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CDC Chief Signs New Eviction Moratorium Order

Michael P. Norton
State House News Service

Citing the emergence of the Delta variant, Centers for Disease Control Director Rochelle Walensky signed a new eviction moratorium order Tuesday that expires on Oct. 3 and applies to tenants in U.S. counties experiencing substantial and high levels of community transmission of COVID-19. The new order comes just days after the federal government’s previous eviction moratorium had expired.

According to the CDC, it issued the new order after determining the evictions of tenants for failure to make rent or housing payments “could be detrimental to public health control measures to slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.” The CDC said the moratorium allows more time for relief to reach renters, and for people to get vaccinated.

“The emergence of the delta variant has led to a rapid acceleration of community transmission in the United States, putting more Americans at increased risk, especially if they are unvaccinated,” Wolensky said in a statement. “This moratorium is the right thing to do to keep people in their homes and out of congregate settings where COVID-19 spreads. It is imperative that public health authorities act quickly to mitigate such an increase of evictions, which could increase the likelihood of new spikes in SARS-CoV-2 transmission. Such mass evictions and the attendant public health consequences would be very difficult to reverse.”




Massachusetts Health Officials Report Death Rate Among Fully Vaccinated Individuals

Chris Lisinski
State House News Service

One hundred of the nearly 4.3 million people fully vaccinated in Massachusetts have died of COVID-19, a rate of 0.002 percent, according to state data on breakthrough cases published Tuesday. The Department of Public Health tracked a cumulative 7,737 confirmed COVID-19 infections among those fully vaccinated in the Bay State as of Saturday, July 31, representing 0.18 percent of the immunized population.

Saturday’s cumulative count reflects an increase of 1,364 breakthrough cases over July 24. That accounts for a bit more than 30 percent of all new cases confirmed in the one-week span. Since the first residents became fully vaccinated in January, DPH has counted 395 immunized residents hospitalized with COVID-19 cases and 100 who died from the virus. Those numbers include 34 new breakthrough hospitalizations and nine additional deaths among those fully vaccinated tracked in the past week.

Overall case numbers have been on the rise in Massachusetts and nationwide for weeks as the more infectious Delta variant spreads, including among those who are fully vaccinated, but health experts have repeatedly stressed that vaccinations reduce the risk of serious injury or death in the rare breakthrough cases. DPH previously released data on breakthrough infections in response to records requests, and on Tuesday it published those figures for the first time as part of the vaccination report it releases every weekday. The department said it plans to continue including updated breakthrough numbers in Tuesday vaccination reports.




Downing Would Reinstate Emergency, Issue Mask Mandate

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Ben Downing is calling on Gov. Charlie Baker to issue a mask mandate that aligns with new federal guidance and believes the governor acted prematurely in ending the state’s COVID-19 state of emergency.

On the heels of updated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations laying out situations in which people who have been vaccinated for COVID-19 should continue wearing masks, the Department of Public Health on Friday issued new guidance advising that vaccinated people who are at higher risk for COVID-19, or who live with an unvaccinated adult or someone who is immunocompromised, mask up when indoors and outside of their own home.

Health and education officials also said they “strongly recommend that all students in kindergarten through grade 6 wear masks when indoors, except students who cannot do so due to medical conditions or behavioral needs,” stopping short of requiring face-coverings for the younger students who are not yet vaccine-eligible.

As of Monday, nine of the state’s 14 counties meet the CDC’s criteria for “substantial” or “high” virus transmission, making them areas where the federal guidance recommends everyone, including vaccinated individuals, wear masks in indoor public settings.

Downing on Monday said the Baker administration’s new guidance “both leaves school district administrators on their own to decide best practice on mask mandates and ignores the CDC’s updated guidance that vaccinated people should return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the country that are experiencing substantial or high COVID-19 transmission.”

