Coronavirus

Live updates: The latest on the COVID-19 pandemic in Massachusetts

Here's the latest news on the COVID-19 pandemic in Mass.

RN Alyssa Velotta draws up the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine in Revere oon March 23. Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Last week’s live updates can be found here.

Emerson College puts more restrictions in place as COVID-19 cases rise (April 8)

With an increase in COVID-19 cases, Emerson College has put some additional restrictions in place in an effort to curb the spread.

As of 5 p.m. on Wednesday, the college banned all gatherings and activities, including indoor and outdoor athletics, for the next week. Meals are grab-and-go only, the fitness center has been closed, and all student travel is prohibited, according to an announcement.

In-person learning will continue, however, and students can still go to the library for socially-distanced study, the college said.

Students are only supposed to leave their dorm for going to class, picking up food, outdoor exercise, jobs, COVID-19 testing, and medical care. Social gatherings are not allowed.

“We have a few more weeks before the close of the Spring term, and we encourage everyone to remain vigilant, properly wear your masks when you are in the company of people with whom you do not live, keep physical distance at all times, practice healthy hand hygiene, and continue to follow the testing protocol we have put in place,” college officials said.

Black Boston COVID-19 Coalition alleges unsanitary conditions at Grove Hall CVS vaccination site (April 7)

The Black Boston COVID-19 Coalition is asking city officials to halt vaccinations at the CVS in Grove Hall, alleging the store offered unsanitary and crowded conditions to residents waiting for shots over the weekend, the Boston Globe reports

Louis Elisa, a member of the group’s steering committee, told the newspaper he visited the CVS on Saturday after concerns were raised by neighbors. He said he observed an overflowing trash can and “a crowd of people bunched up together” waiting for their doses of the vaccine, and no one was enforcing social distancing guidelines that were marked throughout the store. After people were directed to a small sitting area to wait for the required 15 minutes after receiving their shots, he said no staff members checked on them or told them when it was safe for them to leave. 

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“I don’t think any of these places should exist without there being monitoring,” Elisa told the Globe. “It can’t be [only] the registration person and the nurse who administers the vaccine; there has to be at least a third person to get people to social distance, to keep them in place, to also check with people who have been … inoculated to make sure that they are all right before they leave the store.”

The coalition said it informed CVS, the Boston Public Health Commission, and the city’s Inspectional Services Department of their concerns about the store. 

A CVS spokesperson told the Globe in a statement that the company had not been contacted and disputed the allegations of the store’s conditions.

“We were not contacted by this organization about any of the concerns they raised, we have not received any such customer complaints about this store, and most importantly we have clear social distancing protocols and signage/markers throughout the store as well as dedicated space for immunizations and post-vaccination observation,” CVS spokesman Michael DeAngelis told the newspaper. 

Read the full report at the Globe.

Dorchester COVID vaccination site gave doses to ineligible patients for 2 days (April 7)

A Dorchester COVID-19 vaccination site administered shots to neighborhood residents who are ineligible to receive the vaccine under state regulations for two days in a row this week, according to WHDH.

The Russell Auditorium site — operated by Boston Medical Center — dolled out the doses on Monday and Tuesday during walk-in sessions with residents, regardless if they were at least 55 years old or have one qualifying medical condition, the news station reports.

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Those who flocked to the clinic only had to prove they lived in Dorchester.

“They just asked if we had mail, ID, that we identify that we live in the Dorchester area, not a co-morbidity group, and they gave us an appointment card and we sat down in the second section with an attendant and they gave us our vaccine,” Dan Gilligan told the outlet.

In a statement, BMC vowed to fix the issue, which it said was an error.

The clinic offers walk-ins as part of its mission to serve communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, according to BMC.

“Appointments are the preferred way to access appointment slots, and all pre-scheduled appointments are honored. In an effort to ensure ease of access to residents of Dorchester and surrounding communities, Russell is also able to honor walk-in vaccination requests on a limited basis,” the statement says. “Residents of these communities who are eligible for the vaccine per state guidelines will be prioritized for same-day availability. All other residents of the community will be assisted in scheduling future appointments.”

Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday he believes the situation was an “honest mistake.”

“I don’t anticipate it will happen again, that they will follow the rules and play by them as everyone else who’s vaccinating people in Massachusetts should,” he said.

Boston launches ‘Hope’ campaign to raise awareness of COVID vaccines (April 6)

A new, multilingual public awareness campaign urging Bostonians to get a COVID-19 vaccine will soon grace everything from billboards and television to social media and print media, acting Mayor Kim Janey announced Tuesday.

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The “Hope” campaign aims to persuade residents to get a shot when they’re eligible, particularly those in communities of color, which have been disproportionately impacted by the health crisis, Janey said during a press conference.

“All across the city of Boston, COVID vaccines are spreading hope: hope that we can hug our loved ones; hope that we can keep our neighborhood safe; hope that businesses can reopen fully, and residents can get back to work, and that our kids can return to school; hope that we can end this pandemic,” she said.

