Massachusetts Transitions to Phase IV of Reopening Plan

This week, Massachusetts advanced to Step 1 of Phase IV of the Commonwealth’s reopening plan. The Commonwealth continues to take steps to reopen Massachusetts’ economy with public health metrics continuing to trend in a positive direction. This includes drops in average daily COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Massachusetts also continues to be a national leader in vaccination rates. The Commonwealth also replaced the Massachusetts Travel Order originally issued in July 2020 with a Travel Advisory, effective March 22.

Phase IV, Step 1 and Gathering Changes

On March 1, Massachusetts loosened capacity restrictions for several industries and advanced to Step 2 of Phase III of the reopening plan. Since then, hospitalizations dropped by 20 percent and deaths dropped by 24 percent. The seven day average of new cases in long-term care facilities dropped by 53 percent. The positive test rate remains below 2 percent and has been for several weeks now. The seven day average of new cases is also down over this time by 7 percent.

Effective Monday, all communities in Massachusetts moved into Step 1 of Phase IV of the state’s reopening plan. This opens a range of previously closed business sectors under tight capacity restrictions that are expected to be adjusted over time if favorable trends in the public health data continue. Effective on the advancement to Step 1 of Phase IV, the following large capacity sports and entertainment venues will be permitted to operate at a strict 12 percent capacity limit after submitting a plan to the Department of Public Health (DPH):

  • Indoor and outdoor stadiums
  • Arenas
  • Ballparks

Also effective Monday, gathering limits for event venues and in public settings increased to 100 people indoors and 150 people outdoors. Outdoor gatherings at private residences and in private backyards remain at a maximum of 25 people, with indoor house gatherings remaining at 10 people.

Additionally, dance floors will be permitted at weddings and other events only, and overnight summer camps will be allowed to operate this coming summer. Exhibition and convention halls may also begin to operate, following gatherings limits and event protocols. Other Phase IV sectors must continue to remain closed.

Travel Order

Effective Monday, the Massachusetts Travel Order was replaced with a Travel Advisory.

The new travel advisory urges all persons entering Massachusetts, including returning residents, to quarantine for 10 days upon their arrival if they have been out of the state for 24 hours or more.

The advisory does not apply to anyone in the following categories:

  • Anyone who is returning to Massachusetts after an absence of fewer than 24 hours.
  • Travelers who have a negative COVID-19 test result that has been administered up to 72 hours prior to their arrival in Massachusetts.
  • Workers who enter Massachusetts to perform critical infrastructure functions (as specified by the Federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency) while they are commuting to or from or while at work.
  • Travelers who are fully vaccinated (i.e. who have received two doses of either the Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines OR who have received a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, 14 days or more ago and who do not have symptoms).

Travelers are additionally encouraged to consult and follow the CDC’s guidelines and requirements for travel. 

Some Personal News

Dear friends, colleagues, and constituents –

I am writing to share some personal news. Upon being recently diagnosed with a medical issue, I began to undergo treatment from an experienced team of doctors at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. I am fortunate to be working on a path to recovery with a highly-skilled group of medical professionals and I am confident in their care. I want you to know I am deeply grateful for my family and friends who are providing me great support and comfort at this time and I have been incredibly touched by your prayers and well wishes.

I remain deeply committed to the people of the Fifth Essex District and my work as Vice Chair of the Ways & Means Committee. I have been working closely with Speaker Mariano and Chairman Michlewitz on economic development and the post-COVID economic recovery. As always, the needs of my district are paramount in my mind. Our office continues to operate as usual and remains open to constituent concerns, as it always has been. You can always reach out to my office for constituent service needs by contacting my staff at 617-722-2370. My staff continues to work with the rest of the Cape Ann delegation to advocate for our communities. For all inquiries not related to official legislative business, please contact Carolyn Stewart at 978-314-1381 or Sheila Capone-Wulsin at 617-717-8909.

I appreciate your discretion during these times. The most valuable gift I can receive right now is one of prayer and friendship.

Ann-Margaret

Commonwealth Announces Vaccine Timeline for All Residents

Today, the Commonwealth announced the timeline for all remaining residents to be eligible for a vaccine and provided an update on doses that are being received and distributed.

Vaccine Eligibility Timeline

Today, the Commonwealth announced the dates that all remaining residents and certain worker groups will be eligible for a vaccine. The detailed timeline adheres to the original timeline for the three phases announced in December.

