Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday announced a timeline for all Bay State residents to get their COVID-19 vaccines.
Starting on Monday, March 22, individuals 60 and older will be eligible, along with individuals who work with the public. People who work in transit, grocery stores, utilities, food and agriculture, sanitation, and public works, and public health workers, become eligible to sign up on Monday.
The next group eligible, beginning April 5, will be individuals over the age of 55 and individuals with one chronic medical condition.
The general public, age 16 and older, becomes eligible on April 19, according to the plan announced by Baker. (Probably just a coincidence that it comes on Patriots Day, or the remembrance of the “shot heard round the world” at Lexington and Concord.)
During his remarks, Baker said while individuals become eligible on those dates, when those appointments are for will depend on the federal supply. “It will take time, obviously, for the vaccine to arrive here in Massachusetts, and for everyone in these groups to get appointments and get vaccinated,” he said.
In the next day, Baker said, the commonwealth will eclipse 1 million people getting a first dose of the vaccine.
According to the governor, the state is getting more vaccines from the federal government, which allows for the vaccines to be opened up to new groups. “We are getting through this. We can only move as fast as the manufacturers produce vaccines, and thankfully production is picking up,” Baker said.
Baker reminded people that the virus is still out there, and encouraged the public to continue to practice social distancing, wear face coverings, and to get tested for COVID-19 if they’ve had contact with someone who has the virus.
“COVID is still with us, and will be for the foreseeable future,” he said. “We can’t let our guard down, and we certainly shouldn’t do so when we’re so close to the finish line.”
The goal is to get everyone who wants to be vaccinated a shot, he said. “I’m not going to relax until we’re a lot further down the road,” Baker said.
“We are encouraged by the governor’s announcement this morning about reaching this stage of the vaccine rollout,” Claire Sequin, chief nurse and chief operating officer at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, told The Times in an email. “At MVH, we have been preparing for this next phase. We have added staffing, a tented annex for increased capacity, and we have a well-tested process. It is our understanding and hope that the supply will catch up with the demand in the days and weeks ahead. Once that happens, we will ramp up quickly and accordingly.”
In answer to a question about people coming from off-Island to get the vaccine at the hospital, Sequin wrote that it’s hard to know how often that’s happening. “I can confirm that we have had some,” she said.
Meanwhile, on the Island the number of COVID-19 cases is back to its pre-October lows. The Island over the past three weeks has averaged just one new positive result per day. One person was hospitalized earlier in the week with the virus, according to the hospital website, but Sequin said on Wednesday that the patient has now been discharged in good condition.
Last Thursday, the hospital issued its first doses of the vaccine to Martha’s Vineyard school personnel.
More than 250 public school employees were vaccinated against COVID-19 at the hospital clinic. The clinic was the first of two expected to vaccinate the bulk of the employees for the public schools against the virus.
“The vaccine clinic went very well last evening,” Marissa Lefebvre wrote in an email. “In total, 257 public school staff members were vaccinated.”
While getting teachers vaccinated has been a bone of contention between the governor and teachers union off-Island, the hospital and schools have cooperated on-Island.
The hospital continues to open up its portal for vaccines on Saturday mornings at 8 am and on Mondays at 5 pm.
On Wednesday, the Island boards of health reported two new confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital and one probable case. There have been 945 confirmed cases through testing, and 58 probable cases since the pandemic began a year ago. Maura Valley, Tisbury’s health agent and the spokesperson for the Island boards, wrote in an email Tuesday that the COVID-19 reports will be done on a weekly basis after this week. The weekly reports will be issued on Mondays, she wrote.
The hospital has now administered 14,708 tests, with 669 positive results. There have been 13,999 negative tests and there are 32 results pending.
Meanwhile, TestMV, which is located in the parking lot at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, has now administered 34,972 tests, with 260 positive results, 34,203 negative results, and 509 tests pending.
The town of Aquinnah has conducted 442 tests, of which one has come back positive, 441 negative, with no pending results.
The Martha’s Vineyard public schools have administered 6,976 tests. Of those, four have tested positive. The public school data is updated once a week on Mondays, and for the second week in a row there were no new cases in the schools.
The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) has reported a total of seven positive cases of COVID-19.
Due to how tests are conducted, there can be a discrepancy between the number of positive individuals and the number of positive tests reported.
Meanwhile, vaccinations continue on the Island. On Thursday, 250 school employees received doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. The hospital has now administered more than 8,000 doses of the vaccine, with nearly 70 percent of them first doses.
At the state level, there were 1,018 new confirmed cases Tuesday. The state estimates there are 26,492 active cases, and the state’s seven-day average of percent positivity is at 1.86 percent. There were also 16 deaths Tuesday, for a total of 16,355 since March 2020.
Updated with today’s numbers from the Island.