“I urge Governor Baker to implement a mask mandate that mirrors the CDC’s updated guidance on COVID-19 transmission rates, affirmatively work with school districts on guidelines for mask mandates across the Commonwealth, and require vaccination of all state employees,” the East Boston Democrat and former state senator said in a statement. “Parents, workers, and families deserve much better than haphazard public health guidance from state leadership on Beacon Hill.”

To make sure the state can adhere to the CDC’s masking guidellines, Downing thinks Baker should issue another state of emergency, according to his campaign.

“Ben believes the Governor prematurely terminated the state of emergency and must declare another order to ensure Massachusetts can follow current CDC guidelines and keep our people safe,” deputy campaign manager Christina Gregg said in a statement to the News Service. “Based on CDC data released on Friday, four Massachusetts counties meet the criteria of a hot spot, while Gateway Cities across the state continue to struggle with high case rates due to early inequities and failures in vaccine distribution. Unlike the hands-off approach of the current Governor, a Downing Administration would work hand-in-hand with local community health partners to ensure they have the resources they need to implement a mask mandate and stay proactive in the wake of new data.”

The state’s mask mandate, in place since May 2020, came down on May 29, 2021 and the Baker administration replaced it with an advisory that unvaccinated people continue covering their noses and mouths in most indoor settings, with everyone required to wear masks in places like hospitals and public transportation.

The state of emergency Baker declared around COVID-19 ended on June 15.

Baker said Friday he is not considering declaring a new state of emergency. Asked that same day if guidance is as far as he is legally able to go without a state of emergency, Baker said, “I guess what I would say in answer to that question is, you know, talk to the lawyers.”

Baker, who has not yet said if he plans to seek a third term, said Friday that the state “is moving forward in this new normal and we’re moving forward safely” and that he expects “cities and towns to make adjustments to do what’s right for their specific school districts.”

He also spoke to the CDC’s choice to base its recommended protections on transmission levels county-by-county.

“What if you work in one county and live in another? What if you decided to go to vacation or out to dinner in one county and live in another?” Baker said in explaining why he opted for a statewide advisory. “And by the way, how is anybody supposed to keep track, given all the stuff that’s going on in their daily life, with a rolling seven-day average in which one of four elements is going to determine, based on whichever one is highest, whether or not a district is substantially at risk or significantly at risk?”

There were 4,366,853 people in Massachusetts fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Monday, according to DPH data. State health officials recorded 844 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, bringing the cumulative caseload to 672,488, with 197 patients hospitalized across the state with the virus.

Downing’s stance is at odds with another former lawmaker running for governor in 2022, Republican Geoff Diehl.

Diehl last week called for Baker to “reject” the CDC’s revised guidance mask guidance.

“The people of Massachusetts are smart and capable of making their own health decisions for themselves and for their families, including whether to get vaccinated or to voluntarily wear a mask,” Diehl said Thursday. “There is no need for government to keep interfering in our lives. Enough is enough.”




Vaccines available this week in New Bedford, with no appointment needed

COVID-19 vaccination clinics are planned for this week and weekend in New Bedford.

No appointment is needed at the walk-up clinics. All New Bedford residents receiving their first dose will receive a $20 Dunkin’ gift card.

This week is Family Vaccine Week, with vaccination clinics at family events throughout the city, including National Night Out, Smooth Sailing Into Kindergarten, and a clinic at Wonder Bowl. The Wonder Bowl clinic on Friday, August 6 from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. also offers free bowling to New Bedford students aged 12 and up who receive their first vaccine dose at the clinic that evening.

Tuesday, August 3:
• National Night Out, Alfred J. Gomes School, 286 S. Second Street – 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Wednesday, August 4:
• Smooth Sailing Into Kindergarten (NBPS), Buttonwood Park Zoo, 425 Hawthorn Street – 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon.

