Boston joining other cities in again tightening restrictions
BOSTON (AP) — Boston is joining several other cities including Arlington, Brockton, Lynn, Newton, Somerville, and Winthrop in again tightening restrictions in an effort to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, which has again surged in Massachusetts.
Starting Wednesday, Boston will return to what Mayor Marty Walsh described as a modified version of phase two of the state’s reopening plan.
Walsh said the steps were needed following a steady climb in COVID-19 cases in the weeks following Thanksgiving.
“Unfortunately, we are at the point where we need to take stronger action to control COVID-19 in Boston,” Walsh said.
Under the tighter restrictions, several kinds of businesses will have to close their doors for at least three weeks beginning Wednesday including: movie theaters; museums; aquariums; (backslash)indoor recreational and athletic facilities (exempting college and professional sports); sightseeing and tour buses including duck boats, harbor cruises and whale watching cruises; indoor historical sites; indoor and outdoor gaming arcades; bowling alleys; driving ranges; batting cages; and rock-climbing facilities.
Other industries may remain open in Boston with additional restrictions.
Offices can remain open at 40% capacity. Indoor dining in restaurants can stay open with restricted bar seating and with a 90-minute limit on meals strictly enforced. Activities such as pool tables, darts, trivia, etc. will be prohibited.
Outdoor event spaces used for gatherings and celebrations and outdoor theaters and outdoor performance venues may continue to operate with a 25-person capacity limit.
A look at other coronavirus-developments in Massachusetts:
WWII VETERAN VACCINATED
A World War II veteran in Massachusetts was among the first VA patients in the country to receive a coronavirus vaccine on Monday.
VA Bedford Healthcare System said on Twitter that 96-year-old Margaret Klessens received the inoculation at around noon.
The former Somerville resident, who served in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, is currently a resident in the Community Living Center at the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bedford.
Klessens enlisted in 1943 when she was 19-years-old, The Boston Globe has reported. She went through basic training and worked a clerical job at Fort Oglethorpe in Georgia through the war.
VA Bedford said a housekeeper was the first of its employees to get the vaccine, shortly after Klessens received her shot.
The Bedford facility is one of 37 VA sites selected by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to receive initial doses of the vaccine.
VIRUS BY THE NUMBERS
The number of newly confirmed coronavirus deaths rose by 37 on Monday while the number of newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 rose by more than 3,500.
The new deaths pushed the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to 11,135 and its confirmed caseload since the start of the pandemic to more than 283,000.
The true number of cases is likely higher because studies suggest some people can be infected and not feel sick.
There were more than 1,700 people reported hospitalized Monday because of confirmed cases of COVID-19, with more than 350 in intensive care units.
The average age of those hospitalized was 69.
The number of probable or confirmed COVID-19 deaths reported in long-term care facilities rose to 7,021.
HOSPITAL VACCINE SHIPMENTS
Boston Medical Center on Monday said it has received its first shipment of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine.
Jenny Eriksen Leary, a hospital spokeswoman, said the center received 1,950 doses of the vaccine and will start administering them on Wednesday.
She said front line health care workers, including doctors and nurses in the intensive care unit, emergency department and patient floors that treat COVID-19 patients, will be among the first to receive the doses.
Employees from environmental and support services, and other positions that work in areas with patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 will also be vaccinated first, Leary said. Police, firefighters, emergency responders and prison inmates are also among those that will be targeted in the state’s first phase of vaccine distribution.
Other Boston-area hospitals are also expecting deliveries early this week.
Tufts Medical Center, also in Boston, said it expects to receive its first shipment of the vaccine Tuesday, as does Mass General Brigham, which operates 12 hospitals in the region.
CHILDREN’S MUSEUM CLOSES
The Boston Children’s Museum is temporarily closing as a precaution in response to rising COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts.
The popular children’s museum said on Twitter it is voluntarily closing to the public effective Monday. It will remain closed through Jan. 7. The organization said all advance ticket purchases affected will be refunded.
The organization said the museum building remain open for staff, who will be working on virtual programming, grant-based project work and other operations.
There have been no cases traced to the museum since it reopened in July, the organization said.
SUPERINTENDENT NO CONFIDENCE VOTE
Unionized teachers in Boston have overwhelmingly issued a vote of no confidence in their superintendent.
The Boston Globe reports the Boston Teachers Union took the vote Sunday over Superintendent Brenda Cassellius’ handling of reopening schools during the pandemic.
The paper reported some 97% of the more than 1,300 members who participated in the virtual meeting supported the no-confidence vote.
On Monday, the city’s public school system, the state’s largest, opened 28 additional schools to serve some 1,700 students.
Cassellius said she is “heartened and encouraged to see students returning to their classrooms today with their teachers.”
“I acknowledge the fear that many feel in this moment,” Cassellius said in a written statement, adding that the school system has added health and safety measures in school buildings to address those fears.
“It is of critical importance that our highest needs students have access to their caring teachers, supportive staff, and time with their friends who they have missed,” she said.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said the no confidence vote isn’t helpful.
“The vote the union took last night does not help our collective efforts at this critical time, but it also does not deter us from the promise we made to families to do everything we can to get kids back in schools,” Walsh said in a written statement.