Gov. Charlie Baker was set to outline a new round of financial assistance being provided to small businesses in Massachusetts impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, Thursday.
Baker was set to discuss the loans during a press conference at 11:30 a.m.
The scheduled remarks come after the administration on Wednesday announced an additional $78.5 million in awards to 1,595 additional small businesses as part of the COVID-19 Small Business Grant Program. It is the third round of such loans.
So far, the administration has awarded nearly $195 million in direct financial support to 4,119 small businesses through the program.
“Supporting small businesses is vital to our economic recovery, and we’ll continue to expedite this grant process to send out funds to provide some much needed financial relief,” Baker said in a press release.
Meanwhile, Baker on Wednesday also released new details on the next round of COVID-19 vaccinations in Massachusetts.
On Monday, the state began administering vaccine doses to first responders — including police, firefighters and EMTs. The next step in the state’s vaccine plan will focus on congregate care facilities.
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Starting next week, roughly 94,000 people living and working in congregate care settings like group homes, shelters and correctional facilities will become eligible to receive the vaccine.
“These facilities are prioritized because they serve vulnerable populations in densely populated settings, which means they’re at significant risk for contracting COVID-19,” Baker said. “The staff are also high risk for exposure at these facilities, and many of them do amazing work and it’s important that they’re vaccinated to protect themselves and their families.”
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said that the next step in the state’s vaccine plan will focus on congregate care facilities.
Massachusetts remains on track to begin Phase 2 of its vaccination plan sometime in February as initially announced, he said. Baker also defended the way his administration has made the COVID-19 available to this point on Wednesday.
“I know this isn’t popular, but I really hope that early on we are able, with the vaccine that’s available, to hit the populations for whom life is most at risk and for whom the health care system relies on and depends on to provide care. I do know that in a lot of states, people who are the same age as my kids have gotten vaccinated before people who are home health workers or health care workers or long-term care workers or long-term care residents or some of these other populations or people who have multiple comorbidities and are over the age of 70,” the governor said in response to a question about vaccinations in Arizona. “Honestly, I just don’t think that’s the way we should do this. I think the focus early on should be on those who have the most to lose or who are fundamental to our ability to take care of those who have the most to lose.”
Massachusetts has administered fewer doses on a per capita basis than any of its surrounding states and the vaccine has been made available so far primarily to COVID-facing health care workers, long-term care residents, and first responders. If all goes according to plan with the vaccine distribution from the federal government, Baker said, “many of the kinds of places that we’re talking about with respect to vaccinating people could be running at a very significant clip” in 60 to 90 days.
Firefighters and police officers across Massachusetts began their vaccinations for coronavirus Monday.
On Tueday, Baker announced that Massachusetts is preparing to open its first mass vaccination site this week at Gillette Stadium as the state ramps up efforts to get shots into arms and help stem the spread of the coronavirus.
The site will open Thursday by first administering vaccinations into staff members, he said.
Starting Monday, the site will begin giving shots to first responders. At first the site will have the capacity to administer up to 300 doses a day.
Fenway Park will also be used as a mass vaccination site in the state.
Baker said capacity will expand over time to up to 5,000 doses a day or more, eventually extending to the general population.
Eligible vaccine recipients will be able to schedule appointments on the state’s COVID-19 vaccine website.
Vaccines are not expected to be available to the general public until April.
“The big hope on the horizon is the arrival of more vaccine,” Baker said. “In the meantime everybody’s still got to do their part to stop the spread of the virus in the months ahead.”
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