All residents can preregister to book an appointment at a mass vaccination site at mass.gov/COVIDVaccine. Appointments will be offered based on eligibility and available appointments nearby. It is expected that more sites will come online as part of the preregistration process in April.

Timeline for remaining groups

  • March 22nd: Residents 60+ and certain workers
  • April 5th: Residents 55+ and residents with one certain medical condition
  • April 19th: General public ages 16 years of age and older

The full timeline is available at mass.gov/COVIDVaccinePhases.

The Commonwealth has received assurances from the federal government that an increased vaccine supply will be available to states soon. Depending on supply, it could take weeks for people to be notified that an appointment is available at a mass vaccination site.

Dose Update

This week, the state is receiving a modest increase in supply of first doses, approximately 170,000. This includes an unexpected 8,000 doses of J&J vaccine.

In total, the Commonwealth will receive 316,000 first and second doses as part of the state allocation. These figures do not include doses provided through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program or to Federally Qualified Health Centers.

This week, first doses and second dose state allocations (total doses), were distributed among providers as follows:

  • Mass vaccination locations: 101,890
  • Health systems and health care providers (excluding CHCs): 99,230
  • Community Health Centers: 27,450
  • Regional Collaboratives and Local Boards of Health: 59,580
    • Regional Collaboratives: 40,370
    • Local Boards of Health: 19,210
  • Retail pharmacies (non-CVS)
    • State allocation: 8,490
  • Mobile Clinics supporting long-term care facilities, congregate care, affordable/low-income senior housing and homebound individuals: 19,180

Weekly allocations are subject to change based on federal availability, demand from providers, and obligations to meet second doses. Providers have 10 days to use their doses and must meet specific performance thresholds.

Federal Doses

In addition to the state allocation, the federal government distributes vaccines to CVS Health sites as part of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Partnership as well as to certain Massachusetts federally qualified community health centers. These quantities fluctuate on a weekly basis and are not counted as part of the state’s weekly allocation.

This week, 106,440 first and second doses have been allocated to the retail pharmacy program and 9,500 doses have been allocated to the federally qualified health centers.

Individuals looking to book appointments across any of these providers should visit mass.gov/COVIDvaccine to learn more.

Commonwealth Announces Preregistration System for Mass Vaccination Locations

This week, the Commonwealth announced a new preregistration signup tool will be available for the state’s seven mass vaccination sites starting Friday, March 12.

The new system will make it easier to request and book an appointment at a mass vaccination site at a nearby location when they are available. More sites will be added to the preregistration system in the coming weeks. When preregistration launches on Friday, it will replace the current booking platforms for mass vaccination sites for online booking. The COVID-19 Vaccine Scheduling Resource Line will be available to help residents without internet access or with difficulty using the internet with the preregistration process.

The Commonwealth also announced the weekly distribution of vaccine doses statewide for different providers, reminding residents that there are 170 public vaccination sites statewide in addition to health systems that are offering appointments to their patients.

More information on vaccine sites can be found at: vaxfinder.mass.gov.

The Commonwealth also announced four dedicated educator days at mass vaccination sites and updates on vaccine distribution channels.

Preregistration System

Partnering with the Google Cloud Team, the Commonwealth will launch a preregistration system for mass vaccination sites only starting Friday, March 12. This tool will be available at mass.gov/COVIDvaccine. Preregistration will allow eligible residents to book an appointment at one of the state’s seven mass vaccination sites.

Details on the Preregistration Process

Eligible residents will complete the online form at mass.gov/COVIDVaccine to request to book an appointment at a mass vaccination site nearby.

After completing the form, residents will get a confirmation via their preferred method of contact (text, e-mail, phone) and receive a weekly update about their status. Residents may opt out of their preregistration at any time if they secure an appointment elsewhere.

When an appointment becomes available at a mass vaccination site, the resident will be notified and will have 24 hours to accept the appointment once it is offered to them. If an appointment is not accepted after 24 hours, the resident will go back into the queue to wait for another appointment.

To accommodate older residents and others who are unable to use the form, the preregistration form allows family members, caregivers or other companions to fill out the form on behalf of someone else. Residents who do not have internet access or someone to fill the form out for them can call 2-1-1 to preregister.

