Massachusetts reports 24,570 new COVID cases as omicron surge

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    by ewrewr
    Published: January 6, 2022 (3 weeks ago)

    Massachusetts reports 24,570 new COVID cases as omicron surge sweeps state, US. State health officials Thursday reported 24,570 new COVID-19 cases, about 3,400 more than last week as the omicron variant quickly spreads throughout Massachusetts and the U.S.

    Last Thursday, the state Department of Public Health reported 21,137 new cases, a pandemic high at the time. Wednesday saw another new high at 27,612 new cases, just as hospitalizations topped last year’s peak for the first time.

    The World Health Organization reported earlier this week that omicron cases appear to be milder than those from previous variants. But cases have steadily risen across New England and the U.S., so even a low percentage of hospitalization will still see an uptick in patients. The effectiveness of vaccines and booster shots has kept severe cases and deaths down compared to last year.

    The New York Times reports that the U.S. now averages about half a million new cases daily — 18,000 of them in Massachusetts, a nearly 200% jump from two weeks ago and a 10,000-case increase over last week’s average.

    On Wednesday, the state’s death toll over the pandemic eclipsed 20,000. Nearly 1.2 million Massachusetts residents have tested positive during the pandemic and 20,051 have died. The state reported 43 new deaths on Thursday.

    The state reported 44,528 new vaccinations Thursday, including 33,020 booster shots. More than 5.1 million people are fully vaccinated and more than 2.2 million have received booster shots since they became available.

    There are currently 2,524 hospitalizations, compared to 1,817 last Thursday. At least 416 in intensive care units and 259 who are intubated, DPH reported. COVID-19 hospitalizations include those who are being treated for other reasons but test positive.

    About 40%, or 1,019 patients, were vaccinated, according to DPH.

    Last year at this same time, the state tracked a total of 2,386 COVID-19 patients.

    Thursday’s figures are based on 114,017 new molecular tests; 36.7 million have been administered since the pandemic began.

    The seven-day average rate of positive tests continues to increase and is now at 22.43% — a nearly 6%-bump over last week. On Jan. 6, 2021, the rate was about 8%. The peak during the pandemic was about 31% in March of 2020.

    This week, Massachusetts officials said they plan to implement the state’s “test-and-stay” program at child care centers as they seek ways to help keep children cared for and parents working despite the pandemic.

    In Worcester, officials are pressing for assistance from the state and federal government as cases rise in the city and residents grapple with long lines to receive free COVID-19 tests.

    Gifts are still being given, even after the holidays. A family in Sandwich, Massachusetts, are overjoyed after the heartfelt reunion between themselves and their pet cat who had been missing since Aug.

    Neville, a 5-year-old house cat was turned in at Animal Rescue League of Boston’s Animal Care and Adoption Center in Brewster by someone who discovered the curious feline on his property back in November.

    According to the Animal Rescue League of Boston’s Facebook page, Neville’s finder was able to track down his owner, Moira, after she uploaded a photo of the cat to a lost pet community Facebook page. From there, Moira contacted the rescue league and made her way to Brewster with documentation and photos since Neville was missing identification.

    President Joe Biden accused Donald Trump and his supporters of holding a “dagger at the throat of democracy” in a forceful speech Thursday marking the anniversary of the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol. He warned that though it didn’t succeed, the insurrection remains a serious threat to America’s system of government.

    Biden’s criticism was blistering of the defeated president whom he blamed for the assault that has fundamentally changed Congress and the nation, and raised global concerns about the future of American democracy.

    “For the first time in our history, a president not just lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol,” Biden said. “You can’t love your country only when you win.”

    His voice booming at times, filling the ornate Statuary Hall where rioters had laid siege, the president called on Americans to remember what they saw Jan. 6 with their own eyes: the mob attacking police, breaking windows, a Confederate flag inside the Capitol, gallows erected outside threatening to hang the vice president — all while Trump sat at the White House watching it on TV.

    “The former president’s supporters are trying to rewrite history. They want you to see Election Day as the day of insurrection and the riot that took place here on January 6 as a true expression of the will of the people. Can you think of a more twisted way to look at this country, to look at America? I cannot.”

