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Baker Urges People To Celebrate Holidays With Household Members Only

Gov. Charlie Baker at a podium

    Facing a surge of post-Thanksgiving COVID-19 cases, Massachusetts officials today announced new guidance for residents when it comes to celebrating the December holidays. 

   Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker Tuesday urged people to celebrate the holidays only with household members and to postpone any planned travel over the upcoming weeks that include Christmas and New Year’s Day.

    "Any type of celebration beyond that has real potential, as we saw with Thanksgiving, to spread the virus and hurt the ones we love the most," said Baker.

              In the two weeks following Thanksgiving Massachusetts has seen a dramatic surge in COVID-19 cases.  

             The average number of new daily cases has gone from about 2,500 in the 10  days prior to Thanksgiving to an average of roughly 4,800 cases in the 13 days following the holiday.  Hospitalizations for COVID-19 over the past three weeks have gone up by 93 percent and deaths have increased by 84 percent since Thanksgiving, Baker reported.

              In response to the data, Massachusetts Sunday took a small step back in its phased reopening with the closure of indoor performance venues, a 90-minute time limit on dining with a limit of six people per table, and some other changes.  

              On Monday, Boston and about a half-dozen other municipalities in eastern Massachusetts decided to go further and close gyms, museums, gaming arcades, and movie theaters, while leaving restaurants and retail stores open.

              Baker said the local officials are free to put in place restrictions that go beyond what has been ordered statewide.

      "The most recent example before this was probably Mayor Tyer in Pittsfield who shutdown indoor dining for a few weeks," said Baker. "I want to give locals the ability if they believe they need to be in a different place to make that decision."

              The Republican governor has also agonized over imposing more widespread closures without another relief package from Washington.

     " I continue to believe,  based on the conversations I've had, that something may happen on this by the end of the week," said Baker referring to a stimulus bill in Washington.

              Joining Baker in imploring people to celebrate the holidays at home with only immediate family was Melissa Jocelyn, director of nursing at Massachusetts General Hospital.

    " On behalf of all our nurses and health care colleagues, I do want to join with the governor in asking, even begging, each of you to follow the state guildelines to refrain from gathering for the Christmas holidays," said Jocelyn.

              To people weary of the pandemic restrictions, Baker said there is “hope on the horizon” as hospitals in the state have now received thousands of doses of a vaccine.

              Baystate Medical Center in Springfield received a shipment Tuesday of 1,950 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, according to a spokesperson.

             The hospital will start vaccinating frontline workers Wednesday, according to Baystate president and CEO Dr. Mark Keroack.

     " Phase one includes clinical and nonclinical healthcare workers doing direct COVID-facing care and further down the list are healthcare workers doing non-COVID-facing care," said Keroack, who estimated that would total 7,000-8,000 people.

              Massachusetts expects to receive 300,000 doses of vaccine by the end of the month.

              Baker said the state is going to launch an online dashboard for the public to keep track of how the vaccine is administered.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.
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