BOSTON (AP) — Getting a flu shot this year is one of the best ways to help the state guard against a spike in demand for health care services caused by any potential new surge in coronavirus cases, Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday.
Public health officials have warned that an increase in both diseases could put pressure on the state’s hospitals and health care system, the Republican said at a news conference at a CVS Pharmacy in the Roslindale neighborhood of Boston.
“As we continue to fight COVID-19, it’s critical that we do everything we can to minimize the impact of the flu and other respiratory diseases,” Baker said. “Having the flu and COVID-19 surge in the commonwealth at exactly the same time would be an incredibly difficult situation for them to manage their way through.”
Baker said the state must also push harder to make sure all students receive a flu shot. He said the current vaccination rate for elementary students is 81%, but the state can do better.
State public health officials last month announced flu shots will be required for all students and children six months and older attending childcare, preschool, K-12, and colleges and universities in Massachusetts.
The state is also stockpiling additional flu shots, according to Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders.
Typically, the state acquires 900,000 doses from a flu season. This year, the state is upping that to 1.15 million doses or about a 28% increase, Sudders said.
In the 2019-2020 flu season, there were 40,000 cases of the flu reported to the state Department of Public Health. About 6,600 people in the state died, according to Sudders.
Eleven freshman students at Northeastern University who were dismissed for violating campus social distancing guidelines after they were discovered in the same hotel room will have most of this semester’s costs refunded, the Boston Globe reported.
The university had originally said the students would not be refunded. But in a letter obtained by the Globe, the university said it “recognizes that the incident at issue occurred prior to the beginning of the semester, before classes began, and the sanctions result in a loss of access to university resources and tuition.”
The students were notified by letter Thursday that their semester-long dismissals will stand, but the students no longer have to cover the entire $36,500 cost of their program. Northeastern will keep $8,740, according to the newspaper.
Baker earlier in the month defended the university’s decision to dismiss the 11 students for the fall semester.
“The rules were the rules. They were established upfront. Everybody attested to them and they broke them,” Baker previously said.
He said he “feels terrible” for the students and their families, but added that the college experience has changed.
“It’s really important, especially during this time when kids are coming back to school, that everybody appreciate and accept the fact that college is just not going to be the way it was last year or the year before,” he said.
COURTS PLAN FOR RETURN OF JURY TRIALS
The state Supreme Judicial Court is planning for the gradual resumption of jury trials on or after Oct. 23.
Phase 1 of the plan will consist of a limited number of six-person jury trials conducted in person in a select number of locations, with no more than one trial at a time conducted in each location, and with specified limitations on the number of peremptory challenges available to each party.
Court officials are anticipating that Phase 2 will begin in February, although plans regarding the resumption of jury trials may be adjusted in response to changes in the rate of the coronavirus transmission in the state.
Courts will continue to conduct most business virtually and courthouses will continue to be physically open to the public for limited purposes, including certain in-person proceedings.
Judges will continue to conduct bench trials, either virtually or in-person.
UPDATED VIRUS NUMBERS
Massachusetts health officials reported 419 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 15 additional virus-related fatalities on Thursday.
There have now been more 124,000 confirmed cases in the state and 9,051 fatalities, according to the Department of Public Health.
The 7-day rolling average of daily new cases in Massachusetts has risen over the past two weeks from more than 355 new cases per day on Sept. 2 to more than 365 on Wednesday, according to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
The 7-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Massachusetts has risen slightly over the past two weeks, yet remains well below 1%, Johns Hopkins said.
The number of people in the state’s hospitals with the disease was up to 377 on Thursday, from 352 the previous day.