    The president’s remarks launched the start of daylong remembrance, drawing a contrast between the truth of what happened and the false narratives that persist about the Capitol assault, including the continued refusal by many Republicans to affirm that Biden won the 2020 election.

    “We must be absolutely clear about what is true and what is a lie,” Biden said. “The former president of the United States of America has spread a web of lies about the 2020 election.”

    A large group of police arrive at the Capitol, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022, in Washington. President Joe Biden and members of Congress are solemnly marking the first anniversary of the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection. Lawmakers are holding events Thursday to reflect on the violent attack by supporters of then-President Donald Trump. The ceremonies will be widely attended by Democrats, but almost every Republican on Capitol Hill will be absent. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)AP

    “I did not seek this fight, brought to this Capitol one year from today. But I will not shrink from it either. I will stand in this breach, I will defend this nation. I will allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of this democracy.”

    Republican leaders and lawmakers largely stayed away from the day’s events, dismissing them as overly politicized — some continuing to spread false claims about the election.

    From Florida, Trump showed no signs of letting go, and in fact revived his unfounded attack on the elections. He accepted no responsibility for egging on the crowd that day. Instead, in one of several statements Thursday, he said Biden was trying to “further divide America. This political theater is all just a distraction.”

    Even among congressional Republicans who condemned the attack in the days afterward, most have stayed loyal to the former president.

    “What brazen politicization of January 6 by President Biden,” tweeted Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a sometimes Trump confidant. Others, including Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, were absent, with a contingent attending the funeral for a former colleague Sen. Johnny Isakson in Georgia. Far-right Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz stood by their refusal to certify Biden’s election that day — “We’re ashamed of nothing,” Gaetz said on a podcast.

    The division is a stark reminder of the rupture between the two parties, worsening since hundreds of Trump’s supporters violently pushed past police, used their fists and flagpoles to break through the windows of the Capitol and interrupted the certification of Biden’s victory.

    Rep. Liz Cheney, chair of the House committee investigating the attack and one of the few GOP lawmakers attending the Capitol ceremonies, warned that “the threat continues.” Trump, she said, “continues to make the same claims that he knows caused violence on January 6.”

    “Unfortunately, too many in my own party are embracing the former president, are looking the other way or minimizing the danger,” she told NBC’s “Today.” “That’s how democracies die. We simply cannot let that happen.”

    She was joined by her father Dick Cheney, the former vice president and now a respected Republican Party elder, who was greeted warmly by several Democrats. He stood with her, the only Republicans seen, for a moment of silence on the House floor.

    He said in a statement: “I am deeply disappointed at the failure of many members of my party to recognize the grave nature of the January 6 attacks and the ongoing threat to our nation.”

    The Senate also convened a moment of silence.

    Democrats investigating the insurrection plan to spend the coming months telling the American people exactly what happened last Jan. 6 with a series of public hearings.

    Biden and his administration have come under criticism from some in his party for not forcibly explaining to Americans the ways democracy is at risk, or pushing Congress hard enough to pass election and voting rights legislation that is stalled by a filibuster in the Senate.

    Barack Obama, the former president, said “nothing is more important” on the anniversary than ensuring the right to vote.

    “While the broken windows have been repaired and many of the rioters have been brought to justice, the truth is that our democracy is at greater risk today than it was back then,” Obama said in a statement.

    Biden’s address, and that of Vice President Kamala Harris who is leading the administration’s efforts on the voting and elections legislation, appeared as a direct response to critics.

    “We must pass voting rights bills,” said Harris, addressing those gathered. “We cannot sit on the sidelines. We must unite in defense of our democracy.”

    On the House floor, where many members were evacuated and some were trapped as the rioters tried to break in, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi drew on history with a hope that Americans would turn to their “better angels” to resolve differences. She delivered private remarks to Hill staff who, as she told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday, had stayed a year ago to “protect our democracy.”

    Biden’s sharp message and the Republicans’ distance from it come as lawmakers are adjusting to the new normal on Capitol Hill — the growing tensions that many worry will result in more violence or, someday, a legitimate election being overturned. Democrats and a handful of Republicans feel a desperate urgency to connect to a public in which some have come to believe Trump’s lies that the election was stolen from him and that the attack wasn’t violent at all.