Available appointments will be offered to residents based on their vaccine eligibility and the availability of appointments at mass vaccination sites nearby. Initially, this program is only for the state’s seven mass vaccination sites. More sites will be added to the pre-registration system in April.

Massachusetts receives a very limited supply of vaccine from the federal government each week. Due to high demand and limited supply, there are only a small number of appointments for eligible residents. Given the limited number of available appointments due to constraints on vaccine supply, it could take several weeks for eligible, preregistered residents to receive a notification about an available appointment.

In addition to preregistering for a mass vaccination appointment, eligible residents are encouraged to book vaccine appointments at any of the 170 public vaccine sites across the Commonwealth. The state has also allocated a supply of doses to certain health care providers, hospitals and community health centers that will provide instructions to their patients on their vaccine process.

Once the preregistration system is launched on Friday, March 12, it will replace the weekly appointment release on Thursdays for mass vaccination sites only. Eligible residents will need to preregister online or contact the call center to request an appointment for a mass vaccination site.

Other Ways to Access a Vaccine Appointment

Eligible residents are encouraged to look for appointments at any of the state’s 170 public vaccine sites by searching vaxfinder.mass.gov. This webpage contains information on locations, hours and instructions to schedule appointments. New appointments are added frequently for many sites.

Vaccine doses are also provided to certain health care providers, hospitals, and community health centers. If you are an eligible patient, please follow instructions from your health care provider on how to access a vaccine.

State Distribution

This week, the state will receive a constrained supply of about 155,000 first doses. First doses and second dose allocations (total doses), were divided among providers as follows:

  • Mass vaccination sites: 83,000
  • Hospital Providers (both private and public): 79,000
  • Regional Collaboratives (12 total): 38,000
  • Community Health Centers: 25,000
  • Local Boards of Health (to complete 2nd dose appointments and support 20 disproportionately impacted communities): 25,000

Weekly allocations are subject to change based on federal availability, demand from providers, and obligations to meet second doses. Providers have 10 days to use their doses.

Federal Doses

In addition to the state allocation, the federal government distributes vaccines to CVS Health sites as part of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Partnership as well as to certain Massachusetts federally qualified community health centers. These quantities fluctuate on a weekly basis and are not counted as part of the state’s weekly allocation.

This week, 95,000 first and second doses have been allocated to the retail pharmacy program and 19,000 Johnson & Johnson doses have been allocated to the federally qualified health centers.

Individuals looking to book appointments across any of these providers should visit mass.gov/COVIDvaccine to learn more.

Mass Vaccination Appointments

On Thursday, March 11, over 40,000 new first dose appointments for mass vaccination sites will be made available to eligible groups through the state’s website and the COVID-19 Vaccine Scheduling Resource Line. Additionally, over 40,000 second dose appointments have also been scheduled at mass vaccination sites.

This is the last week that mass vaccination sites will be posted online on Thursday morning. Starting March 12, all mass vaccination appointments will be booked through the pre-registration system.

As more individuals have received a first vaccine dose across the Commonwealth, there is a greater need to book second appointments, so the mass vaccination sites have fewer first dose appointments available on a weekly basis.

Educator Vaccination Days

On March 11, pursuant to a federal directive, approximately 400,000 K-12 educators, childcare workers and K-12 school staff are eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccine in Massachusetts. K-12 educators, childcare workers and K-12 school staff may receive vaccine from any of the 170 public vaccine sites available on mass.gov/COVIDvaccine.

In an effort to support the Biden-Harris Administration’s directive for states to prioritize teacher vaccinations, the Commonwealth will designate four days where the state’s seven mass vaccination sites will only offer 1st dose appointments for K-12 educators, child care workers and K-12 school staff.

These dates are Saturday, March 27, Saturday, April 3, Saturday, April 10, and Sunday, April 11.

Workers in this group must use the pre-registration system to request an appointment at one of the seven mass vaccination sites and attest they are a K-12 educator, childcare worker or K-12 school staff.

All other vaccine providers (including Regional Collaboratives) are encouraged, but not required, to restrict their appointments to K-12 educators, child care workers and K-12 school staff on March 27, April 3, April 10 and April 11, for consistency. Providers may designate alternative dates, in lieu of the four dates designated by the state, if necessary.

Clinics may not restrict access to individuals who live or work in a particular area. 

All vaccine providers (including regional collaboratives) must submit their dates for educator clinics by Tuesday, March 16. The Command Center will post the schedule for all clinics next week.

