As the state reported 4,330 new cases and 75 new deaths due to the pandemic Saturday, there were glimmers of hope in the fight against the virus with the state planning to ease some COVID-19 restrictions Monday.
Health experts remain divided over whether recent figures from the state — which reported 13,777 dead and more than 472,000 cases — are a sign that the administration should begin to roll back restrictions on daily life.
Governor Charlie Baker announced Thursday during a press conference that a statewide order requiring residents to stay home from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.will be lifted Monday. The governor is also ending a mandate that some businesses — such as restaurants and liquor stores — close at 9:30 p.m.
Baker pointed to reductions in new cases, positivity rates, and hospitalizations over the past three weeks to justify the easing of restrictions. However, he extended some restrictions, including requiring businesses to maintain 25 percent capacity limits until Feb. 8.
At the press conference, Baker also expanded the number of people immediately eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. Phase 1 now allows a group of people including home-based health care workers, and health workers who don’t have COVID-facing jobs like dentists and hygienists, to schedule appointments for vaccines.
They join workers previously allowed in the early part of Phase 1 to get vaccines, including hospital employees and first responders, as well as staff and inmates in the state’s correctional system, and residents of congregate care facilities.
Baker said he hoped more doses of the vaccine would be coming soon to Massachusetts and said more vaccination centers could be opening, joining Gillette Stadium and a clinic at Fenway Park expected to open next month.
But some health experts are worried that easing restrictions is not the right call.
Samuel Scarpino, an epidemiologist at Northeastern University, told the Globe Thursday that Baker’s decision “to relax measures sends the wrong message. It communicates that things are safer, which is not the case.”
On Friday, Boston College’s athletics department announced the delay of several games involving the university’s basketball teams.
“Out of an abundance of caution, we have temporarily paused all team activities with both our men’s and women’s basketball programs,” the department said in the brief statement. “Both programs remain in COVID protocols, resulting in the postponement of the upcoming games.”
Martin Finucane, Travis Andersen, and Amanda Kaufman of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
John Hilliard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.