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State using $186M of COVID funds for health care, workforce

July 19, 2021 GMT

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts will use $186 million in federal aid for the coronavirus pandemic to help struggling hospitals, bolster the local health care workforce and invest in workforce training efforts, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker announced Monday.

The governor said $55 million will go towards health and human services’ workforce development, another $50 million for hospitals facing major financial shortfalls, $31 million for inpatient psychiatric acute facilities and $50 million to help train an estimated 15,000 unemployed or underemployed people to learn new skills in manufacturing, health care, information technology and construction.

“Our administration is putting this $186 million to work now because many communities throughout Massachusetts — especially low-income families and communities of color — have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and cannot wait for assistance,” Baker said in a statement.

The spending is part of $200 million designated to the governor to respond to the immediate needs of the pandemic. It represents just a sliver of the roughly $5.3 billion Massachusetts received under the nearly $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package approved by Congress earlier this year. The majority of that funding is controlled by the Democratic-led legislature.

Baker has proposed using nearly $3 billion toward a range of housing, economic development, job training, health care and infrastructure priorities.

A look at other coronavirus-related developments in Massachusetts:

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P-TOWN MASK ADVISORY

A popular tourist town on Cape Cod issued a new mask-wearing advisory on Monday after more than 100 people tested positive following the Fourth of July holiday.

The public health advisory from Provincetown officials encourages residents and visitors to the town, a popular LGBTQ+ summer destination, to resume wearing masks indoors, regardless of their vaccination status. It also urges crowded venues and other businesses where social distancing isn’t possible to verify that patrons are vaccinated.

The advisory was approved during an emergency meeting Monday with the town’s select board and board of health.

Dr. Catherine Brown, of the state Department of Public Health, said the state has alerted other jurisdictions about the cluster of cases tied to Provincetown.

Local officials said the majority are Massachusetts residents but more than 40 are from out of state. They said more 90% of those infected were men and that their median age is 35. Officials said they’re also investigating how many of those infected were already vaccinated.

“I think this last week and since July 4th is just a reminder to us that yes, COVID is still here,” Barnstable County Chief Health Officer Sean O’Brien said.

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BU VACCINE REQUIREMENT

Boston University said Monday that all employees returning to campus in the fall will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

University President Robert Brown said the school decided to impose the mandate after a survey indicated that more than 70% of faculty and nearly 74% of staff are currently or will be vaccinated by Aug. 1.

“These totals are significantly below what we need to safely return our campuses to near-normal operation in the fall,” Brown wrote in a letter to faculty and staff.

He said the university will offer walk-in vaccination clinics and that vaccinations must be completed by Sept. 2.

The college, like others in the Boston-area, has already said vaccinations will be mandatory for all students returning to campus in the fall.