    A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research showed that 3 in 10 Republicans say the attack was not violent, and about another 3 in 10 say it was somewhat violent. Around two-thirds of Americans described the day as very or extremely violent, including about 9 in 10 Democrats.

    As Biden directed blame toward the former president, the percentage of Americans who blame Trump for the Jan. 6 riot has grown slightly over the past year, with 57% saying he bears significant responsibility for what took place.

    In an AP-NORC poll taken in the days after the attack, 50% said that.

    Trump’s claims of widespread election fraud were rejected by the courts and refuted by his own Justice Department.

    An investigation by the AP found fewer than 475 cases of voter fraud among 25.5 million ballots cast in the six battleground states disputed by Trump, a minuscule number in percentage terms.

    Massachusetts officials seeking ways to help keep children cared for and parents working as the COVID-19 pandemic surges reportedly plan to implement the state’s “test-and-stay” program at child care centers.

     

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    Samantha Aigner-Treworgy, the state’s commissioner of early education and care, told The Boston Globe that the program — which lets COVID-19-exposed students and teachers stay in class if they test negative — will launch in the coming weeks. Education officials are collaborating with the Department of Public Health on potential adjustments for thousands of child care providers and looking to overcome challenges like providing rapid testing when tests are scarce.

    “We know that our families are relying on child care to go to work,” Aigner-Treworgy told the Globe. “So we do want to provide alternatives to pulling children out of care for quarantine, but making sure we do so safely.”

    Test-and-stay programs for schools received broad support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in December, and have been touted by educators and parents.

    The Associated Press reported that hundreds of schools nationwide have implemented such policies to help students avoid quarantining for several days, with education leaders and state officials saying missed school during the pandemic has negatively impacted children and working parents.

    “Some of the parents that we spoke with out in the courtyard on their way in with their kids this morning said that that ‘test and stay’ program has been invaluable to them, both in terms of their ability to understand what was going on with their kids and kids’ friends, and the teachers and staff here in this school, but also gave them comfort that people were, in fact, in a safe environment,” Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday as students returned to school despite surging COVID-19 cases across the state and U.S.

    Massachusetts officials seeking ways to help keep children cared for and parents working as the COVID-19 pandemic surges reportedly plan to implement the state’s “test-and-stay” program at child care centers.

    Samantha Aigner-Treworgy, the state’s commissioner of early education and care, told The Boston Globe that the program — which lets COVID-19-exposed students and teachers stay in class if they test negative — will launch in the coming weeks. Education officials are collaborating with the Department of Public Health on potential adjustments for thousands of child care providers and looking to overcome challenges like providing rapid testing when tests are scarce.

    “We know that our families are relying on child care to go to work,” Aigner-Treworgy told the Globe. “So we do want to provide alternatives to pulling children out of care for quarantine, but making sure we do so safely.”

    Test-and-stay programs for schools received broad support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in December, and have been touted by educators and parents.

    The Associated Press reported that hundreds of schools nationwide have implemented such policies to help students avoid quarantining for several days, with education leaders and state officials saying missed school during the pandemic has negatively impacted children and working parents.

    “Some of the parents that we spoke with out in the courtyard on their way in with their kids this morning said that that ‘test and stay’ program has been invaluable to them, both in terms of their ability to understand what was going on with their kids and kids’ friends, and the teachers and staff here in this school, but also gave them comfort that people were, in fact, in a safe environment,” Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday as students returned to school despite surging COVID-19 cases across the state and U.S.

    Speaking at a news conference at the Saltonstall School in Salem, the governor said it’s a “terrifically positive” sign that schools reopened after the New Year’s holiday and that children can receive the education they’re “entitled to.”

    The Globe reported that a Boston nonprofit, Neighborhood Villages, would help the state distribute 40,000 rapid tests for child care workers, with about 2,100 of the state’s 7,000 child care providers enrolled to receive tests so far.

    Neighborhood Villages has already partnered with Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care to offer free weekly COVID-19 pooled testing to early education and care educators, staff and children.