Thursday, August 5:
• Normandin Middle School, 81 Felton Street – 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
• Keith Middle School, 225 Hathaway Boulevard – 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
• Roosevelt Middle School, 119 Frederick Street – 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Friday, August 6:
• Normandin Middle School, 81 Felton Street – 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
• Keith Middle School, 225 Hathaway Boulevard – 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
• Roosevelt Middle School, 119 Frederick Street – 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
• Wonder Bowl, 66 Hathaway Road – 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Saturday, August 7:
• Iglesia Rebaño Casa de Adoracion, 205 Middle Street – 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon
• Normandin Middle School, 81 Felton Street – 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
• Keith Middle School, 225 Hathaway Boulevard – 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
• Roosevelt Middle School, 119 Frederick Street – 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Sunday, August 8:
• Normandin Middle School, 81 Felton Street – 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
• Keith Middle School, 225 Hathaway Boulevard – 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
• Roosevelt Middle School, 119 Frederick Street – 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.




45 COVID cases linked to New Bedford’s “The Vault” entertainment venue, 34 unvaccinated

It’s been a hectic few weeks for New Bedford’s “Greasy Luck.” Two weeks ago we reported a story about a disturbance that broke out at 2:30am after their entertainment venue “The Vault” had closed. 4 people were arrested and charged with a number of offenses, the most serious being Assault and Battery on a Police Officer. This time they are in the news for an altogether different reason.

The New Bedford Health Department has confirmed that 45 COVID cases have been linked to a specific event that The Vault held on July 10th. 34 of these positive cases are from unvaccinated individuals and six of the cases were from individuals who did not attend the event but were in close contact with attendees of the event, bringing the total to 45 cases.

Throughout the pandemic, the establishment has been proactive in trying to curtail the spread of the virus in a number of ways. They routinely disinfect, sanitize, and cleaning the entire establishment, have reduced capacity from 425 people to 200 and posted signs within view that suggest patrons get vaccinated or to wear a mask. In addition, one of The Vault’s owners, Howie Mallowes, has been asking for phone numbers from those visiting the venue to help with contact tracing efforts.

The City of New Bedford Health Department’s official stance is one that matches the most recent CDC’s recommendations and that is to wear masks at large indoor gatherings.

“Residents who are not vaccinated are strongly urged to avoid gathering in unmasked settings and to be vaccinated. This case is illustrative of the effectiveness of the vaccine, as nearly 90% of those infected were not vaccinated to protect themselves against contracting COVID-19.” said.

You can find out more about COVID information as it applies to the City of New Bedford by visiting the Health Department’s official page here.




Acushnet Dept. of Public Health issues mask advisory

“Effective Immediately: The Department of Public Health has issued a new mask ADVISORY in light of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated guidance.

Fully vaccinated individuals are advised to wear a mask or face covering when indoors (and not in your own home) if you have a weakened immune system, or if you are at increased risk for severe disease because of your age or an underlying medical condition, or if someone in your household has a weakened immune system, is at increased risk for severe disease, or is an unvaccinated adult.

Masks are still mandatory for all individuals on public and private transportation systems (including rideshares, livery, taxi, ferries, MBTA, Commuter Rail and transportation stations), in healthcare facilities and in other settings hosting vulnerable populations, such as congregate care settings.




New Bedford Health Department recommends wearing masks at indoor gatherings

Based on the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued earlier this week to slow the spread of COVID-19, the New Bedford Health Department recommends following the CDC’s guidelines for wearing masks at indoor gatherings.

In the Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People, issued on Tuesday, July 27, 2021, the CDC recommended that fully vaccinated people, in addition to unvaccinated people, wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission, which includes most counties in the United States and several counties in Massachusetts, including Bristol County. Those who are immunocompromised or at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, or with members of their household who are immunocompromised, at increased risk for severe illness, or unvaccinated, are also recommended to wear a mask in such settings.

The CDC added a recommendation for fully vaccinated people who have a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 to be tested 3-5 days after exposure, and to wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days or until they receive a negative test result, which the Health Department also advises.
While school is out of session for summer vacation, New Bedford Public Schools is closely monitoring the evolving guidelines on mask use from the CDC and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The district will announce any guidelines before the school year begins.
Vaccinations provide protection against COVID-19, and are available conveniently throughout New Bedford. While the vaccines protect against serious illness and the vast majority of vaccinated individuals are protected from contracting the virus, preliminary evidence suggests that fully vaccinated people can spread the Delta variant of the virus, especially to individuals who are not yet vaccinated.