According to officials, the $465,000 campaign, developed by Archipelago Strategies Group, Inc., will be localized to target specific areas of the city. The first phase of the campaign rolled out last week and will continue through June.

Federal funds from the CARES Act covered the cost of the campaign, officials told Boston.com.

“The whole campaign speaks to the resiliency that has gotten us this far. It shows how life can be better if we get vaccinated,” Janey said. “Every dose of the COVID-19 vaccine brings us one step closer to putting the pandemic behind us. Every dose gives us new hope for a brighter day ahead.”

The announcement arrives as Boston continues to see a rise in coronavirus activity. As of March 28 — the last day with complete Boston Public Health Commission data available — the city’s positivity rate hit 5.2 percent, up from 3.6 percent a month earlier and 4.2 percent a week earlier.

Hospitalization rates, however, have remained largely unchanged.

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“We’re grateful that those increases in rates of positivity have not been seen in our hospitalization numbers yet and that’s important, but it’s important we do all that we can,” said Marty Martinez, the city’s chief of health and human services.

According to Martinez, this week, the city is expanding vaccination efforts in partnership with the state to reach more community organizations, Boston Housing Authority residents, and communities of color, including through mobile vaccination clinic initiatives.

As of March 30, approximately 35.7 percent of Boston residents over the age of 16 had received at least one dose and almost 21 percent of residents in that same demographic had received both doses of the two-dose COVID-19 vaccines, Martinez said.

Vaccination site opens at Strand Theater in Boston (April 6)

A new vaccination clinic opened Monday in Boston’s historic Strand Theater in Dorchester. The COVID-19 vaccines are being administered through the Upham’s Corner Health Center, with appointments available to the provider’s “patients, neighbors, and community members.”

The theater has been serving as a COVID-19 testing site. 

“Everyone is excited,” Dr. Paul Geltman, Chief Medical Officer for Upham’s Corner Health Center, told WCVB. “We’re thrilled to be here. Being able to come out to the community like this and expand our capacity really is our way to support this community and get the COVID pandemic in control for them through vaccination.”

According to the station, the Massachusetts National Guard will provide assistance at the site, and the goal is to administer up to 1,700 doses per week at the theater.

Most elementary schools in Mass. have reopened for full-time, in-person learning (April 5)

About 90 percent of Massachusetts elementary schools began offering full-time, in-person learning to students on Monday, as mandated by state officials.

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WHDH reports the decision to bring students back to brick-and-mortar classrooms is based on data that indicates transmission of COVID-19 is low in schools, the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education says.

More educators are also getting vaccinated.

“I think now we’re getting a lot more appointments open, just yesterday I received two texts from two different sites,” Charlestown guidance counselor Josette Teneus told the news station.

But some parents still have reservations about sending their children back to school.

“It’s the hardest decision I’ve probably had to make and I’m not comfortable sending her back because I don’t believe that our schools are equipped,” Shirley Porcena, a Boston parent, told WHDH.

While most elementary schools are reopening, some districts, including in Boston and Worcester, received waivers to delay reopening.

The majority of middle schools are slated to reopen on April 28, while a timeline for high schools is expected to be released by state officials sometime this month.

Stoneham parish cancels masses after COVID-19 outbreak (April 2)

As Christians and Catholics prepare to observe Easter Sunday, a Stoneham church has cancelled all masses through April 10 amid a COVID-19 outbreak in the congregation.

Rev. Mario Orrigo, pastor of St. Patrick Parish on Central Street, released an online statement to his parishioners on Wednesday, stating that “a growing number of parish staff and clergy have tested positive for the coronavirus” despite the church’s efforts to disinfect its common areas.

Orrigo said he contacted the local diocese, bishop, and state Department of Public Health for guidance and determined he had to cancel upcoming masses.

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“I do not make this decision lightly as it comes during the most sacred and meaningful time in the Church’s calendar, Easter,” Orrigo wrote in the statement. “My heart is broken by this news.”

Still, Orrigo wrote he plans to live stream the Holy Triduum services and mass on Easter Sunday, the latter of which will also air on local cable.

He wrote that, despite the disruption, he is struck by how the decision to not host masses “can help so many.”

“As we all know this virus does not discriminate who it infects, but it is especially severe to our aging parishioners, pregnant women, and those with heart, lung, and immune conditions. As a multi-generational congregation, our parish has many who would fall in these categories,” Orrigo wrote. “However, I see this as more than just a way to protect the people within our church family. We extend this care to those who may be coming to our parish for Easter as visitors within our town and neighboring communities, especially as they return home…wherever home may be. I must protect both those in our HOME and in our neighborHOOD.”

North Adams college moves online for remainder of semester (April 2)

A North Adams college is sending students home for the semester early and moving to all-remote learning in response to a surge of COVID-19 cases on campus.

The Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts announced Thursday that it would move classes online starting Monday and close dorms for the semester April 11, The Berkshire Eagle reported.

The state school in North Adams has identified 28 positive cases through campus testing since March 22, school President James Birge said.

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He blamed the rise in cases on social activity in residence halls, particularly the Flagg Townhouse Apartment Complex.

“Through our testing and tracing protocol, we discovered that the spread is limited to the townhouses and some social gathering activity there,” he said. “And it had spread a little to other residence areas. But, through our tracing protocol, we discovered no spread in labs, offices and classrooms.”

The school in March identified a cluster among residents of the Flagg complex and limited students who live there to their residences.

Students found to have held social gatherings in violation of the college’s COVID-19 rules will be held accountable, he said.

College leadership considered a two-week shift to remote learning but decided against it because classes end in about a month anyway.

— Associated Press

Kim Janey advises Boston to be COVID safe during Easter observances (April 1)

Acting Mayor Kim Janey on Thursday advised Boston residents to maintain COVID-19 precautions amid Easter weekend observances.

“As Christians observe Good Friday tomorrow and prepare for Easter Sunday, I want to take a moment to remind everyone that COVID-19 is still with us,” Janey said during a press conference on the city’s coronavirus response efforts. “Have a talk with your family and set expectations for a safe holiday weekend.”

Christians observed Maundy Thursday — often referred to as Holy Thursday — marking the Last Supper on Thursday. For the second year, Easter observances will play out amid the backdrop of the global pandemic.

Under state regulations, places of worship are limited to 50 percent of their permitted occupancy or 10 people for every 1,000 square feet of space for buildings without a permitted occupancy on record. Households must be spaced at least six feet apart when attending services and masks are required.

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Boston has recently experienced a slight uptick in its virus positivity rate, which sat at 4.8 percent as of March 25 — the last day completed data was available through the Boston Public Health Commission. A week earlier, on March 18, the rate was 3.9, up from 3.5 on March 11.

Hospitalizations, however, have largely remained stagnant in recent weeks, the data shows.

“While many of us celebrate the good news of Easter this weekend, let’s renew our commitment to keeping our families and communities safe from COVID,” Janey said. “We can all help continue Boston’s recovery, reopening, and renewal. Reopening milestones like opening day at Fenway Park, and outdoor dining in the North End, can only continue if we all do our part to control the spread of COVID.”

Probe into COVID-19 cluster at private club in East Bridgewater faults lack of leadership by town health agent  (April 1)

East Bridgwater released the results Wednesday of an independent investigation into a cluster of COVID-19 cases that emerged at a private club in town in late November and early December, NBC10 Boston reports. At least 55 people became ill with COVID-19 in connection with the outbreak at the Commercial Club. 

“The report found repeated incidences showing a lack of professional competence on the part of the town’s health agent regarding COVID-19 and quarantine enforcement,” attorney Christopher Kenny,  the attorney who conducted the investigation, told the town’s elected officials on Wednesday night, according to the station.

The cluster at the club went from 1 to 24 in four days, and the probe faulted the town’s health agent for being unwilling to shut down the establishment even after cases spiked, and failing to maintain communication protocols for his position.

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 Instead, investigators praised an administrative assistant for alerting the town counsel and elected selectmen about the increase in cases when the health agent expressed not wanting to shut down the club for a 14-day period. The administrative assistant’s actions prevented the club from reopening on Dec. 1, and the establishment ended up staying shuttered until January. 

“While it is impossible to predict how many more positive cases there would have been had the club re-opened at that time, it is fair to say there most likely would have been significantly enhanced cluster amounts based on the large and increasing numbers in such a short time frame coupled with the club’s failure to follow Massachusetts Covid-19 Executive Order and Mandatory Safety Standards,” the report stated. 

NBC10 Boston reports the East Bridgewater Board of Selectmen voted Wednesday to authorize the town’s counsel to take “any action deemed necessary” against the health agent.

Boston schools superintendent: Teens 16 and up should be prioritized for COVID vaccine (March 31)

Boston Public Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius says teenagers ages 16 and older should be among the prioritized groups to receive the coronavirus vaccine.

During a visit from U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona on Tuesday, Cassellius also said schools should host vaccination clinics, The Boston Globe reports.

“High school students are struggling,” Cassellius said. “They’re isolated.” The vaccine “would bring some normalcy to their lives.”

Cardona’s visit came among a multistate listening tour to learn about the challenges schools are facing in the process of reopening. The Biden administration is seeking to have elementary and middle schools fully reopen during the president’s first 100 days in office, according to the Globe.

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Cardona did not respond publicly to Cassellius’ suggestions, but said, “There is no substitute for in-person learning,” the newspaper reports.

“And you’ve shown you can do it,” Cardona said.

As states across the country continue their vaccine rollout and reopening efforts, Pfizer-BioNTech announced Wednesday that its vaccine is safe and highly effective for children ages 12 to 15.

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