Martha Bebinger

It’s clear that some health conditions increase risk for a serious case of COVID-19. So, in their vaccination plans, Massachusetts and several other states are prioritizing residents with cancer, heart disease, obesity and other medical concerns.

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Every day during the pandemic, Dr. Mark Lewis and fellow anesthesiologists at Tufts Medical Center insert breathing tubes for COVID-19 patients who need intensive care.

“We are in their mouths,” says Lewis, describing the close contact with a patient, “literally inches away from their face.”

Most Massachusetts residents will not receive a coronavirus vaccine until at least April, after two doses are given to health care workers and residents who face a greater risk of infection. But in all cases, the vaccine will be free for everyone, meaning no co-pays or fees, according to Gov. Charlie Baker.

Drug overdose deaths are rising during the COVID-19 pandemic in Massachusetts. A report from the state Department of Public Health shows a 2% increase for the first nine months of the year, as compared to 2019. The preliminary data translates to 33 more deaths.

After the COVID-19 spring surge, nurse Jennifer Williams started taking a blood pressure medication and seeing a therapist. Her stress level dropped this summer, but now, as her COVID-19 unit at Sturdy Memorial Hospital fills again, Williams says she feels the panic rising. Some days, after work, she sits in her car and cries.

“I didn’t realize the impact that it had on me during the spring because it was busy, and it was new,” she says. Now “emotionally, I have to brace myself.”

This time around Williams knows, in advance, how devastating the disease can be.

It was low tide on the north shore of Boston when Steve Kearns felt the mosquito bite that would land him in a hospital with West Nile Virus disease for a week.

"For at least six months after that, I felt like every five minutes I was being run over by a truck," Kearns says. "I couldn't work, I couldn't walk very well and I couldn't focus. I wondered for a bit if I'd ever get better."