Massachusetts health officials announced 616 new coronavirus cases and nine more deaths Thursday.
The report from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health brings the death toll to 17,366. Another 356 deaths are considered probably linked to COVID.
The latest report on the daily COVID metrics brings the total number of confirmed cases in the state at 655,350, DPH data shows.
Many of Massachusetts’ COVID metrics, including the average number of coronavirus cases, average coronavirus test positivity and average number of confirmed deaths reported each day, have been falling since the end of March, according to trends posted to the Department of Public Health’s interactive coronavirus dashboard.
The seven-day average of positive tests on Thursday ticked down to 1.15%, dropping a tenth of a percent from the previous day.
The number of patients in Massachusetts hospitals with confirmed COVID-19 cases decreased, to 385. Of those currently hospitalized, 111 are listed as being in intensive care units and 70 are intubated.
Health officials’ projection of active COVID-19 cases decreased again to 15,833 from 16,685 on Wednesday.
A total of 3,088,699 people have been fully immunized in Massachusetts, according to the department. Gov. Charlie Baker is aiming to reach 4.1 million fully vaccinated by the beginning of June.
Nearly 7 million total doses of COVID vaccines have been administered in Massachusetts as of Thursday, including nearly 3.9 million first doses and nearly 2.9 million second doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. More than 228,000 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been administered.
The new data comes amid new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention allowing fully vaccinated people to stop wearing masks in most indoor settings and among outdoor crowds.
Also starting Thursday, children between the ages of 12 and 15 are able to receive Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The development follows a CDC advisory panel vote Wednesday to recommend the vaccine for use in that age group.
“Today is a great day for America,” President Joe Biden said Thursday.
The Food and Drug Administration this week cleared the expanded use of the Pfizer vaccine shots, citing evidence the shots worked as well in those 12 to 15 years old as those 16 and older. States had been waiting for Wednesday’s recommendations from advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pfizer is not the only company seeking to lower the age limit for its vaccine. Moderna recently said preliminary results from its study in 12- to 17-year-olds show strong protection and no serious side effects — data the FDA will need to scrutinize.
The Baker administration also announced Wednesday that employers who want to help their workers get COVID-19 vaccines can take part in the state’s new Employer Vaccination Program.
The program offers two main options.
The first allows group appointments at mass vaccination sites starting May 17. Employers can request a block of appointments at any of the state’s seven mass vaccination sites. The minimum number of appointments required is 10. There is no maximum. Registration requires demographic information. Insurance and identification are not required at the time of registration or appointment if not available. Employers can set up a table at the site to have an onsite presence for employees which can be coordinated with the site operator. Sites are available seven days a week. Most vaccination appointments take less than 30 minutes, including the 15-minute observation period.
The second option allows employers to request a visit by a mobile on-site employer vaccination clinic. The option is limited to companies who have 35 or more confirmed workers who will obtain a vaccination at an on-site pop-up clinic. A vaccination provider will come to the employer host-property to vaccinate individuals and return three to four weeks later to deliver second doses. Employers in communities with vaccination rates below the state average will be prioritized. On-site clinics begin as soon as May 17.