The New Bedford Health Department also recommends that unvaccinated people avoid all indoor gatherings where people are unmasked. Vaccinations are strongly recommended, as they are the most effective tool to prevent serious illness, hospitalization, and death for those who contract the COVID-19 virus.

“With the emergence of the Delta variant, which is far more contagious than other strains of COVID-19, it is more important than ever to do everything we can to prevent the spread of the virus – starting with getting vaccinated,” said Mayor Jon Mitchell. “Because of high transmission rates in Massachusetts, we are also recommending the wearing of masks indoors where people gather, whether they are vaccinated or not, to stem the spread of COVID. Residents who are not vaccinated should keep their distance from others, especially those who are not masked or vaccinated, and should avoid indoor gatherings.”

Damon Chaplin, Director of Public Health, said, “Over the last few weeks we have seen clusters and cases increase in New Bedford. To protect ourselves, our loved ones and those who are not eligible to receive vaccines, it is important for the community to follow protective recommendations from the CDC, as we continue to monitor the situation closely. Wear a mask indoors, avoid large events and most importantly, get vaccinated. Getting the COVID-19 vaccine is the single most important action you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones.”




Massachusetts’ first VaxMillions Giveaway winners announced

Today, the Baker-Polito Administration, Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg and the Massachusetts State Lottery announced the winners for the first of five drawings for the Massachusetts VaxMillions Giveaway. As part of the giveaway, fully vaccinated residents ages 18 and older are eligible to enter to win one of five, $1 million cash prizes. Residents between 12-17 years of age who are fully vaccinated may enter for the chance to win one of five $300,000 scholarship grants.

The winner of this week’s $1 million prize is Darrell Washington of Weymouth. The winner for the $300,000 college scholarship is Daniela Maldonado of Chelsea.

“Congratulations to Darrell Washington and Daniela Maldonado on winning the first-round drawing for the VaxMillions Giveaway,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Since we launched VaxMillions, over 2.3 million residents have signed up and hundreds of thousands of residents have gotten vaccinated, building on Massachusetts’ nation-leading success in protecting our residents. Massachusetts continues to out-perform virtually every state on vaccinations, and we look forward to the remaining drawings for the VaxMillions campaign as another way to encourage more residents to get vaccinated, in addition to innovative approaches like pop-up clinics and in-home vaccinations.”

“We are excited for these first-round winners of the VaxMillions Giveaway, and look forward to seeing the positive impact these prizes will have on their lives,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “We are grateful that over 4.5 million residents have gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, contributing to our status as a national leader in vaccinations. As the VaxMillion Giveaway continues, our Administration remains committed to using every tool available to us to get more residents vaccinated.”

“Today’s winners are a great reminder of why it’s so important to get vaccinated. They won, but we all win too,” said State Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg. “And remember – they got a shot because they got the shots. So get the vax now and you could join us soon!”

“The Mass Lottery is proud to be a part of this important public health initiative and we extend our thanks to everyone who has registered thus far,” said Michael Sweeney, Executive Director, Massachusetts State Lottery. “We congratulate the first winners and are hopeful that today’s announcement will encourage additional state residents to get vaccinated.”

“I am grateful to Darrell Washington and Daniela Maldonado, as well as the over 4.3 million Massachusetts residents that made the decision to protect themselves, their families and their communities by getting vaccinated,” said Secretary Marylou Sudders, Executive Office of Health and Human Services. “Vaccine acceptance in Massachusetts is among the highest in the nation, and we will continue to make the vaccine more accessible and convenient for every eligible resident across the Commonwealth.”

