JUNE 15 – After 462 days, the COVID-19 state of emergency ended Tuesday in Massachusetts with a double-digit increase to the state's total coronavirus caseload, a new vaccine milestone surpassed, and the question of what role pandemic policy adaptations will continue to play still unsettled.
Public health officials reported 55 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, bringing the cumulative caseload since February 2020 to 662,910, and two new deaths from confirmed cases of the respiratory disease. Counting the 363 people who died with probable cases of COVID-19, the pandemic has claimed 17,949 lives in Massachusetts.
The state's seven-day average positivity rate stands at 0.42 percent, according to the Department of Public Health, which said 124 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized and dropped its estimated number of active cases to 2,429.
More than 4 million Bay Staters are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19. To encourage others to get the jab, Gov. Charlie Baker and Treasurer Deborah Goldberg are partnering to launch a "VaxMillions" lottery, a drawing that will offer prize opportunities to fully vaccinated adults and adolescents.
Meanwhile, the House voted 146-14 to pass its version of a bill that would temporarily restore some pandemic-era policies that expired with the emergency's end and extend others that are at risk of lapsing without additional legislative action. As of 5 p.m., the House and Senate had not settled the differences between their bills, but had appointed a conference committee to broker a deal.
"The big challenge will just be the bumpiness in the next couple of days until something actually gets to our desk," Baker said, expressing hope that lawmakers get him a bill in the next few days.
Tuesday is the final day that the News Service will publish a daily version of its Coronavirus Tracker, first launched on March 9, 2020 to keep up with the rapid pace of public health updates, cancellations and other announcements. Regular coverage of the virus and its impacts will continue. - Katie Lannan
96,460 Full Vaccinations Shy of 4.1 Million: Along with marking the end of the COVID-19 state of emergency, Tuesday, June 15 also marks the day that Massachusetts officially passed 4 million full vaccinations. The Department of Public Health's daily report counts 4,003,540 people fully vaccinated against COVID-19, including 3,738,004 who received either a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and 265,536 who got the single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot. A total of 4,325,873 people have gotten at least a first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, an increase of 14,884 over Monday's report. Another 96,460 people need to complete their vaccine regimen to reach the Baker administration's goal of 4.1 million full vaccinations, for which Gov. Charlie Baker had set a mid-month target. Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said last Thursday that it's possible that milestone could be reached this week. - Katie Lannan 4:38 PM Tue
App Alerts to Possible COVID-19 Exposure: Massachusetts has become one of 29 states allowing residents with smartphones to use Bluetooth technology to learn whether they might have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. With the state of emergency in Massachusetts expiring and all remaining public safety restrictions lifted, Gov. Charlie Baker on Tuesday announced the launch of MassNotify, a smartphone service developed with Apple and Google that alert users when they come in close proximity to someone diagnosed with COVID-19. The technology, according to officials, is completely anonymous and does not share location or phone data with the state, Apple or Google. "As we embrace our new normal, MassNotify is a voluntary, free tool to provide additional peace of mind to residents as they return to doing the things they love," Baker said in a statement. Users who enable exposure notifications in the settings of their phone can sign up for MassNotify, and anyone who tests positive with COVID-19 in Massachusetts will now receive instructions on how to anonymously share that test result through the program. When two people using MassNotify are near each other, their phones will exchange randomly generated codes using Bluetooth and if someone is near another person who has shared a positive test result they will receive a notification about possible exposure to COVID-19. MassNotify is compatible with both Apple and Android phones, and more information is available at www.mass.gov/massnotify. - Matt Murphy 4:17 PM Tue
Baker Reflects on "Sacrifices" As Emergency Ends: Reflecting on the state of emergency that came to an end Tuesday, Gov. Charlie Baker praised the sacrifices Bay Staters made over the past 462 days and urged those who still have not done so to get vaccinated. The state of emergency that Baker declared on March 10, 2020 officially lifted at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, which the governor called "another turning point" in the fight against COVID-19. "We've made it through the past 16 months because of the resiliency, kindness, creativity, imagination and commitment that the people of Massachusetts made to themselves and to one another," Baker said. "You buckled down, you followed the public health guidance and the science, and you made tremendously difficult decisions and sacrifices to get us to this point." The virus's impact on Massachusetts has lessened dramatically since the vaccine rollout began in December. New daily cases are down 99 percent from their January peak, Baker said, while hospitalizations are down 93 percent. "The most important point I want to make today is how clear it is at this point based on the experience we've had here in the commonwealth and people have had in so many other places that the vaccines work," Baker said. "They are our way to getting back to normal. It's the best way to protect yourself, your loved ones and your friends. It's safe, it's free and it's easier to get than ever." - Chris Lisinski 3:07 PM Tue
COVID Command Center Comes to an End: The COVID-19 Command Center that the Baker administration stood up in the early days of the public health crisis will disband now that the state of emergency is over, Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday. Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders led the command center since its inception, overseeing its coordinated response to the pandemic. "It's been the strategic source for much of the things we've done as an administration over the course of the past year, from testing to contact tracing to PPE to monitoring hospital surge capacity to standing up field hospitals and isolation and recovery centers to working with our colleagues in congregate and long-term care to vaccine distribution and everything else in between," Baker said. "The command center's had a huge role to play in all of our efforts." In addition to stepping down the command center, Baker announced that his administration convened its final Medical Advisory Board formal meeting last week. Administration officials hosted a barbecue-themed thank you party for COVID-19 response staff on Monday afternoon ahead of the announcement. "We've done it privately, but I want to thank publicly everybody who served as part of that command center and on our Medical Advisory Board," Baker said. "While we're formally transitioning out of the command center, we'll continue to monitor all of the public health data that we've been tracking since this began." - Chris Lisinski 3:03 PM Tue
SHNS Coronavirus Tracker's Future: The state of emergency is officially over in Massachusetts, and the News Service's daily Coronavirus Tracker will evolve with the times. Starting Wednesday, the News Service will no longer send a Coronavirus Tracker at the end of each weekday. Reporters and editors will continue to publish individual items in the tracker as necessary, though likely on a less frequent basis, and we'll send out a package of entries from time to time while incorporating other virus and recovery coverage into our regular daily news flow. Since its first installment on March 9, 2020, the tracker has proven a handy way to quickly move news and information about the virus and crisis management to our readers. We hope it's been as useful to you as it's been for us. - SHNS Staff 2:59 PM Tue
Gloucester Caseload Drops to Zero: Gloucester officials announced Monday afternoon that their city's active COVID-19 caseload dropped to zero on Saturday for the first time since the pandemic began in March 2020, and no new cases had been identified as of Monday morning. "It's a massive relief to know we don't have any active cases today. This is a significant milestone, and I hope this begins a new chapter where we can continue to reopen, rebuild our local economy and live our lives safely," Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken said in a statement. "Thank you to everyone who has worked to stop the spread over the last 18 months and gotten their vaccines thus far-- each one of you has contributed to stopping the spread. If you haven't yet, please go get vaccinated to protect yourself from this dreadful disease." Department of Public Health data from last Thursday, the most recent available, showed that 71 percent of Gloucester residents had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. - Katie Lannan 9:51 AM Tue