K-12 educators, childcare workers and K-12 school staff are urged to book appointments through mass.gov/COVIDvaccine beginning on March 11 as well as to book through the federal retail pharmacy program’s CVS website. Given the limited supply of vaccine, K-12 educators, childcare workers and K-12 school staff may not receive vaccine until mid-April or later.

Mass Vaccination Locations

  • Springfield, Eastfield Mall
  • Natick, Natick Mall
  • Foxboro, Gillette Stadium
  • Danvers, Doubletree Hotel
  • Boston, Fenway Park (through 3/27) and Hynes Convention Center (starting 3/18)
  • Roxbury, Reggie Lewis Center
  • Dartmouth, Former Circuit City

Regional Collaboratives

  • Barnstable County
  • Berkshire County Boards of Health Association
  • Franklin County Regional Collaborative
  • Harrington Hospital, in Collaboration with LBOH
  • Heywood Hospital, in Collaboration with LBOH
  • Lawrence General Hospital, in Collaboration with LBOH
  • Marshfield-Plymouth
  • Northampton & Amherst
  • Randolph: Collaboration between Avon, Holbrook, and Randolph
  • Rutland
  • Worcester, Worcester State University, Commonwealth Medicine and St. Vincent Hospital
  • Lower Merrimack Valley: Collaboration between Amesbury, Georgetown, Groveland, Merrimack, Newbury, Newburyport, Rowley, Salisbury and West Newbury
  • Southern Worcester County Regional COVID-19 Vaccination Coalition: Collaboration between Uxbridge, Northbridge, Mendon, Douglas, Bellingham, Blackstone, Hopedale, Millville, Milford, Oxford, Upton, Sutton

Massachusetts Enters Phase III, Step 2 of Reopening Plan

Today, Massachusetts advances to Step 2 of Phase III of the state’s reopening plan. The Commonwealth has also announced plans to transition to Step 1 of Phase IV on Monday, March 22.

Phase III, Step 2

On May 18, 2020, the Commonwealth released a four-phased plan to reopen the economy conditioned on sustained improvements in public health data. As of October, 2020, the reopening had proceeded to Step 2 of Phase III of the plan. On December 13, 2020, in response to an increase in new COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations following the Thanksgiving holiday, the Commonwealth returned to Step 1 of Phase III, reducing capacities across a broad range of sectors and tightening several other workplace restrictions. 

Since the beginning of this year, key public health data, such as new cases and hospitalizations, have been closely monitored and a significant decline has been documented, allowing for a return to Step 2 of Phase III, effective March 1 for all cities and towns. This includes the following updates to businesses, activities and capacities:

  • Indoor performance venues such as concert halls, theaters, and other indoor performance spaces will be allowed to reopen at 50% capacity with no more than 500 persons
  • Indoor recreational activities with greater potential for contact (laser tag, roller skating, trampolines, obstacle courses) will be allowed to reopen at 50% capacity
  • Capacity limits across all sectors with capacity limits will be raised to 50% and exclude employees
  • Restaurants will no longer have a percent capacity limit and will be permitted to host musical performances; six-foot social distancing, limits of six people per table and 90 minute limits remain in place

Residents must continue to wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and are encouraged to avoid contact outside of their immediate households. The Travel Advisory and other public health orders remain in effect.

Gathering Changes and Phase IV Start

Provided public health metrics continue to improve, effective on March 22, all communities in Massachusetts will move into Step 1 of Phase IV of the state’s reopening plan. This will open a range of previously closed business sectors under tight capacity restrictions that are expected to be adjusted over time if favorable trends in the public health data continue. Effective on the planned advancement to Step 1 of Phase IV, the following industries will be permitted to operate at a strict 12% capacity limit after submitting a plan to the Department of Public Health (DPH):

  • Indoor and outdoor stadiums
  • Arenas
  • Ballparks

Also effective on March 22, gathering limits for event venues and in public settings will increase to 100 people indoors and 150 people outdoors. Outdoor gatherings at private residences and in private backyards will remain at a maximum of 25 people, with indoor house gatherings remaining at 10 people.

Additionally, dance floors will be permitted at weddings and other events only, and overnight summer camps will be allowed to operate this coming summer. Exhibition and convention halls may also begin to operate, following gatherings limits and event protocols. Other Phase IV sectors must continue to remain closed.