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4 New England governors warn of virus threat over holidays

December 24, 2020 GMT

The governors of four New England states are offering a Christmas greeting and plea to avoid spreading the coronavirus.

Maine’s Democratic governor, Janet Mills, joined Republican Govs. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Chris Sununu of New Hampshire and Phil Scott of Vermont in recording a message posted on social media Wednesday night.

“We know this about the virus, it doesn’t care who you are, where you’re from, whether you’re young or old, rich or poor, Democrat or Republican,” Baker said.

“It’s a threat to all of us,” Scott continued. “That’s why until everyone can get vaccinated, it’s so important to take precautions to protect us all especially right now.”

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That means mask wearing, hand washing and “If you’re thinking of having a holiday gathering as usual this year, it also means reconsidering that,” said Mills.

Sununu led the group off with a message all four repeated: “Mask up, and Happy Holidays.”

In other coronavirus developments around New England:

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CHRISTMAS SERVICES

Roman Catholic churches in the Boston area are preparing to celebrate Christmas Mass in person under strict coronavirus safety measures.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley said this week that churches in the Archdiocese of Boston will be operating under significantly reduced capacity, and that registration will be required to attend services.

Social distancing and mask wearing will also be required, and there will be no singing of Christmas carols. O’Malley also advised attendees to dress for warmth because church windows may be left open for ventilation.

Some churches, he added, will not be offering in-person services, but most will be offering livestreamed masses.

He also said the archdiocese will be offering a full slate of Christmas Masses and other holiday programming in English and Spanish on Catholic TV.

Episcopal dioceses in Massachusetts, meanwhile, have urged their churches to suspend in-person services for the rest of the year, including Christmas.

“It will be a year for small, quiet, contemplative possibilities — perhaps not unlike the lonely stable in Bethlehem shared by that little family at the Incarnation, where Christ first came to meet all our hopes and fears,” Massachusetts Episcopal bishops wrote last month in a joint statement. ___

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RHODE ISLAND

Five people demanding better COVID-19 protections for state prison inmates were arrested outside Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo’s home, state police said.

The protesters with the group Code Black RI were arrested outside the Democratic governor’s Providence home on Wednesday night after blocking the roadway.

The group, which says it is made up of medical professionals, health care workers, and trainees, said they were holding a vigil in response to the recent death of an Adult Correctional Institutions inmate who had the coronavirus.

“We mourn the death of an incarcerated person who died from COVID complications last week, and hold vigil for all those still at risk for untimely death at the ACI,” the group said in a statement.

The group wants the state to release as many inmates as possible on parole and into community confinement, especially those who are older and medically vulnerable, while providing safer conditions inside the prison.

A spokesperson for the Department of Corrections told WLNE-TV that the agency is doing everything it can to control the spread of COVID-19.

An email seeking comment was left with the governor’s office.

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VERMONT

State Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine says officials are working out the logistics of how Vermonters will be vaccinated against the virus that causes COVID-19.

Levine, speaking Thursday during a Christmas Eve virus briefing along with Gov. Phil Scott, says by the end of next week, Vermont is on track to receive 34,000 doses of the two vaccines that have been approved for emergency use.

So far, the state has received about 21,000 doses of the vaccines and about 30% of those doses have been administered to people in the top priority group, which includes health care providers and residents of long-term care facilities.

“It’s a huge and logistically complex undertaking, perhaps the most complicated nationwide, never mind statewide, immunization effort since the early 20th century,” Levine said. “Nonetheless, we will vaccinate Vermont as fast as possible.”

The Vermont Health Department reported 92 new cases of the virus Thursday, bringing the statewide total since the pandemic began to more than 6,780. Three new deaths were reported, for a total of 120.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Vermont decreased over the past two weeks, going from 117 on Dec. 9 to 95.86 on Dec. 23.

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CONNECTICUT

Trinity Health of New England received its first delivery of COVID-19 vaccine from Moderna on Thursday for its Connecticut hospitals.

The health system said 5,500 doses had been delivered. On Tuesday, the system’s Connecticut hospitals had received an additional shipment of 975 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

Trinity launched its vaccine program on Dec. 15 after it received its first shipment of Pfizer vaccine. As of Tuesday, 2,200 health care workers throughout Connecticut and western Massachusetts had received their first dose. The system expects to vaccinate all of its health care workers who choose to be vaccinated by the end of July or early February.

Trinity Health of New England operates four hospitals in Connecticut, including one rehabilitation facility, and one in Massachusetts.

As of Thursday, 161 of Connecticut’s 169 cities and towns are now in the state’s red zone alert level, the highest of the four levels. The only municipalities not in the red zone this week are Salisbury and Woodbridge, which are both in the orange alert zone; and Canaan, Colebrook, Cornwall, Scotland, Union and Warren, which are in the gray alert zone. Red zone communities have an average daily case rate of more than 15 per 100,000 population.

The number of positive COVID-19 cases statewide increased by more than 2,000 since Wednesday, while the number of hospitalizations climbed by 45, to 1,200. There have been 5,791 COVID-associated deaths, an increase of 55 since Wednesday.

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NEW HAMPSHIRE

Nearly 39,000 people have tested positive for the virus in New Hampshire, with 417 cases announced Thursday that included results from several previous days. The state announced 13 additional deaths, bringing the total to 690.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in New Hampshire decreased over the past two weeks from 751 on Dec. 9 to 725 on Dec. 23.