Gov. Charlie Baker issues mask advisory, activates National Guard to help at hospitals

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Gov. Charlie Baker issued a statewide mask advisory Tuesday as part of new measures to address a recent rise in COVID-19 cases across Massachusetts.The Massachusetts Department of Public Health now recommends all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask or face covering in indoor, public spaces. Baker will also activate up to 500 members of the Massachusetts National Guard to address the non-clinical support needs of hospitals and transport systems. Up to 300 of these Guard members will begin training this week and will support 55 acute care hospitals, as well as 12 ambulance service providers across the commonwealth.Baker said the state’s health care system is facing a critical staffing shortage, which has contributed to the loss of approximately 500 medical/surgical and ICU hospital beds since the beginning of the year. Officials have identified five key roles, which include non-emergency transport between facilities and security support. Guard personnel will be deployed to the field beginning Dec. 27, Baker said.Health officials also released updated guidance to hospitals concerning nonessential, elective invasive procedures. To preserve health care personnel resources, effective Dec.27, all hospitals are directed to postpone or cancel all nonessential elective procedures likely to result in inpatient admission in order to maintain and increase inpatient capacity.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the omicron variant now makes up 73% of all new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. Data shows nearly a six-fold increase in omicron’s share of infections in one week. It’s responsible for an estimated 90% of new infections in parts of the country, including the New York area. “This virus is extraordinary. It has a doubling time of anywhere from two to three days. Right now, in certain regions of the country, 50 percent of the isolates are omicron, which means it’s going to take over,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “With omicron that we’re dealing with, it is going to be a tough few weeks to months as we get deeper into the winter.”The CDC has discussed models showing the variant will surge through Christmas, with a peak in mid-January and finally trailing off in March. President Joe Biden will announce Tuesday a purchase of a half-billion at-home rapid COVID-19 tests and a plan to distribute them free to Americans who request them through a website, one of a series of new steps he’ll unveil as the country faces a potentially crippling wintertime surge of infections.The 500 million new tests will be made available next month and will reach Americans through the mail, the official said. The administration is still working to determine how many tests each household may request.In an effort to stop the surge, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu on Monday announced a plan to implement a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for “select indoor public spaces.” Starting Jan. 15, patrons will be required to show they have received at least one vaccine dose to enter indoor dining, bars, nightclubs, gyms and entertainment. Proof of full vaccination will be required for adults by Feb. 15.

Gov. Charlie Baker issued a statewide mask advisory Tuesday as part of new measures to address a recent rise in COVID-19 cases across Massachusetts.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health now recommends all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask or face covering in indoor, public spaces.

Baker will also activate up to 500 members of the Massachusetts National Guard to address the non-clinical support needs of hospitals and transport systems. Up to 300 of these Guard members will begin training this week and will support 55 acute care hospitals, as well as 12 ambulance service providers across the commonwealth.

Baker said the state’s health care system is facing a critical staffing shortage, which has contributed to the loss of approximately 500 medical/surgical and ICU hospital beds since the beginning of the year.

Officials have identified five key roles, which include non-emergency transport between facilities and security support.

Guard personnel will be deployed to the field beginning Dec. 27, Baker said.

Health officials also released updated guidance to hospitals concerning nonessential, elective invasive procedures. To preserve health care personnel resources, effective Dec.27, all hospitals are directed to postpone or cancel all nonessential elective procedures likely to result in inpatient admission in order to maintain and increase inpatient capacity.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the omicron variant now makes up 73% of all new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. Data shows nearly a six-fold increase in omicron’s share of infections in one week.

It’s responsible for an estimated 90% of new infections in parts of the country, including the New York area.

“This virus is extraordinary. It has a doubling time of anywhere from two to three days. Right now, in certain regions of the country, 50 percent of the isolates are omicron, which means it’s going to take over,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “With omicron that we’re dealing with, it is going to be a tough few weeks to months as we get deeper into the winter.”

The CDC has discussed models showing the variant will surge through Christmas, with a peak in mid-January and finally trailing off in March.

President Joe Biden will announce Tuesday a purchase of a half-billion at-home rapid COVID-19 tests and a plan to distribute them free to Americans who request them through a website, one of a series of new steps he’ll unveil as the country faces a potentially crippling wintertime surge of infections.

The 500 million new tests will be made available next month and will reach Americans through the mail, the official said. The administration is still working to determine how many tests each household may request.

In an effort to stop the surge, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu on Monday announced a plan to implement a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for “select indoor public spaces.”

Starting Jan. 15, patrons will be required to show they have received at least one vaccine dose to enter indoor dining, bars, nightclubs, gyms and entertainment. Proof of full vaccination will be required for adults by Feb. 15.

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