The Massachusetts State Police general headquarters.

Three days after a deadline requiring Massachusetts state employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or receive a waiver, it is unclear what may happen to the approximately 5% of the state workforce that has not met the requirement.

Annual breast cancer fundraising walk goes virtual

Oct 19, 2021
Rays of Hope Walk 2019 in Springfield

More than a quarter million American women are diagnosed each year with breast cancer. More than 43,000 of them die from the disease each year, according to the American Cancer Society. Aside from skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

No timeline from Baker on Massachusetts vaccine mandate discipline

Oct 19, 2021
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker answers reporters' questions Monday after a Statehouse meeting with legislative leaders.
Sam Doran / State House News Service

More than 95% of executive branch state employees submitted the necessary paperwork on time to comply with Gov. Charlie Baker's vaccine mandate, but for the more than 1,500 who did not, it remains unclear when the threatened consequences including suspension and termination will begin.

Hundreds of state workers are seeking exemptions from Governor Charlie Baker’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, according to one of the commonwealth’s largest unions.

With Sunday’s immunization deadline looming, the Baker administration is casting its vaccine requirement as a success, saying Massachusetts state “agencies are seeing significant progress toward the vaccination goal.”

But some unions have warned that some workers would rather quit or be fired than comply with the vaccine mandate, potentially leaving some agencies understaffed as early as next week.

Springfield, Massachusetts, officials launched a vaccination campaign for high school and middle school students, starting at Central High School.
Karen Brown / NEPM

Out of the some five million Massachusetts residents who are vaccinated against COVID-19, about a half million have only gotten one dose. This gap hasn’t gotten a lot of attention among public health messages, but some experts say it is concerning.

On a stone bench, between Salem Harbor and The House of the Seven Gables, two friends settled in to smoke a little weed.

“We do like this spot,” said Jeremiah MacKinnon, 26.

“Yes,” added his companion, Frank Shaw, who is 68.

The two make an unlikely pair. Shaw wears a baseball cap with a graphic of a cannabis leaf with EKG monitor waves. MacKinnon sports an old school newsboy cap. Shaw, with gray wispy hair, has the air of a jokester. MacKinnon, a younger millennial, carries the aura of someone generations older.

Connecticut is likely to have digital credentials for COVID-19 vaccines available by the end of the month. Officials said it would make it easy to scan and verify vaccination status.

Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Kevin Gutting / Daily Hampshire Gazette /

Two western Massachusetts hospitals said they are experiencing staffing issues. This comes as they've seen a rise in COVID-19 cases in recent months.

Baystate Health CEO Mark Keroack.
Screenshot / NEPM

Ahead of Labor Day weekend, the CEO and president of Baystate Health, Dr. Mark Keroack, is cautioning travelers about the coronavirus. He said 95% of U.S. counties are in the CDC's "red zone," with high rates of COVID-19 transmission.

Massachusetts Board Agrees To Early Education Mask Policy

Sep 1, 2021
A child wears a protective face mask.
Nenad Stojkovic / Creative Commons /

Teachers, staff and many students at Massachusetts day care centers and after-school programs will be required to wear masks indoors after Labor Day.

Physician assistant Sarah Vacca with Amy Jewitt and her daughter, Summer.
Karen Brown / NEPM

Primary care has been under stress for years. It’s a medical field with high demands and relatively low incomes, at least among doctors.

Vaccinated? Connecticut Schools Now Asking Teachers For Proof

Aug 30, 2021

At Hartford’s S.A.N.D. Elementary School, Victoria Shears is settling into a new office and gearing up for another school year during the pandemic.

Among her indispensable tools are a dry-erase board on wheels and a blue box with neatly labeled folders, each with curriculum materials for students in kindergarten through grade five.

Then there’s the box of pandemic supplies: Lysol wipes, hand sanitizer and tablecloths, which make cleaning up a breeze.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker visits a classroom in Gloucester in March 2021.
Nancy Lane / Boston Herald / Pool / State House News Service

Over the summer, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker's administration was urging residents to get vaccinated. Then came a vaccine mandate for state employees, and a message encouraging private businesses to do the same.

Ace Mejia, one of the influencers trying to help Worcester, Massachusetts, boost vaccination rates among the city's youth.
Michael Bonner / The Republican /

The city of Worcester is launching a program to use social influencers to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates among the city's youth.

A Barber’s Deal In Hartford: Get A COVID Shot, And The Haircut Is Free

Aug 26, 2021

HARTFORD — Lauri Malawitz, a North End preacher who believes in the power of prayer and vaccinations, was taking her 14-year-old grandson, Zakariah, for a haircut Wednesday when she saw a woman in medical scrubs outside the barber shop.

Malawitz, who is fully vaccinated, asked if they were offering COVID-19 vaccinations.

“She said, ‘Yeah, and a free haircut,’” Malawitz said. Laughing, her rapid-fire reply was, “That’s right up my alley, Jesus-thank-you-Lord!

And so Zakariah got both.

Vaccine administration in a file photo.
Caitlin O'Neil-McKeown / U.S. Air Force

Last week, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed an executive order mandating COVID-19 vaccination for some 42,000 state employees. The order says they must be vaccinated by mid-October or face consequences, which could include losing their job.

