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Baker eyes teacher vaccinations by mid-March, depending on doses

UPDATED, March 1: Gov. Charlie Baker said Friday the teachers could start getting vaccinated by mid-March, but the plan is "supply dependent," YourArlington partner Patch has reported.

Covid-19 imageThe governor's remarks came as he visited a pooled-testing program at a middle school in Newburyport, Boston 25 reported

Widespread vaccinations for teachers and school staff has been a sticking point in the fight over resuming in-person learning. The Massachusetts Teachers Association has advocated for the state to add teachers to the priority group receiving vaccines in the first few phases of the roll-out.

Some medical experts are raising questions about reopening the state further on Monday, March 1, here is what is expected for most of Massachusetts (Boston and Somerville are delaying lifting some restrictions until later in the month), Patch reports.

Baker gets earful from lawmakers, looks ahead to reopening sports stadium

Gov. Baker said Thursday, Feb. 25, that the state on Monday will move to Phase Three, Step Two of its economic reopening amid the Covid-19 pandemic, allowing indoor performance venues and indoor recreational activities to reopen and capacity limits across all sectors will increase to 50 percent.

The state will then move to the next step March 22, "as long as the public health data continues to get better,” permitting large arenas, such as Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium, to welcome fans in person at 12-percent capacity, Patch, a YourArlington partner, reported.

Meanwhile, the public continued to report long wait times to schedule incolulations along with some improvement from a state website, Patch reported.

State lawmakers harshly criticized Baker over the state’s handling of the Covid-19 vaccine rollout during a virtual oversight hearing Feb. 25, grilling the governor in sometimes contentious exchanges over frustrations with the state’s troubled website used to book vaccination appointments and Baker’s handling of the snags.

Education chief: Reopen Mass. elementary schools

Patch reported Feb. 23 that schools across the state could be required to send elementary students back to schools in person full-time as soon as April, according to a new Massachusetts Department of Secondary and Elementary Education plan.

"It continues to be vital to get as many students back in school as possible, preferably before the end of the year," DESE Commissioner Jeff Riley said Tuesday. Read the full report >> The Massachusetts Teachers Association has objected, Patch reports >>

Patch also reports the latest list of sources for getting the Covid-19 vaccine.

People 65 and older and those with at least two health concerns that make them more susceptible to serious Covid-19 complications were eligible for vaccinations beginning Feb. 18, reported Patch, but the state vaccine web site crashed that, frustrating the hopes of many, BostonGlobe.com reported. Gov. Baker is due to come before the Legislature on Feb. 25 to explain what happened.

Another frustration: Local health boards were told Feb. 18 that vaccine supply from the U.S. government remains "extremely constrained." The result for Arlington’s vaccination efforts will be limited to homebound individuals, directing residents to mass vaccination clinics. For now, no new vaccination clinics will be scheduled, but second-dose clinics will be conducted.

Feb. 26 town update

The Feb. 26 Arlington update shows that Covid-19 cases rose to 1,570 -- or 290 higher than Jan. 18 and 533 more than on Dec. 31. Deaths remained unchanged, at 81. 

See daily counts going back to March here, under cumulative cases) >> See all numbers by clicking on View more tables >>  Here's an explanation about how to read these numbers >> The age breakdown of cases reported through Feb. 26:

19 and under20-2930-3940-4950-5960-6970-7980 and overTotal cases
235 245 236 192 246 158 122 136   1,570

View Massachusetts case numbers here >> 

Some downs -- and ups

Arlington’s Health Department, along with its regional partners in Belmont and Lexington will support the state’s efforts and will continue to stand ready to conduct vaccination clinics if, and when, the state requests to do so. Read the full release from the state >>

Despite being hobbled by website crashes and system errors, 60,000 vaccination appointments were booked Thursday, BostonGlobe.com reported Feb. 19, and there were no more openings available at Fenway, Foxborough, Danvers, Natick, Dartmouth and Springfield, state officials said.

On Friday morning, people who visited the vaxfinder.mass.gov website and checked the box to show all vaccine locations “with known availability” came up with nothing but a message saying “no locations match this criteria.”

Meanwhile, some good news Feb. 19, Patch reports. Coronavirus vaccination appointments will continue as scheduled after the state received its shipment of doses from the federal government, a supply that was not thought to arrive until next week.

There were serious concerns that providers have to cancel appointments due to lack of supply. The just-in-the-nick-of-time delivery of 135,025 doses of the vaccine will avoid that calamity.

To make the Covid-19 vaccine more accessible to residents 75 and older, the Baker administration began allowing anyone who accompanies an eligible senior to one of the state's mass vaccination sites to receive a shot themselves, reported Patch, a YourArlington partner

Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said the new accommodation for trusted family, friends, neighbors or caregivers to get vaccinated along with vulnerable seniors came after consultation with councils on aging and other advocates for older adults.  Universal Hub, among others, reports a "black market" has arisen from this news.

