APRIL 20 -- There were 968 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed Tuesday in Massachusetts, the first day in more than a month with fewer than 1,000 new cases.

The last time the Department of Public Health reported fewer than 1,000 cases was March 8. There were an estimated 27,369 active cases of the virus in Massachusetts then, compared to 33,060 as of Tuesday. In total, the coronavirus has infected 633,675 people in Massachusetts.

The 968 new cases came from 52,478 tests and the state's average positive test rate increased from 2.04 percent to 2.11 percent. The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 increased from 705 to 708 patients as of Tuesday's update from DPH.

The three recent COVID-19 deaths announced by DPH on Tuesday represent the lowest daily announced death toll since Aug. 5, when the agency reported two deaths. COVID-19 has killed 17,484 people in the Bay State.

There are 2,095,808 people in Massachusetts who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus and everyone 16 or older became eligible for a vaccine as of Monday. Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday that the next few weeks should be busy at vaccination sites.

"I fully expect that over the course of the next 20-30 days, we will see a lot of traffic. One of the things that's been clear to us for a while but showed up recently in some of the research that has been done is that people in Massachusetts want to get vaccinated. There's very little hesitancy here. And I hope that translates into a lot of appointments, every day, every week for the next few weeks." -- Colin A. Young

79,000+ Doses Administered: Public health officials reported 79,162 newly administered doses of COVID-19 vaccines on Tuesday, boosting the state's fully vaccinated population to 2,095,808 people and the number of people half-vaccinated to more than 1.2 million. Almost 88 percent of the 5,949,440 doses shipped here by the federal government have gone into arms, the Department of Public Health said. Of those who are fully vaccinated, 1,892,492 people got both doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines and 203,316 other people got immunized with the Johnson & Johnson variety. Since December, Massachusetts has administered 5,209,620 vaccine doses. On Monday, access to the vaccines was opened up to anyone 16 or older who lives, works or studies in Massachusetts. -- Colin A. Young 4:14 PM Tue

Baker: Open Eligibility Went Smoothly: Things went smoothly Monday when access to COVID-19 vaccines was opened up to all people 16 or older and Gov. Charlie Baker said demand for the shots is still very high in Massachusetts. "I think yesterday went quite well. It was what I would describe as just another day, except that at this point in time, everybody in Massachusetts who's 16 and up is eligible to get vaccinated," the governor said. He added, "And I fully expect that over the course of the next 20 to 30 days, we will see a lot of traffic. One of the things that's been clear to us for a while but showed up recently in some of the research that has been done is that people in Massachusetts want to get vaccinated. There's very little hesitancy here. And I hope that translates into a lot of appointments, every day, every week for the next few weeks." Baker said there are 2 million people already fully vaccinated and another 1 million who are half-vaccinated. "Every single day that goes by, somewhere between 40,000 and 50,000 people are going from being first dosed to fully dosed [and] at the same time another 40,000 to 50,000 people are getting their first dose," he said. -- Colin A. Young 3:17 PM Tue

UMass Lowell Plans In-Person, Virtual Commencements: UMass Lowell plans both virtual and in-person commencement festivities this year to recognize its nearly 4,600 members of the class of 2021. Graduates of both master's and bachelor's degree programs will be able to bring two guests with them to a "series of brief, small ceremonies on Thursday, May 13 and Friday, May 14 at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell," where they will walk in, receive their diploma covers and have an official photo taken before departing. An in-person ceremony for graduates receiving doctoral degrees is set for Wednesday, May 12. Through virtual commencement ceremonies, UMass Lowell will recognize Noelle Lambert, a Londonderry, N.H. native and 2019 UMass Lowell graduate, and honorary degree recipients author Deepak Chopra and CNBC/MSNBC contributor Ron Insana. Lambert earned America East All-Rookie team honors in her freshman lacrosse season, and the following summer suffered an injury that resulted in the amputation of her left leg above the knee. She went on to run track and field for the U.S. Paralympic National Team and in 2018 founded The Born to Run Foundation. - Katie Lannan 2:33 PM Tue

Texas Woman Charged for COVID Unemployment Fraud: Federal prosecutors charged a Texas woman with fraudulently applying for unemployment benefits in Massachusetts and carrying out instructions for other fraudulent claims from a former Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance employee, officials announced Monday. Acting U.S. Attorney Nathaniel Mendell's office announced Monday that 36-year-old Donna Wasson of San Antonio was arrested last week and charged in federal court in Boston with one count of wire fraud. Wasson was receiving unemployment benefits through the Texas Workplace Commission when she applied for unemployment aid in Massachusetts, Mendell's office alleged. "In addition, the complaint alleges that Wasson carried out instructions concerning other fraudulent unemployment claims from a former Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) employee, who allegedly submitted unemployment claims under multiple stolen identities and conspired with her husband to fraudulently obtain unemployment benefits to which they were not entitled," Mendell's office said in a press release summarizing the charges. - Chris Lisinski 2:15 PM Tue

High Schoolers Expected Back in Classroom Next Month: Ahead of an April 28 deadline for middle school students to be back in classrooms full-time, 218 middle schools serving about 660,000 students have already returned to fully in-person learning, Education Commissioner Jeff Riley said Tuesday. That number doesn't necessarily reflect how many students are participating in in-person learning -- parents have the option to keep their students remote through the end of this school year. Riley said he anticipates another 391 middle schools, serving about 126,000 students, will be reopened next week. Most elementary schools, except for those that received waivers, had an April 5 deadline to phase out remote learning, and Riley has not yet set a date for when high schools will be required to bring back their students. "I anticipate that high school students will be expected to be in-person at some point next month, but we are in the process of finalizing those details," he told the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. - Katie Lannan 1:52 PM Tue

MassFiscal: End Mask Mandate: With people 16 or older now eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine in Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance said Tuesday that the time has come for Gov. Charlie Baker to remove the state requirement that people cover their faces while outdoors in public to combat the spread of the coronavirus. "Those in our most vulnerable populations who want a vaccine now have that protection and with vaccines available to everyone as of Monday, it's time to start taking steps back to normal," MassFiscal spokesman Paul Craney said. Craney pointed to New Hampshire, where Gov. Chris Sununu last week let a mandate that people wear a mask when in public expire "as fatalities continue to decline, as hospitalizations remain manageable, and as vaccinations continue to increase." When the New Hampshire Republican allowed his mandate to lapse, there were 23 other states around the country without a mask mandate. "We need to encourage people to be rewarded for all their hard work," Craney said. "The vaccines are eligible to everyone, the weather is getting warmer, and now is the time for Governor Baker and Lt. Governor Polito to start to allow people to make their best decisions." Baker said recently that he would follow CDC guidance and wait for more people to be fully vaccinated before easing mask requirements. -- Colin A. Young 12:10 PM Tue

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