Michael P. Norton and Katie Lannan
Amid the slow and long rollout of vaccines, COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to rise, with holiday travel and the arrival in the U.S. of an even more contagious strain of the virus expected to lead to even more transmission and increased stress on hospitals.
By the end of next week, Gov. Charlie Baker will need to make the call on whether to extend or even further tighten restrictions on business capacity levels and gathering limits that went into effect Dec. 26 and which the governor said would last at least two weeks.
Some of the health care workers who were among the first to receive the first dose of the vaccine could receive their second dose next week. Health care workers performing direct care or COVID-facing care were among the first to receive the vaccine and efforts have ramped up among the second group – residents and staff of long-term care facilities. First responders are next, followed by those in congregate care settings like shelters and correctional facilities, home-based health care workers, and then health care workers doing non-COVID-facing care.
The first phase of vaccinations is expected to run through February. More information is expected next week on the state’s plans for first-responder vaccinations. On Monday, the second field hospital in Lowell is set to open, joining the existing one in Worcester, and the Department of Public Health plans to transition its daily COVID-19 data reports into an interactive dashboard.