“Leveraging innovative technology solutions has been a key component to the Baker-Polito Administration’s public health response to the pandemic,” said Secretary of Technology Services and Security Curtis M. Wood. “We are proud to partner with the Massachusetts State Lottery and public health officials on this important vaccination initiative and we congratulate today’s winners.”

The registration deadline for the next VaxMillions Giveaway is today, Thursday, July 29. Winners for that drawing will be drawn on Monday, August 2 and announced on Thursday, August 5.




Vaccines available this week in New Bedford, with no appointment needed

COVID-19 vaccination clinics are planned for this week and weekend in New Bedford.

No appointment is needed at the walk-up clinics. All New Bedford residents receiving their first dose will receive a $20 Dunkin’ gift card.

Thursday, July 29:

• America’s Market, 1502 Acushnet Avenue – 11:00 am. to 8:00 p.m.
• Abraham Lincoln School, 445 Ashley Boulevard – 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
• Market Basket, 122 Sawyer Street – 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Friday, July 30:

• West Beach, West Rodney French Boulevard – 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
• America’s Market, 1502 Acushnet Avenue – 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
• Universal Church, 1657-1667 Acushnet Avenue – 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
• Market Basket, 122 Sawyer Street – 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Saturday, July 31:

• America’s Market, 1502 Acushnet Avenue – 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
• Riverside Park, Belleville Avenue – 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Sunday, August 1:

• Universal Church, 1657-1667 Acushnet Avenue – 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
• Riverside Park, Belleville Avenue – 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.




Delta variant detected in Massachusetts cluster; residents urged to get vaccinated to protect themselves and their families

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) today announced that genetic sequencing of initial samples associated with the recent COVID-19 cluster in Provincetown tested positive for the Delta variant. While DPH has identified cases in the cluster associated with vaccinated individuals, the total number of cases among vaccinated people in Massachusetts remains extremely low, at 0.1% or 5,166 cases out of over 4.3 million fully vaccinated residents.

Both the State Public Health Laboratory and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard have contributed to sequencing efforts in Massachusetts during the pandemic. This sequencing data contributes to the tracking of clusters and patterns of disease spread. Both labs identified the Delta variant in cases associated with this cluster and additional specimens from the Provincetown cluster are continuing to be prioritized for sequencing. No new variants have been identified. Massachusetts is fortunate to have in-state laboratory capacity to sequence variants and not rely on out-of-state laboratories.

The Delta variant is known to be more transmissible than the original COVID-19 virus. Individuals infected with the Delta variant tend to have more virus in their respiratory tract than other variants and infected individuals may carry the virus longer. These two factors contribute to the increased transmissibility seen with the Delta variant.

Since its original identification in the United States, the Delta variant has spread rapidly, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently estimated that 83% of cases during the period July 4-17 are attributable to this variant nationally. The estimates during that same time period for Region 1 (which includes: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont) are that Delta accounts for 68% of cases during the same time period.

All three COVID-19 vaccines in use in the U.S have shown to be very effective against the COVID variants and remain the single best way for people to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their community from COVID-19 and its variants. There are over 900 locations across the Commonwealth to get vaccinated in addition to in-home and mobile options. The vaccine is free, and an ID or insurance is not required to be vaccinated. Visit vaxfinder.mass.gov for a list of vaccination locations.

Other public health prevention measures that help stop the spread of Delta and other COVID-19 variants include: getting tested and staying home if you are sick, frequent handwashing or use of hand sanitizer, masking in indoor settings for unvaccinated people, and telling your close contacts if you test positive for COVID-19 so they can take appropriate steps. To learn more about protecting yourself from COVID-19, visit www.mass.gov/covidvaccine.

Residents are also urged to enable MassNotify on their smartphone. The service can be accessed through both Android and iPhone settings; it is NOT an application that can be obtained through an app store. This private and anonymous service notifies users of a potential exposure to COVID-19 so they may take the appropriate precautions. For more information and instructions on enabling MassNotify on your smartphone, visit https://www.mass.gov/info-details/learn-more-about-massnotify.

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