Mass. Confirms 718 New COVID Cases, 5 More Deaths

The seven-day average of positive tests on Tuesday ticked up slightly to 1.60.

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Massachusetts health officials reported 718 more confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and another 5 deaths from COVID-19 on Tuesday.

There have now been 648,967 confirmed cases and a total of 17,293 since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Another 351 deaths are considered probably linked to COVID-19.

The seven-day average of positive tests on Tuesday ticked up slightly to 1.60. Sunday was the first time the figure had dropped below 1.5% since mid October.

Many of Massachusetts' COVID metrics, including the average number of coronavirus cases, average coronavirus test positivity and average number of confirmed deaths reported each day, have been falling since the end of March, according to trends posted to the Department of Public Health's interactive coronavirus dashboard.

The number of patients in Massachusetts hospitals with confirmed COVID-19 cases ticked down on Tuesday to 516. Among those patients, 136 were listed as being in intensive care units and 85 were intubated.

Health officials' projection of active COVID-19 cases decreased again, to 22,248 on Tuesday from 23,676 on Monday.

More than 6.3 million doses of COVID vaccines have been administered in Massachusetts as of Tuesday, including more than 3.6 million first doses and over 2.4 million second doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. More than 211,000 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine administered.

Over 2.6 million people have been fully immunized in the Bay State.

Tuesday's report comes one day after Gov. Charlie Baker announced plans to close four of the state's seven mass vaccination sites by the end of June in favor of a more targeted approach to reach the roughly 30% of the state's eligible population that has not yet received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

The state will instead send more doses to 22 smaller regional sites, expand mobile vaccination efforts, and bring vaccine clinics to senior centers, YMCAs, houses of worship and other community sites, the Republican governor said at a news conference.

While there has been some hesitancy among people who have not yet been vaccinated, more often that not, it's a matter of convenience, Baker said, and he wants to make it as easy as possible to get a shot. The state can change it focus because it is on target to reach its goal of getting more than 4 million people vaccinated by the end of May.

"Now that we believe we are going to hit the 4.1 million goal we started with over the course of the next few weeks, it's time to adapt or vaccination effort to get make sure we get to some of the harder to reach populations,'' he said Monday.

Mass vaccination sites at Gillette Stadium, the Doubletree hotel in Danvers, the Natick Mall and the Hynes Convention Center in Boston will close at the end of June. Baker stressed, however, that there are still plenty of appointments available at all four sites.

Dr. Paul Biddinger, medical director for emergency preparedness at Mass General Brigham, addressed people who may still be wary of a vaccine.

"We now have data from 150 million people who are getting vaccinated, which continues to prove the safety and efficacy of these vaccines," he said. "We now have multiple studies in the scientific literature that demonstrates in the real world that the safety and effectiveness of these vaccines is what we saw in the clinical research trials."

Baker also said he would not mandate vaccines for state employees as Democratic state attorney general and possible gubernatorial candidate Maura Healey have suggested.

NBC10 Boston/The Associated Press
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