There is a new end in sight: May 29, which Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday will be the date that Massachusetts lifts COVID-19 restrictions on businesses and updates its current order regarding mask-wearing.
Baker’s announcement comes after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week released new guidance that in most cases fully vaccinated people can gather safely indoors without a mask.
While fully vaccinated people in Massachusetts can do away with masks in most settings beginning May 29, the state will still require face coverings on public and private transportation, in health care facilities, in schools and in congregate care settings, among other situations, Baker said. People who have not been vaccinated will still be asked to wear masks.
Communities “that don't want to go as aggressively or as far as we’re proposing to go,” Baker said, also will have leeway to implement restrictions as they see fit.
Baker had previously set Aug. 1 as the target date for full reopening, and he said the state’s rate of vaccinations — Baker has touted Massachusetts as a national leader in vaccinations, although critics have countered that low-income residents and residents of color have not been given equitable access — helped the state move that date up by more than two months.
Baker also announced that the state of emergency will end June 15, meaning that he will not retain emergency powers after that date.
PFIZER OPTIONS FOR ADOLESCENTS: Less than a week after the federal Food and Drug Administration authorized use of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for people ages 12-15, several pharmacies have said they are now offering the vaccine to those newly eligible.
According to the vaxfinder.mass.gov website, the Pfizer vaccine is available at St. Elizabeth’s of Hungary Parish in North Adams, Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield and W.E.B. Du Bois Middle School in Great Barrington, in addition to several CVS and Walgreens locations throughout the county.
While Walmart and Stop & Shop released statements Monday saying that they were offering the Pfizer vaccine to people 12 and older at select locations, none of the locations in Berkshire County carry the Pfizer vaccine.
Information regarding walk-in and appointment availability can be found at vaxfinder.mass.gov.
BY THE NUMBERS: Berkshire County has seen no new COVID-19 deaths in the past week, with the total remaining at 285 deaths as of Monday, the state Department of Public Health said. Five new confirmed cases reported Monday bring the total case count to 6,490. A week ago, the death total was 285 and the case total was 6,437. A month ago, the death total was 282 and the case total was 6,023.
The DPH said 19 new deaths were reported in Massachusetts, pushing the statewide total to 17,413. Confirmed cases rose 281 to 657,119.
NUMBER OF ACTIVE CASES: 13,827 statewide, compared to 18,441 a week ago.
WESTERN MASS. PICTURE: The case totals (and death counts) in neighboring counties: Franklin, up 2 to 2,549 (113); Hampshire, up 1 to 9,104 (294); Hampden, up 32 to 76,634 (1,507).
HOSPITAL CHECK: Berkshire Medical Center reported caring for one COVID-19 patient; no cases were reported at Fairview Hospital.
Statewide, 336 people are hospitalized. Of those hospitalized, 96 are in ICU and 56 are on ventilators.
WIDER WORLD OF COVID: Global cases top 163,239,850, with 3,382,797 deaths, according to data provided by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. has seen at least 32,964,728 cases and 586,326 deaths.
LEADING INDICATORS: The DPH provides the following statistics as indicators in the fight against coronavirus infection. Monday’s figures:
– Seven-day average of new confirmed cases: 419.0. That is down from 1,579 on Feb. 15.
– Seven-day weighted average of positive test rate: 1.02 percent. That is down from 2.19 percent on Feb. 15.
– Seven-day average of number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals: 385.3. That is down from 1,258 on Feb. 15.
– Seven-day average of COVID-19 deaths: 8.3. That is down from 38.9 on Feb. 15.
JUST THE FAQS: The Berkshire Eagle is regularly updating answers to frequently asked questions about access to the COVID-19 vaccine. Visit the Vax FAQs in the Coronavirus section on the home page at berkshireeagle.com.
COVID-19 WEBSITE AND INFOLINE: For information on vaccines and to schedule an appointment, when you are eligible, visit getvaccinatedberkshires.org.
INFORMATION ON TESTING: “Stop the Spread” testing sites are open at three Berkshire Health Systems locations. Tests will be conducted for any reason, with the state picking up the cost. To schedule a test, call the toll-free hotline, 855-262-5465, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily.
Locations are: Pittsfield, 505 East St., St Luke’s Square, adjacent to BHS Urgent Care Center; North Adams, 98 Church St., next to the city library; Great Barrington: 475 Main St. Tests can also be obtained through CVS by filling out a form online.
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