In Shift, Massachusetts Education Commissioner Seeks School Mask Mandate

Aug 20, 2021
Mass. Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley, who appeared at a Rockport school press conference in February 2021.
Nicolaus Czarnecki / Pool / The Boston Herald / State House News Service

The Massachusetts education commissioner is seeking authority to mandate that students ages 5 and up, staff and educators in public K-12 schools wear masks indoors through Oct. 1, a measure that will come before the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education for a vote Tuesday.

Gov. Baker Mandates Vaccination For Executive Branch Massachusetts Workers

Aug 19, 2021
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker in July 2021.
State House News Service

Updated 4:01 p.m.

About 42,000 Massachusetts state employees will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or have secured a medical or religious exemption by Oct. 17, or face the risk of consequences including losing their jobs, under an executive order Gov. Charlie Baker signed Thursday.

The University of Connecticut is joining colleges that are making it mandatory for staff and faculty to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 ahead of the fall semester.

The public university on Tuesday notified 9,800 full- and part-time employees, including those who work at UConn Health, that they have until Oct. 15 to show proof of vaccination or get approved for a medical, religious or personal belief exemption.

A federal judge on Monday sided with the University of Connecticut in a legal challenge against its coronavirus vaccine policy, upholding a requirement for students to get the shot or request an exemption before returning to campus.

Two students and the parent of an incoming freshman sued university trustees last month, arguing they failed to provide clear guidance around UConn’s coronavirus vaccination policy and applied it arbitrarily by excluding faculty and staff.

St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts.

A nurses strike in Worcester shows no signs of ending. The union said the latest offer from St. Vincent Hospital doesn't go far enough.

Rumbila Abdullahi and her husband Ibrahim Abdi hold their newborn son, Nabeel, outside their home in the Sixteen Acres neighborhood of Springfield, Massachusetts.
Ben James / NEPM

In early May, Smith College senior Rumbila Abdullahi relaxed on a couch in her living room off a quiet street in the Sixteen Acres neighborhood of Springfield, Massachusetts. She wore a baati — a traditional Somali dress — and a hijab.

Massachusetts Sets Vaccine Mandate For Long-Term Care Staff

Aug 4, 2021
The Holyoke Soldiers' Home.
Simtropolitan / Creative Commons

Massachusetts long-term care workers will be required to get fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 10, under a new mandate the Baker administration rolled out Wednesday.

Hundreds Of UConn Students Ask For Vaccine Exemptions

Aug 4, 2021

More than 800 students attending the University of Connecticut this fall want exemptions from UConn’s coronavirus vaccine mandate, according to information disclosed in new court filings.

Students returning to campus in August are required to get the shot or seek an exemption, which allows them to attend with heightened health and safety requirements, such as wearing masks and staying in periods of quarantine.

A year after keeping the price of taxpayer-funded purchases out of public view in an effort to protect private business, state Comptroller Kevin Lembo has changed course and released unredacted contracts between 10 vendors and the state for COVID-19 testing.

The release came one day before Connecticut Public was set to argue for the full disclosure of the documents before a state public records panel.

Springfield, Massachusetts, Mayor Domenic Sarno during a COVID-19 briefing Tuesday, August 3, 2021.
Adam Frenier / NEPM

When public schools open in Springfield, Massachusetts, later this month, students, teachers and staff will be required to wear masks. The announcement comes as COVID-19 rates continue to rise in the city.

First VaxMillions Winners In Mass. Revealed, Both Vaccinated Before Incentive Began

Jul 29, 2021
The winner of this week's $1 million prize in Massachusetts is Darrell Washington of Weymouth, and the winner of the $300,000 college scholarship is Daniela Maldonado of Chelsea.
Courtesy Joshua Qualls, Governor's Press Office / WBUR

One of the first things Darrell Washington did when the state of Massachusetts contacted him with news he'd won the first $1 million prize in the VaxMillions giveaway was to turn to Google.

At least 65 of Massachusetts’ 107 largest colleges and universities will require their students to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before returning to campuses this fall. A smaller number — at least 23, as of late July — will require on-campus faculty and staff to be vaccinated as well.

Many of the published policies ask students to get and report their immunizations well before the start of the semester, some as early as July 1, as seen in the table below.

NEW HAVEN — As California and New York City moved Monday toward mandating vaccinations to quell a surge in COVID-19 cases, Gov. Ned Lamont worked with high school coaches to coax athletes to voluntarily improve lagging vaccination rates among the young.

“Nobody wants mandates. I know how tired everybody is. And we don’t have to get into that conversation if people just go get vaccinated,” said Lamont, joined at a free vaccination clinic on the city’s historic green by coaches, health officials and its mayor, Justin Elicker.

Nurses talk to a patient at the COVID-19 mass vaccination site at Eastfield Mall in Springfield, Massachusetts, in January 2021.
Hoang 'Leon' Nguyen / The Republican / Masslive

The numbers remain low compared to earlier in the pandemic, but local public health officials are expressing concern about upticks in COVID-19 cases in two of New England's largest cities.