BOSTON (AP) — A day after Massachusetts residents trying to sign up for a coronavirus vaccine were frustrated by a website crash, they encountered a different problem on Friday: a lack of open appointments.
About 60,000 people were able to sign up for a slot on Thursday even though the signup portal was down for about two hours in the morning. State officials said there were no more openings available at mass vaccination sites in Boston, Foxborough, Danvers, Natick, Dartmouth and Springfield.
People who went to vaxfinder.mass.gov on Friday to book an appointment were told none were available.
A statement from state health officials said “a small number of appointments for other locations," including pharmacies and regional collaboratives, would be posted over the next few days.
“Currently, approximately one million residents are now eligible and because supply is still severely limited by the federal government, it is expected to take at least a month for residents to book appointments,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, the state vendor responsible for the signup portal apologized for the crash.
“As public health servants and your partner, we are sorry for not meeting expectations,” Prep Mod said in a statement Thursday. “Unfortunately, the system did not scale fast enough to accommodate the increased volume. We will work continuously to ensure that the system is responsive to and accommodating for the people seeking COVID-19 vaccinations.”
Virus by the numbers
The number of newly confirmed coronavirus deaths in Massachusetts rose by 36 on Friday, pushing the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to 15,409 since the start of the pandemic.
The number of newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 increased by about 1,700 and its confirmed caseload rose to more than 536,000.
The true number of cases is likely higher because studies suggest some people can be infected and not feel sick.
There were fewer than 1,000 people reported hospitalized Friday because of confirmed cases of COVID-19, with about 260 in intensive care units.
The average age of those hospitalized was 70. There were an estimated 37,000 people with current active cases of COVID-19 in the state.
The number of probable or confirmed COVID-19 deaths reported in long-term care facilities rose to 8,446.
More than 1.3 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Massachusetts, including more than 976,000 first doses and nearly 348,000 second doses.
Pride parade canceled
The Boston Pride Parade and Festival has been canceled for the second year in a row over coronavirus concerns.
This year's event was scheduled to take place in June, but it remains unclear if the state ban on large gatherings will be lifted by then, organizers said in a statement Friday. If conditions allow, this year's parade will be moved to the fall.
“We know that the pandemic has severely impacted the LGBTQ+ community and we are working on virtual events to bring together the community in June,” Boston Pride President Linda DeMarco said in a statement. “Over the last several months, we have pursued the difficult but necessary work of transformation and we want those efforts to be a central part of our Pride celebrations this year."
Virtual events being planned for June include the Pride flag raising at City Hall Plaza and the Pride Lights ceremony to honor all those lost to and affected by HIV/AIDS.
U.S. Sen. Edward Markey said a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill pending before Congress includes veterans care funding for facilities such as the Holyoke Soldiers' Home, which was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
“The Soldiers’ Home is stabilized,” he said, adding that most residents and staff have been vaccinated.
“They feel like they are working in a much safer environment,” Markey said.
During the spring, 76 residents died after contracting COVID-19 in one of the worst outbreaks in a long-term care facility in the country. Two former top administrators have pleaded not guilty to criminal negligence charges.
The state plans to replace the facility. The administration of Gov. Charlie Baker recently filed a $400 million bond bill to build a new home.
Also, a Massachusetts judge has rejected a bid to reduce the state’s prison population to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The Boston Globe reports that Suffolk Superior Court Judge Robert Ullmann on Wednesday denied an emergency request to reduce the prison population so that inmates could be housed at least six feet away from each other.
The judge ruled the state hasn’t deliberately violated constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment, as Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts argued. He said any lapses reflect “sporadic mistakes and sporadic lack of sufficient attention to detail” from corrections officials.
At least 19 inmates have died from the virus in Massachusetts out of a current prison population of roughly 6,500 inmates.
Meanwhile, the state’s highest court on Friday heard arguments in a separate lawsuit calling for population reductions and routine COVID-19 testing in Massachusetts' county jails.
The suit, currently pending before the state Supreme Judicial Court, has been brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Committee for Public Counsel Services and the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.