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Baker warns Mass. could be on verge of another ‘significant surge’ with upcoming holidays

Governor Charlie Baker spoke at a press conference held in the Gardner Auditorium on Monday.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Massachusetts health care facilities on Monday began rolling out doses of a second coronavirus vaccine — this one made by Cambridge-based Moderna — a hopeful development during a dark period of the battle against a virus that has killed thousands in the state.

Even as front-line health workers began taking the first of the two doses the Moderna vaccine requires, Governor Charlie Baker sought to drive home the gravity of the ongoing threat from the virus. His administration is “basically begging everyone to stay within their immediate household” during the holidays.

“We’re not asking people to do this forever,” the governor said during a State House news conference. “We’re asking them to do it for the next 10 or 12 days.”

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He said the post-Thanksgiving spike in cases and hospitalizations has slowed a bit, but “not enough, by any means, especially with the Christmas and New Year’s holidays coming up, where we unfortunately anticipate there could be another significant surge.”

When the danger recedes next year, Baker said, “we can have the kind of celebrations we want to have.”

On Monday state public health officials reported 3,760 newly confirmed cases and 41 new deaths. Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have now claimed 11,506 lives in Massachusetts.

The emergence of two vaccines has brought some hope, though it will be months before there are enough doses in the state to reach the general public.

The state expects to receive 120,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine by the end of the year. Combined with supplies of another vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech, the state expects to have received 265,000 doses by Dec. 31. Both vaccines require two doses per patient.

Front-line health care workers are the earliest group in Massachusetts to be eligible for the vaccine.

Some of the first doses of the Moderna vaccine were administered to health care workers at East Boston Neighborhood Health Center on Monday, drawing smiles and tears from some who’ve been on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic for most of the year.

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Dr. Jaime Gallegos held a sign that said “Take that, COVID!” as he was given the shot to a round of applause, in what officials at the center said they believe was the first Moderna vaccine to be administered in the state. “I feel really grateful,” Gallegos said.

Dr. Jackie Fantes, chief medical officer at the center who also received the shot, said it was “nothing short of a miracle.”

"I cannot wait to protect my staff. I’ve been worried about them every single day,” Fantes said.

Morgan Brister, a registered nurse at South End Community Health Center, said it was an “honor to get the vaccine.”

“Victory. I’m so excited,” she said, adding that she’s looking forward to seeing patients and hugging people again.

Despite the vaccines, Brister warned that the fight against COVID-19 is not over.

“We can’t let our guard down,” she said.

A total of 20,600 Moderna doses went to 25 sites in Massachusetts on Monday, state officials said, with 83,800 more going to 214 locations Tuesday.

Among the institutions to receive the vaccine on Monday were Boston Medical Center, which got 7,500 doses of Moderna’s vaccine, a spokesman said.

During his Monday news conference, Baker said he will consider additional measures to control the virus.

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“As we discuss this and model it out, every option is on the table” Baker said. “And we’re currently reviewing additional steps that we can take to try to minimize the impact of all this.”

Baker rolled the state back to the first step of Phase 3 in its reopening plan earlier this month amid surging hospitalizations. The move closed indoor performance venues and recreation centers and limited capacity to 40 percent in businesses such as gyms, retail stores, and movie theaters. Some municipalities, including Boston, have gone further.

Baker on Monday also addressed recent glitches in the vaccination supply chain, as states were told to expect fewer doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in its second week of distribution.

“It does mean instead of having 300,000 vaccines to distribute between Moderna and Pfizer by the end of the year, we’re only going to end up with 265,000,” Baker said.

That’s not a welcome development, he said.

“I think that, as I said before, I’m frustrated about that,” he said, while also detailing ongoing efforts to vaccinate as many front-line health care workers as possible.

About 26,000 people have received the first dose of a vaccine, state officials said. Baker said at his early afternoon news conference that “additional doses between Pfizer and Moderna are going to be arriving practically every day.”

“Obviously, we’d love to see everybody get it all at once. But, as we said before, you know, it will take a little bit of a while to ramp up the distribution piece,” Baker said.

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As the pandemic continues to disrupt the economy, Baker said he was pleased to see Congress had finally reached a deal on another COVID-19 relief package Sunday night.

He said he anticipates the bill will include money earmarked for unemployment assistance, as well as support for testing, vaccinations, tracing, rental assistance and small business aid, among other priorities.

Baker’s office also announced the issuance of nearly $49 million to small businesses through a COVID-19 Small Business Grant Program.

The program, first announced in October, is part of the Baker administration’s plan to get people back to work, support small businesses, and ensure housing stability amid the pandemic.

Amanda Kaufman of the Globe staff contributed to this report.



Nick Stoico can be reached at nick.stoico@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @NickStoico. Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe. Jessica Rinaldi can be reached at jessica.rinaldi@globe.com.