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Mass. COVID-19 numbers continue to climb as Moderna vaccine added to state pandemic arsenal

Vehicles with children received toys. The City of Everett hosted a Winter Wonderland drive-thru around Wehner Park during the continuing coronavirus pandemic.
Vehicles with children received toys. The City of Everett hosted a Winter Wonderland drive-thru around Wehner Park during the continuing coronavirus pandemic.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Massachusetts expects to add a second vaccine to its pandemic arsenal this week, as state public health officials reported more than 4,100 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and 60 deaths Sunday.

Due to arrive just days before Christmas, the Moderna vaccine comes as Governor Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh renew calls for residents to avoid large, holiday gatherings to avoid opportunities for the often-deadly virus to spread.

“Let’s all do our part to protect our communities and slow the spread of #COVID19,” Walsh said in a statement posted Sunday to Twitter.

Boston Children’s Hospital on Sunday confirmed a cluster of 13 cases in a single unit. Meanwhile, the leader of one of the state’s highest risk communities, Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt, announced Saturday that he has tested positive for COVID-19.

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Children’s Hospital said two patients and 11 staff members from the same unit tested positive for COVID-19, according to a hospital statement. The cases were reported to the state Thursday.

Santa waved to the children in the rear of this vehicle at the Winter Wonderland drive-thru around Wehner Park in Everett.
Santa waved to the children in the rear of this vehicle at the Winter Wonderland drive-thru around Wehner Park in Everett.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

“We are performing contact tracing and testing for patients and staff who came in contact with these patients, and are taking a series of precautions to ensure that all of our patients and staff remain safe and protected,” the statement said.

Patients, families, and staff have been notified, the statement said.

Sunday’s reported confirmed cases brought the total in Massachusetts to 311,090, according to the Department of Public Health. The confirmed death toll has reached 11,465.

The state reported that 82,617 people were estimated to have active cases of the potentially deadly virus, while 1,919 confirmed coronavirus patients were in the hospital.

The Moderna vaccine, like the one developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, involves two doses administered weeks apart. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine began distribution last week in Massachusetts and has been administered to health care workers.

The state has ordered 120,000 first doses of the Moderna vaccine, which will be shipped to more than 200 health care facilities across the state, according to a statement from the COVID-19 Response Command Center Sunday.

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The Moderna vaccine comes after the state faced a setback in its use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine late last week. Federal regulators notified Massachusetts officials that it would reduce the state’s allotment of the drug, from more than 59,000 doses to 42,900 doses in its next few shipments.

Driver Eileen Kelly, and her passenger, waved at the costumed characters near the vehicles during the Winter Wonderland drive-thru around Wehner Park in Everett.
Driver Eileen Kelly, and her passenger, waved at the costumed characters near the vehicles during the Winter Wonderland drive-thru around Wehner Park in Everett.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

The state now expects to receive 145,275 doses of the Pfizer vaccine by the end of December, it said in the statement Sunday. That’s down about 20 percent from the 180,000 doses that had been anticipated.

As of Friday, 17,573 doses of vaccine have been administered in Massachusetts, the statement said.

Patients and workers at long-term care facilities in Massachusetts, including nursing homes, are expected to start receiving vaccine doses Dec. 28, according to the command center.

CVS and Walgreens will administer those doses, which have not been delayed by the reduction in Pfizer vaccine, the command center statement said.

Tara Gregorio, president of the Massachusetts Senior Care Association, said in a statement Sunday that vaccine doses would be administered to residents and workers.

As officials prepared to roll out a broader vaccination effort, the impact of the pandemic was still being felt across the state.

In Peabody, Bettencourt said he was notified Friday that he tested positive for COVID-19 after contracting through household transmission, the mayor said in a Facebook post Saturday. Bettencourt said he has been experiencing mild symptoms.

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He urged people to follow public health guidance, and noted an uptick in coronavirus cases.

Peabody has been categorized as a high risk for the disease by the state. On Thursday, the state reported 827 new cases of COVID-19 over the previous two weeks in Peabody.

Costumed characters greeted vehicle occupants at the Winter Wonderland drive-thru around Wehner Park in Everett.
Costumed characters greeted vehicle occupants at the Winter Wonderland drive-thru around Wehner Park in Everett.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Since the pandemic began, there have been 3,081 cases of COVID-19 in the city, according to the state’s public health department.

“Our COVID-19 numbers are still rising rapidly,” Bettencourt said in the post. “Please continue to take all the important precautions to fight back against this virus.”

The coronavirus’s impact also reached the heart of Red Sox Nation, after longtime star Jason Varitek tested positive for the disease, his wife Catherine Varitek wrote on Twitter Saturday.

She said the former player is doing well for the most part and is self-isolating.

In Newton, officials have created a poignant reminder of the coronavirus’s human cost. Rows of black, empty chairs have been placed on the lawn outside City Hall. “As we pass by, we will remember that each empty chair reflects a life lost,” Mayor Ruthanne Fuller said in a statement.

The memorial was erected shortly before Thanksgiving, and modeled on similar tributes created in other cities, Fuller said.

As of Wednesday, the city reported 160 people have died in Newton due to the disease; there have been more than 1,900 cases there since the start of the pandemic in the spring.

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John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.