People in Mass. Start Getting 2nd Dose of COVID Vaccines; 219 Towns in Red

The rate that doses of COVID-19 vaccine are being administered in Massachusetts is increasing, but the supply of new doses has slowed over the last week

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Over 1,200 people in Massachusetts have received the second dose of the coronavirus vaccine, a new milestone in the state's fight against the pandemic.

The data was revealed in the state's weekly vaccine dashboard, published Thursday. It also showed that over 140,000 doses of the vaccine have been administered overall, and that the pace at which people are getting the doses is increasing.

Also published Thursday -- after it was initially omitted from a report -- was the the town-by-town coronavirus risk data, which classifies communities' risk level on a scale from red, the highest, to grey. There are now 219 communities in the red zone, up from 190 last week. (See the full list of red zone communities below.)

But that data is no longer included in the weekly report, since it's already in the state's new interactive dashboard, released earlier this week.

The vaccine data, from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, was released amid a post-holiday coronavirus surge that prompted Gov. Charlie Baker to extend new statewide restrictions another two weeks.

Hospital workers in Massachusetts and across the U.S. are beginning to receive vaccinations for coronavirus.

See Thursday's weekly vaccine report here and the town-by-town coronavirus data here.

Mass. Vaccine Data

The two coronavirus vaccines approved so far in the country's fight against the pandemic, from Pfizer and Cambridge-based Moderna, both require that people receive two doses spaced out over three or four weeks.

Last week's report said none had been administered, but Thursday's report said that a total of 1,213 second doses of the vaccine have been given out in Massachusetts as of Tuesday, the most recent day included in the report.

A total of 141,108 vaccine doses have been administered overall, with just over 50,000 given out in the last week covered in the report -- 14% more than had been given out the week before.

There have now been 328,000 coronavirus vaccines delivered to Massachusetts, but just 42,950 doses shipped over the last week included in the report. That's a 69% drop from the prior week, indicating that the supply of new vaccines is slowing.

Only 1,950 doses of Pfizer vaccine were delivered to the state in the week covered by the report, a 98% drop from the week before.

Vaccines are the key to getting society back to normal, since they have been found to offer the greatest protection from serious complications in people who are infected with the virus. The widespread distribution of the vaccines will trigger the final phase in Massachusetts' reopening plan, when restrictions will be lifted.

Vaccinations began in Massachusetts two weeks ago. See the Baker administration's plan for rolling out the vaccine here.

Massachusetts COVID Hot Spots

The following 219 communities are in the highest risk level as of Thursday: Abington, Acushnet, Adams, Agawam, Amesbury, Andover, Ashburnham, Ashland, Athol, Attleboro, Auburn, Avon, Ayer, Barnstable, Barre, Belchertown, Bellingham, Berkley, Beverly, Billerica, Blackstone, Bolton, Boston, Bourne, Boxford, Boylston, Braintree, Brewster, Bridgewater, Brockton, Burlington, Canton, Carver, Charlton, Chatham, Chelmsford, Chelsea, Cheshire, Chicopee, Clinton, Cohasset, Danvers, Dartmouth, Dedham, Dennis, Dighton, Douglas, Dracut, Dudley, Duxbury, East Bridgewater, East Brookfield, East Longmeadow, Easthampton, Easton, Everett, Fairhaven, Fall River, Fitchburg, Foxborough, Framingham, Franklin, Freetown, Gardner, Georgetown, Gloucester, Grafton, Granby, Great Barrington, Groveland, Hadley, Halifax, Hamilton, Hampden, Hanover, Hanson, Harwich, Haverhill, Hingham, Holbrook, Holden, Holliston, Holyoke, Hopedale, Hudson, Hull, Ipswich, Kingston, Lakeville, Lancaster, Lawrence, Lee, Leicester, Leominster, Littleton, Longmeadow, Lowell, Ludlow, Lunenburg, Lynn, Lynnfield, Malden, Manchester, Mansfield, Marion, Marlborough, Marshfield, Mashpee, Mattapoisett, Maynard, Medford, Melrose, Merrimac, Methuen, Middleborough, Middleton, Milford, Millbury, Millis, Milton, Monson, Montague, Nahant, Nantucket, New Bedford, Newbury, Norfolk, North Andover, North Attleborough, North Brookfield, North Reading, Northbridge, Norton, Norwell, Norwood, Oak Bluffs, Orange, Orleans, Oxford, Palmer, Paxton, Peabody, Pembroke, Pepperell, Plainville, Plymouth, Quincy, Randolph, Raynham, Reading, Rehoboth, Revere, Rochester, Rockland, Rockport, Rowley, Rutland, Salem, Salisbury, Sandwich, Saugus, Scituate, Seekonk, Shirley, Shrewsbury, Somerset, South Hadley, Southampton, Southborough, Southbridge, Southwick, Spencer, Springfield, Sterling, Stoneham, Stoughton, Stow, Sturbridge, Sutton, Swampscott, Swansea, Taunton, Templeton, Tewksbury, Tisbury, Topsfield, Townsend, Tyngsborough, Upton, Uxbridge, Wakefield, Walpole, Waltham, Ware, Wareham, Warren, Watertown, Wayland, Webster, Wenham, West Boylston, West Bridgewater, West Brookfield, West Springfield, Westfield, Westford, Westminster, Westport, Westwood, Weymouth, Whitman, Wilbraham, Wilmington, Winchendon, Winthrop, Woburn, Worcester, Wrentham and Yarmouth.

