First responders across the state are preparing to receive their first vaccinations next week as COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to climb, including a record number of new deaths reported over the weekend.
Locally, three vaccination sites will be available for police, fire and emergency medical personnel across Cape Cod, including one in Sandwich that will provide vaccines to all Upper Cape public safety workers.
The vaccinations for this group are expected to begin on Monday, January 11. The Human Resources Building on Quaker Meetinghouse Road in Sandwich will be the designated location for first responders working in Sandwich, Bourne, Falmouth, Mashpee and Joint Base Cape Cod.
In Barnstable, the Old Jail Building on Main Street will provide vaccine appointments for those who work in Brewster, Chatham, Dennis, Eastham, Harwich, Orleans, Provincetown, Truro, Wellfleet and Yarmouth. A second Barnstable vaccination location has been designated at St. George Greek Orthodox Church on Falmouth Road.
At this time vaccines are not available to the general public and have only been administered to people working directly with COVID-19 patients as well as employees and residents of long-term care facilities.
Members of the general public are asked not to show up looking for vaccines at these locations; they will not receive a vaccine if they do. Sandwich Fire Chief John J. Burke said security will be tight at the Sandwich location.
Health Secretary MaryLou Sudders said during a news conference on Monday, January 4, that the Massachusetts vaccine guidance has been updated to include people over age 75 in the first step of the second phase, along with people who have two or more underlying conditions. She said this is in line with the latest guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Since New Year's Eve, 471 new cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed on Cape Cod as of Sunday. In the same time period, 15 people have died on Cape Cod from the disease.
The report issued by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health on Sunday included the highest single-day increase of deaths on Cape Cod since the pandemic began, with nine new deaths reported. During Monday's news conference, Governor Charles D. Baker Jr. said there have been some lags in data reporting, so it is unclear if Sunday's increase is due to a reporting backlog or if all nine people died in the 24-hour period between Saturday and Sunday.
In a report issued by the state on New Year's Eve, 43 new cases were reported in Bourne, with 58 in Falmouth, 34 in Mashpee and 49 new cases reported in Sandwich.
As a result of the rising cases, the Bourne and Falmouth public school districts both announced last week that students would be learning remotely for the coming week. Sandwich schools have been planning on a remote week since the middle of December.
In a letter sent to parents on Sunday, Sandwich Superintendent Pamela A. Gould said the district has received reports of student gatherings, house parties and travel. She asked that families be mindful of the virus and how these gatherings impact others.
"I get that we are all tired of this pandemic, but it needs to be acknowledged that these are the types of situations that will continue to increase the cases in Sandwich," she said, adding that increasing cases have the potential to force the district to close the school buildings. "We continue to remind ALL of our families that failing to take all appropriate precautions has an impact on the rest of us who are also exhausted and want this to be done."