Vaccinations began last week for Massachusetts residents 75 and older, and already people are wondering when the next age group will be eligible.
Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday that about 200,000 people have been vaccinated in the last five or six days alone, but he's not ready to move to the next step of the state's vaccination plan yet. He said there are 430,000 people over the age of 75 in Massachusetts.
Seniors who are 75 or older became eligible to receive the vaccine on Feb. 1. as part of the first group of Phase 2.
"When we get to a point where we think we've done a pretty good job with the communities that are currently eligible then we'll move," Baker said. "Part of the reason these communities were early is they're vulnerable and at risk. Especially with the older folks, we need to give them a little room here to get there."
Baker said Monday that he thinks the hotline launch has been "very successful" and resulted in many people being able to schedule appointments.
"A lot of people have called it and a lot of people got appointments as a result. Which is exactly what it was intended to do."
He said his administration is still working on improvements to the state's website to make the process of booking a vaccination appointment less cumbersome and confusing for residents.
Congressman Richard Neal, the Massachusetts Democrat who chairs the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, joined Baker at the Statehouse on Monday.
Neal said he expects officials will pass a $1.9 trillion pandemic aid package by mid-March and that his committee “will write $941 billion of that responsibility” this week between Wednesday and Friday.
Neals said the economy is still in rough shape because of the pandemic. He said 19 million Americans are receiving unemployment insurance and 10 million jobs lost during the pandemic have not returned.
He also said lawmakers will make good on promised $2,000 checks by passing $1,400 checks to supplement what was approved in December and that he supports a $3,600 benefit for children under 6 and $3,000 for older children.
“We will not get the economy back up and running until we defeat the virus,” Neal said.
Massachusetts health officials reported 3,004 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 76 more deaths on Sunday, while also finding that under 3% of tests are returning positive for the first time since November.
There have now been totals of 516,530 confirmed cases and 14,698 deaths in the Bay State, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Another 301 deaths are considered probably linked to COVID-19.
Generally, Massachusetts' coronavirus metrics have been trending down in the past several weeks, according to the Department of Public Health's interactive coronavirus dashboard, with the average number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths peaking in the second week of January. The testing rate peaked Jan. 1. The figures reported daily are important for tracking trends with the virus' spread, though a single-day change may not reflect a larger trend, and may reflect incomplete data.
The percentage of coronavirus tests coming back positive, on average, decreased to 2.96% from 3.11% the previous day. It's the first time that metric was below 3% since Nov. 9, according to the dashboard.
The number of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 has dropped to 1,389. Of that number, 318 were listed as being in intensive care units and 191 were intubated, according to health officials.
The number of estimated active cases rose to 59,162 on Sunday, from 58,768 Saturday.
Citing encouraging trends in the state's coronavirus data, Baker announced last week that he would ease some of the state's business restrictions.
More people can eat at restaurants and work out at gyms in Massachusetts after relaxed restrictions took effect Monday. The new capacity limit of 40% went into effect at 5 a.m. after sitting at 25% since Dec. 26.
The state remains in Phase 3, Step 1 of its reopening plan, which means other restrictions remain in place. Indoor performance venues and indoor recreational businesses are still barred and restaurants must continue with table limitations of parties of six for a maximum of 90 minutes.