MAY 26 -- Massachusetts surpassed yet another major milestone in its path through the pandemic: as of Wednesday, just more than half of the state's entire population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Department of Public Health's count of full vaccinations climbed to 3,520,075, just more than 50 percent of the 2020 Census population count of 7,029,917. The percentage of eligible residents who are vaccinated is even higher, since vaccines were only available to those 16 and older for much of the rollout and just weeks ago became available to those aged 12 to 15.

While vaccinations continue, the state's overall COVID-19 outlook has been steadily improving for weeks.

DPH reported 382 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday from 54,978 tests. The department's estimate of active cases across Massachusetts fell to 8,416, setting a new record low for the 14th straight day.

Another seven residents died from COVID-19, DPH said, bringing the cumulative toll to 17,841 when counting those with probable but not test-confirmed cases. The number of patients hospitalized for the virus rose to 264, an increase of 16 from Tuesday's report. - Chris Lisinski

Full Vaccinations Surpass 3.5 Million: More than 3.5 million Massachusetts residents are officially fully vaccinated as of Wednesday, according to the latest data from the Department of Public Health. DPH's latest daily report counted 3,520,075 people in the Bay State who have received both doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine or the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, an increase of 37,415 over Tuesday's report. The state also crossed the 4.1 million mark for individuals who have received at least one dose of a Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, with that total now standing at 4,114,888. Massachusetts has administered 85 percent of the more than 8.9 million vaccine doses it has received from the federal government since the rollout began. - Chris Lisinski 4:13 PM Wed

Archdiocese Holding Special Collections for India, Brazil: Calling the scope of the COVID-19 crisis in India and Brazil "enormous," the Archdiocese of Boston plans to hold special collection efforts in May and June to support relief efforts in those countries. Cardinal Sean O'Malley announced Wednesday that he has authorized an emergency special collection to be taken the weekends of May 29-30 or June 5-6 in all parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston. "Given our own experience in the United States with regards to the pandemic and the important role the Church has in being able to respond to global events, we have an opportunity to assist relief efforts in India and Brazil," O'Malley said in a statement. Through Catholic Relief Services, the Catholic Church is on the ground in both countries "working to support local hospitals and programs which are being overwhelmed and which have reached a breaking point." The church said that in India more than 27 million cases have been reported with deaths surpassing 310,000, while in Brazil cases have surpassed 16 million and 450,000 deaths have been reported. Parishioners attending church in-person may donate by checks to their parish, with “India and Brazil Relief” in the memo. A portal has also been set up for online donations. - Michael P. Norton 12:16 PM Wed

Janey Backs Long-Term Outdoor Dining: On the heels of Gov. Charlie Baker's proposal to extend outdoor dining allowances initially put in place as a pandemic response, Boston Mayor Kim Janey said her administration will work to make expanded outdoor dining a long-term staple in her city. "This has been a lifeline for our restaurants and we certainly welcome any support from the state that will allow us here in Boston to continue outdoor dining experience -- not just for the restaurants as a lifeline for them, but we have also seen that our residents enjoy this experience," she said Tuesday at City Hall. Many practices that have become common during the COVID era are set to expire soon after Baker lifts the state of emergency, putting pressure on Beacon Hill to intervene and retain measures that in some cases are widely popular. The bill Baker filed Tuesday would empower municipalities to extend special outdoor dining permits through Nov. 29. Without action, those permits expire 60 days after the state of emergency ends, which would force many restaurants to reshape their operations in mid-August. "We will do everything to keep this going, not just this year but I think this is something from COVID and our relief to restaurants and business owners that we would want to see continue long-term and so we will certainly work toward that goal," Janey said Tuesday. -- Colin A. Young 9:39 AM Wed

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