 All the mass vaccination sites are handicap accessible, but large locations can be unfamiliar and intimidating to some, and allowing trusted companions to also get vaccinated is an effort to encourage more seniors to get the vaccine. Massachusetts has four mass vaccination sites open at Gillette Stadium, Fenway Park, the Eastfield Mall in Springfield and the DoubleTree Hotel in Danvers. The Reggie Lewis Center in Roxbury is open to Boston residents and being operated by the city, but will soon transition to a state-run mass vaccination site.

Sudders said that Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday, Feb. 10, will also announce new mass vaccination sites planned for the Natick Mall and the former Circuit City in Dartmouth.

Nearly two in five Massachusetts residents over the age of 75 have not received the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, delaying the state's efforts to begin vaccinating other groups under its three-phase vaccination plan, Patch also reported Feb. 10. 

In a Massachusetts Municipal Association conference call with state health and local government officials, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said about 200,000, or 61.7 percent, of the state's 324,000 residents over the age of 75 have received the first of two doses of the vaccine. The effort has been slowed by an online sign-up process confusing to many older residents. Last Friday, the state set up a phone line for people to schedule vaccination appointments

"We've got a little more work to do with our over 75s before we can open up to 65-plus and people with medical conditions," Polito said. "Then we're looking at the public workforce."

Boston call center opens, Patch reports Feb. 5 >> | Town health chief frustrated >>

Town positivity rates stabilize, but remin high: According to the Mass. Department of Public Health dashboard, Arlington’s weekly Covi-19 positivity rate last week decreased slightly, to 2.14 percent, from 2.55 percent.

Vaccinations are starting to be administered, but it will be months before all get shots. Town public health officials continue to urge compliance to all safety protocols and to avoid nonhousehold gatherings to reduce the spread of the virus. 

Feb. 8 capacity restrictions rise from 25% to 40%: Effective Monday, Feb. 8, at 5 a.m., those businesses and other sectors in Massachusetts currently limited to 25-percent capacity following an across the board capacity reduction on Dec. 26, 2020, will be permitted to increase to a 40-percent capacity limit. Businesses and activities affected by the adjustment include:

  • Arcades and Recreational Businesses
  • Driving and Flight Schools
  • Gyms/Health Clubs
  • Libraries
  • Museums
  • Retail
  • Offices
  • Places of Worship
  • Lodging (common areas)
  • Golf (indoor areas)
  • Movie Theaters (no more than 50 people per theater)

In addition, restaurants and close contact personal services will now be allowed to operate at a 40-percent capacity limit, which reflects an increase from the 25-capacity limit imposed in December. As under the current 25-percent limit, workers and staff will not count toward the occupancy count for restaurants and close contact personal services.

The Commonwealth remains in Phase 3, Step 1 of the Baker-Polito administration’s reopening plan. Phase 3, Step 2 businesses, including indoor performance venues and indoor recreation businesses like roller rinks and trampoline parks, remain closed.   

No change to gathering limits: The current gathering limits, in place since Dec. 26, are being extended. Indoor gatherings and events will remain limited to 10 people. Outdoor gatherings and events will remain limited to 25 people. The gathering limits apply equally to private homes, event venues, and other public spaces.

On Jan. 25, Gov. Baker said that people aged 75 and over will be eligible to get the Covid-19 vaccine starting Feb. 1, with signups beginning Jan. 27, and that there are to be 165 vaccination sites statewide by mid-February.

Patch reports Jan. 28 how the state is addressing the issues >> Baker promises call center, Globe reports >>

On Jan. 21, Gov. Baker announced he lifting a stay-at-home advisory and early business closings. More on Patch >>  

Added clinics planned: Arlington’s Health Department is anticipating the expansion of their ability to vaccinate additional priority groups in Phases 1 and 2. In anticipation of expanding their efforts, they have created a form in which Arlington residents can provide their information to be alerted if, and when, a vaccination clinic is available for their priority group. Submission of your information does not guarantee placement nor does it bound you to get vaccinated by the Health Department. It is only a mechanism to alert priority groups of possible Health Department run vaccination clinics. Depending on the priority group, it may be weeks before you hear from us. Please be patient. Submit your information.

A window in Arlington tells the story in April 2020. / Marjorie Howard photoA window at Sunrise in March 2020. / Marjorie Howard Accounting for some deaths: The Boston Globe has reported that Ellen McDonald, a guardian to Norma Ricci, 92, said her friend’s assisted-living residence, Sunrise of Arlington, told her April 1 that a nurse who worked on Ricci’s floor had been infected. A week later, McDonald was told Ricci was rushed to Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, with no mention of coronavirus.

