JUNE 8 -- One week from Tuesday, the COVID-19 state of emergency that Gov. Charlie Baker declared on March 10, 2020 will terminate.
When that emergency declaration was first signed, there were 91 "presumed positive" cases of COVID-19 in Massachusetts, and more than 114,000 confirmed cases worldwide.
There have now been a total of 662,343 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Massachusetts, including the 100 newly announced Tuesday by the Department of Public Health. The department also reported two recent deaths among people with confirmed cases of the coronavirus, bringing the total fatality count here to 17,554, or 17,917 when deaths of people with probable cases are counted. The state's seven-day positive test rate stands at 0.52 percent, and 173 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized, the DPH said.
Looking ahead past June 15, the Senate Ways and Means Committee has sketched out which pandemic policy adaptations it believes are worth keeping in place a while longer, releasing legislation that would temporarily extend allowances for remote public meetings, mail-in voting, to-go cocktails, and many other measures.
Senators have until 1 p.m. Wednesday to file their amendments, ahead of a debate scheduled for Thursday. Meanwhile, a bill that aims to make up for pandemic-related data delays by allowing the Legislature to redraw state and federal political districts before cities and town adjust their local precincts -- an order-of-operations swap opposed by Secretary of State William Galvin -- was moving in the Election Laws Committee Tuesday afternoon after a Monday hearing.
On Wednesday, Massachusetts will take another step towards post-emergency life, with the state's Public Health Council slated to vote on a request to rescind regulations around the use of masks and face coverings in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It's Dr. Monica Bharel's last meeting as public health commissioner before she plans to leave the Baker administration on June 18. - Katie Lannan
COVID-19 Committee Hearing From Western Mass. Stakeholders: Lawmakers on the Joint Committee on COVID-19 and Emergency Preparedness and Management plan to hear Friday about the virus from western Massachusetts officials aligned with Health and Medical Coordinating Coalition (HMCC) Geographic Region 1. "The Joint Committee, in addition to conducting oversight and capturing the lessons learned during the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 response, seeks to better understand the Commonwealth’s pandemic preparedness status, capacities and capabilities, pre-pandemic and moving forward," the committee said Tuesday. The committee is co-chaired by Rep. Bill Driscoll Jr. and Sen. Jo Comerford. The hearing will be livestreamed, by the state Legislature, which has embraced livestreamed meetings during the pandemic, opening up government to more people who are able to view proceedings without traveling to the State House in Boston. - Michael P. Norton 4:44 PM Tue
$3.2M Awarded Through Vaccine Equity Initiative: Seven community-based organizations, community health centers and behavioral health centers have been awarded a combined $2.2 million as part of the state's ongoing Vaccine Equity Administration, the Department of Public Health announced Tuesday. The money, which the DPH said is intended to "support vaccine navigation services and customized vaccine administration" will go to SSTAR Family Healthcare Center, North Shore Community Health Center, Boston Health Care for the Homeless, Latino Health Insurance Program, Caring Community Health Center, Community Health Connections and Holyoke Health Center. The funds, the department said, will help link people to COVID-19 vaccination services and directly administer the shots to groups not served by other outreach efforts, including populations at substance use disorder treatment facilities, places of worship, homeless encampments, food pantries, LGBTQ+ community programs, shelters and immigrant assistance centers. In partnership with the DPH, Health Resources in Action is administering another $1 million in funding to 23 organizations to support vaccine education and awareness efforts addressing the needs of communities of color in the 20 cities and towns prioritized by the equity initiative. Those organizations are: African Community Center of Lowell, Asian American Civic Association, Asociacion Ministerial Evangelica Del Area de Lawrence, Autism Sprinter, Black Ministerial Alliance of Greater Boston, Black Springfield COVID-19 Coalition, Brockton Workers Alliance, Building Audacity, Catholic Social Services of Fall River, Chelsea Black Community, Disability Policy Consortium & Boston Center for Independent Living, Greater Framingham Community Church, Immigrants Assistance Center, JAHAN Women and Youth Intercultural, Justice 4 Housing, Lawrence Community Works, Massachusetts Council of Churches, Pioneer Valley Project, Randolph Community Partnership, Sociedad Latina, Southeast Asian Coalition of Central Massachusetts, Spanish American Center and YWCA Southeastern Massachusetts. - Katie Lannan 4:07 PM Tue
Final Shots Outpacing Vaccination Starts: The number of fully vaccinated people in Massachusetts climbed by 21,704 on Monday, accounting for the great majority of the 29,351 vaccine doses that providers reported to the Department of Public Health. The agency reported Tuesday that 3,871,151 people here are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, meaning they have received either both doses of the Moderna or Pfizer shots, or the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Since December, Massachusetts providers have administered 8,144,935 vaccine doses or about 87 percent of the 9,368,570 doses supplied by the federal government. Gov. Baker has said he expects to hit his administration's goal of vaccinating at least 4.1 million residents by mid-June. -- Colin A. Young 4:03 PM Tue
Joints for Jabs: People who get vaccinated against COVID-19 can generally return to doing the things they frequently did before the pandemic, like gathering with family members or friends and going mask-less for a day of shopping. But in Washington, adults who get vaccinated against the coronavirus can also get a free pre-rolled joint from some of the state's marijuana retailers. The Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board announced Monday that it had approved "a temporary allowance to state licensed cannabis retailers to provide one joint to adult consumers who receive a vaccination at an in-store vaccination clinic" through July 12. Pot shops can only give out free joints, no gratis edibles or flower allowed. The promotion applies only to people who are 21 or older who get their first or second vaccine dose at a clinic run at one of the state's cannabis shops. Washington's LCB already allowed restaurants and bars to offer one free cocktail, beer or wine to people who get vaccinated by June 30. In Washington, 57.8 percent of the population has gotten at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, according to the Mayo Clinic. -- Colin A. Young 3:44 PM Tue
Google Tracks Travel Trends: As high temperatures spur people to think of summer travel, would-be tourists who Google potential destinations in Massachusetts will find state travel trends embedded in their search results page. Along with advice and advisories for travel during COVID-19, Google is posting weekly numbers showing the number of flights arriving at a destination compared to last year, and the percentage of available hotels, calculating by dividing the number of hotels that are "open and bookable" by the total number in the destination. In Massachusetts, according to the search engine, 58 percent of flights are operating and 76 percent of hotels have availability. - Katie Lannan 9:36 AM Tue