This week, the report did not list whether the state as a whole is in the red zone, though 62% of all Massachusetts' 351 communities are in it.

Of those communities in red, 31 are newly in red on the list this week: Adams, Ashland, Barre, Belchertown, Bolton, Bourne, Brewster, Chatham, Cheshire, Duxbury, East Brookfield, Easthampton, Gloucester, Great Barrington, Hampden, Harwich, Hingham, Marion, Maynard, Medford, Nahant, Northbridge, Oak Bluffs, Orleans, Sandwich, Stow, Tisbury, Warren, Watertown, Wayland and Westwood.

And two communities dropped out of red: Brookfield and Dover.

To qualify for the red, high-risk category under the new metrics, communities with populations under 10,000 must have more than 25 cases. For mid-size communities of between 10,000 and 50,000 people, they must have an average of more than 10 cases per 100,000 people and a positive test rate of more than 5%. And for larger communities of greater than 50,000 people, they must have more than 10 cases per 100,000 people and a positive test rate of more than 4%.

Previously, the state used the number of cases detected on average each day over two weeks to determine if Massachusetts' communities are at high risk for coronavirus transmission. The new list factors in population size and positive test rate.

State health officials have identified 18,797 new coronavirus clusters between Nov. 22 and Dec. 19, each accounting for an average of 2.68 COVID-19 cases. That's 2,492 more new clusters than were identified in the previous report, with data from Nov. 15-Dec. 12.

Read this week's full report here, with data on communities' percent positivity, county- and state-level data and more.

The Department of Public Health is no longer including a map of the community-level risk in the weekly report. An official told NBC10 Boston that the map is no longer seen as being as helpful as it once was, now that coronavirus cases are being reported in most communities.

Changes to Massachusetts' Hot Spot Map

At first, Thursday's report said Massachusetts health officials were no longer releasing town-by-town coronavirus metrics on a weekly basis, since they are included in the daily, interactive coronavirus dashboard, visible here under the "city and town" tab. It shows communities' positive test rate and overall testing rate, though not other metrics that were included in the old format.

"Data previously found in this report, including town-by-town cases and testing reporting, can now be found in the daily interactive dashboard," a note in Thursday's pared-down weekly report said.

But a new version of the report was issued later Thursday that brought back the data.

The weekly report has a history of somewhat abrupt changes. The most recent major changes knocked the number of communities in the red zone from 121 to 16 as what was defined a high-risk community changed. Officials said the adjustment brought Massachusetts more in line with risk levels in other states.

However, the numbers grew again as the weeks passed, eventually rising to 190 communities in the red zone before the data switched to the interactive dashboard.

That week's report also dropped the map that displayed the town-by-town coronavirus data. It showed where in the state communities were at high, moderate or low risk of transmission, but officials said it was no longer very informative.

In the weeks before that, officials added information on COVID-19 clusters, both on where major clusters have been identified -- they're listed in the report with an asterisk -- and on trends among clusters.

The color-coded town-by-town data was introduced in August, and the Baker administration announced that the state would focus its strongest COVID-mitigation efforts on towns in the red category. Communities can only move to Step 2 of Phase 3 of Massachusetts' reopening plan, announced in late September, if they are not consistently in the red.

Before the introduction of that data, the standard for measuring hot spots had been the positive COVID test rate over the preceding 14 days. The Department of Public Health's weekly report still includes that information, along with other metrics like how many tests are being conducted locally and how many cases have been reported locally.

Some of Massachusetts' smaller towns had taken issue with having their risk assessed based on cases per capita alone. They said that, when a town only had a few thousand people, an outbreak in just one household could send it into red under the criteria at the time: 8 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents.

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