The next day, Mount Auburn called to say Ricci had Covid-19. McDonald donned full protective garb to visit her friend on Easter. Ricci died April 15, according to a DeVito Funeral Home notice, which lacks an obituary. 

McDonald told the Globe that Sunrise nurses told her many residents were coughing and some staffers had stopped coming to work, without official word from management. In a statement, Sunrise Senior Living told The Globe that nine residents of its Arlington facility have died and 25 have tested positive. The statement said Sunrise has regularly updated residents and families by phone and e-mail. It quoted a regional vice president, Thomas Kessler, as saying, “Communication has always been a source of pride at Sunrise of Arlington.”

9th local death identified

Among the Covid-19 deaths so far reported among town residents since early March, YourArlington has identified an ninth from obituaries. A listing at Boston.com shows  Helen T. Metros died Dec. 12 from the virus in Pittsfield.

8th local death identified

Among the Covid-19 deaths so far reported among town residents since early March, YourArlington has identified an eighth from obituaries. A listing at Boston.com shows Vincent A. Aliberti died July 12 from the virus.

6th, 7th local deaths identified

Among the Covid-19 deaths so far reported among town residents, YourArlington has identified a sixth and seventh from obituaries. Listings at Boston.com show that Joan M. Mockel and Danile F. Morrison recently succumbed to the virus.

5th local death identified

Among the 19 Covid-19 deaths so far reported among town residents, YourArlington has identified a fifth, Vincie Teresa DeRose (Militello), as reported by the Gloucester Times. 

The fourth was Alfred "Fred" Iannacone. YourArlington reported a third death, occurring April 14 at Sunrise Assisted Living. A source confirmed the virus victim was Theodore S. Wayne. Since the end of March, two others have died in town from coronavirus: A Globe death notice identifies the first as James K. Power on March 30. A second death here was reported March 31, without details. 

Town issues "Wear A Face Covering in Public" advisory; continue to heed state’s stay-at-home advisory. Only run essential errands.
In addition to the current Stay at Home advisory by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, starting immediately, the Town of Arlington is issuing a townwide advisory that all residents wear a face covering when in public.

This advisory applies to anyone age 2 or older when in any public indoor or outdoor space. Indoor public spaces include stores and common areas in multi-unit homes. Outdoor areas include sidewalks, parks, trails, and the bike path. All persons including joggers and cyclists must comply.

This ongoing town statement continues: "We continue to believe this number may provide a false sense of security to residents as numbers in the region and across the state increase at a rapid rate. Public health officials remind all residents, regardless of age, to stay at home and away from anyone who does not live in your house, including relatives. If you have to go out to conduct a necessary errand, like grocery shopping, picking up medication, or checking in on a neighbor who may need assistance, it is crucial you practice social distancing and keep 6 feet away from others."

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance information: The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program is now accepting applications; this program provides up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits to individuals who are unable to work because of a Covid-19 related reason, but are not eligible for regular or extended unemployment benefits. This includes the self-employed, independent contractors, workers with limited work history, and others. Individuals can review eligibility scenarios here and apply for PUA here.

Nursing Home Family Resource Line: The state has launched a dedicated hotline that will connect family members of nursing home and rest home residents with information and resources they seek. Created so that family and community members have one central contact that they can reach out to if they have questions or concerns about the care their loved one is receiving during the Covid-19 outbreak. The line is staffed from 9 AM – 5 PM, seven days a week. Staff will coordinate across state agencies to help callers find answers to their questions. Families and community members can call the line at (617) 660-5399.

CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings when in public: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies). Wearing a cloth face covering is not a substitute for social distancing, but an extra measure while you are running essential errands to minimize the spread of the virus. The CDC provides instructions on how to make your own cloth face covering.

For the national picture, see this U.S. map showing numbers from all counties >>

The town is also accepting donations of cloth face coverings, to local seniors, as well as PPE equipment for first responders and healthcare professionals.

List of businesses currently open in Arlington: The listings will be updated at least once daily. Please contact businesses directly before placing and order or going to their establishment to confirm that they are open, as the information on this list is subject to change.  See the list here >>

Additional resources for businesses and nonprofits may be found on the Business & Nonprofit Resourcepage. but should not comngregate in groups. 


Tracking Covid-19 via Johns Hopkins site


Jan. 1 through 31, 2021: Town Covid-19 tracking
Dec. 1 through 30, 2020: Town Covid-19 tracking

Feb. 28-March 6, 2020: Coronavirus risk remains low in town, health office says in 2nd update


This news announcement was published Monday, Feb. 1, 2021, and updated through March 1. The orginal copy was written by Joan Roman, town webmaster, with editing and additions by Bob Sprague. Patch reports were included.

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