With slight upticks in positive testing rates linked, in some cases, to larger social events, Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday that his administration is reviewing the state's guidance on gathering sizes, but blamed the behavior of people at some of the parties in question for the clusters of infections that have sprung up.
A large party in Chatham was linked to a cluster of new infections, and Nantucket officials are considering scaling back restaurant hours due to small increases in their infection numbers as people have been gathering on beaches close to one another without masks.
"I think that's one of the things we're talking about," Baker said at a press conference when asked about the state's gathering size limits. "But the bigger issue is not so much the nature of the size of some of these gatherings, especially the private ones that are going on in backyards and place like that. The bigger issue is honestly the behavior generally at those, which is not socially distant, no masks and in some respects a lack of respect for how this virus works and how it moves from person to person."
The state's guidance instructs people to limit indoor gatherings to 25 people, and a maximum of 100 people outdoors depending on the size of the venue. The state's positive test rate is at 2% currently, which is still low, but has been ticking up slightly over the past week or so.
"The reality of COVID-19 is it does not follow any rules," Baker said. "It can spread rapidly if people don't take the appropriate precautions... To all our residents, I can't express this enough -- don't be careless or complacent."
The governor spoke after touring Pfizer's Andover, Massachusetts, facility as the drug maker continues its work on an experimental coronavirus vaccine. A company executive said the company hopes to have the treatment ready by the end of the year.
“We have the potential, subject to technical success and regulatory authorization, to manufacture up to 100 million vaccine doses by the end of this year and up to 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021,” said Meg Ruesch, research and development leader at Pfizer Inc.’s Andover facility.
The vaccine candidate, a collaboration between Pfizer and BioNTech, “introduces into the body the genetic instructions for the cell to make a specific protein — in this case a SARS-CoV-2 protein — which is intended to stumulate an immune response,” she said.
The data on the trials has been encouraging, Ruesch said. She also sought to put to rest concerns that the vaccine process is being rushed.
“We don’t cut any quality corners,” she said.
The Trump administration last week announced that it would pay Pfizer nearly $2 billion for December delivery of 100 million doses of their COVID-19 vaccine under development.
Pfizer earlier this week announced it had started a study of its vaccine candidate in the U.S. and elsewhere. That study aimed to recruit 30,000 people.
“A vaccine or a treatment is critical to breaking the cycle of this insidious virus, and helping us all return to something more like regular normal” Baker said.
State House News Service and the Associated Press contributed to this report.