BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts will start vaccinating individuals living and working in congregate care facilities and prisons on Monday, Gov. Charlie Baker said at a Statehouse press conference Wednesday.

The facilities include residential congregate care programs, groups homes, residential treatment programs, community-based acute residential treatment programs and clinical stabilization programs.

Shelter programs — including homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, veteran shelters — will also be included, as will approved private and special education schools.

"These facilities are prioritized because they serve vulnerable populations in densely populated settings which means they are at significant risk of contracting COVID-19," Baker said. "The staff is also at high risk of exposure at these facilities."

There are about 94,000 individuals who will be eligible to receive vaccines as part of the congregate care group.

State prisons will also start receiving vaccines next week. There are about 6,500 inmates in the prisons.

Baker defended the decision to vaccinate prisoners. 

He said people living in close quarters are at high risk, including prisoners. Baker said that there are about 4,500 employees who work at the prisons who are also at risk and will be able to get vaccinated at the same time, Baker said.

There are also other non-prisoners who come in and out of the facilities, including lawyers, advocates and family members, he added.

There are plans to create more mass vaccination sites like the one at Gillette Stadium, which is expected to vaccinate up to 5,000 people a day and serve the general public when allowed.

 

VIRUS BY THE NUMBERS

The number of newly confirmed coronavirus deaths rose by 86 on Wednesday while the number of newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 increased by more than 5,200.

The new deaths pushed the state's confirmed COVID-19 death toll to 13,082 and its confirmed caseload since the start of the pandemic to more than 427,000.

The true number of cases is likely higher because studies suggest some people can be infected and not feel sick.

There were 2,200 people reported hospitalized Wednesday because of confirmed cases of COVID-19, with about 460 in intensive care units.

The average age of those hospitalized was 73. There were an estimated more than 90,000 current active cases of COVID-19 in the state.

The number of probable or confirmed COVID-19 deaths reported in long-term care facilities rose to 7,666.

 

SOLDIERS' HOME

Residents of a Massachusetts home for ailing veterans who were moved out in the spring as the coronavirus tore through the facility will soon be welcomed back, officials said.

Michael Lazo, interim administrator of the Holyoke Soldiers' Home, told trustees at a meeting Tuesday that the some veterans will return to the facility on Thursday, with more to follow in the coming weeks, Masslive.com reported.

The Refresh Project is a $6 million initiative to boost infection control standards at the facility.

The virus has been blamed for the deaths in the spring of 76 veterans who lived at the state-run facility, one of the country's worst outbreaks at a long-term care facility. Another resident who had been moved out of the facility died of the virus last month.

Two former top administrators have pleaded not guilty to criminal negligence charges connected to the deaths.

Tuesday's meeting was the first presided over by new trustees Chair Maj. Gen. Gary Keefe, adjutant general of the Massachusetts National Guard.

 

INMATE DEATHS

Two inmates at a Massachusetts medium and minimum security prison that focuses on mental health have recently died of COVID-19 complications, officials say.

The deaths of inmates housed at the Old Colony Correctional Center in Bridgewater occurred Jan. 4 and Jan. 8, a Department of Correction spokesperson told The Enterprise of Brockton.

The deaths were reported to the special master monitoring the status of the coronavirus at the state's prisons. Both were men in their mid-50s and both had been treated at outside hospitals before their deaths, the department said.

At least 18 prisoners held at state facilities and two inmates at county jails have died after contracting the coronavirus, according to the state.

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