmetology programs vocational-technical schools to resume serving the public with precautions in place, according to the Massachusetts Association of Vocational Administrators. "By reopening school operated restaurants and salons, students in these programs once again have the opportunity to practice not only the skills they've learned in their industry, but they also get the chance to practice employable skills like service and professionalism. Those are extremely valuable learning moments for young people," MAVA Executive Director Kevin Farr said in a statement. The association said the April 1 guidance requires the schools' culinary programs to follow state guidelines for restaurants and make disinfecting stations available, and encourages them to continue offering online ordering for curbside pickup. Cosmetology programs, which must comply with the state's standards for close-contact personal services, will be able to offer limited services, with protective equipment worn by the students and masks required for patrons. - Katie Lannan 12:11 PM Fri
FDA Authorizes Higher-Dose Vials for Moderna Vaccine: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday updated its emergency use authorization for the Moderna vaccine to allow deployment of more doses per vial, officials announced. One revision clarifies that currently available vials can hold a maximum of 11 doses, while the second authorizes deployment of "an additional multi-dose vial" in which each vial holds as many as 15 doses. The FDA said depending on which syringes and needles are used, the 11-dose vial may only provide enough volume for 10 full doses and the 15-dose vial may only provide enough for 13 doses. "Both of these revisions positively impact the supply of Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine, which will help provide more vaccine doses to communities and allow shots to get into arms more quickly," FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research Director Peter Marks said in a statement. "Ultimately, more vaccines getting to the public in a timely manner should help bring an end to the pandemic more rapidly." Standard doses remain 0.5 mL each, administered one month apart, and the FDA reminded providers that they should not pool any leftover vaccines from the bottom of vials because it does not contain any preservatives. - Chris Lisinski 10:05 AM Fri
Lexington Schools Requiring Double-Masking: Effective Monday, April 5, all students and staff in Lexington Public Schools who are able to do so will be required to wear double-masks to school, according to a March 29 report from Superintendent Dr. Julie Hackett. In her report, Hackett quoted Lexington Board of Health Chair Wendy Heiger-Bernays as saying: "Masking is absolutely critical. It, coupled with ventilation, really are the two pillars of prevention. The CDC is recommending double-masking; BU is recommending double-masking; Dr. Fauci, who is fully vaccinated, is double-masked. I would absolutely support double masking for teachers and students." The superintendent described double-masking as an additional safety precaution to guard against the arrival of more highly transmissible COVID-19 variants during the push for a full-return to in-person learning. - Michael P. Norton 6:06 AM Fri
Virus Cases in Schools Top 1,000 in Weekly Report: Positive COVID-19 cases reported in Massachusetts schools topped the 1,000 mark in a new state report issued ahead of Monday's shift to more in-person schooling. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education on Thursday reported 801 virus cases among students and 244 among staff. The total of 1,045 cases was the highest ever recorded in DESE's weekly reports. DESE reported 910 school cases in its March 25 report, 669 in its March 18 report, and 523 in its March 11 report. As of Monday, April 5, the department is requiring K-5 elementary schools to use a full-time, in-person learning model for instructional hours to count towards structured learning time. The department has granted numerous waivers to permit a temporary extension of the back-to-in-person schooling requirement. - Michael P. Norton 5:52 AM Fri