Gov. Baker today announced that the state's hospitals will "curtail elective procedures that can be safely postponed," but that outpatient procedures that were also banned in March can continue.
'It's is not a blanket across the board curtailment," state Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said: Outpatient procedures for such procedures as colonoscopies and well-baby checks can continue.
At a State House press conference, Baker said the state's now starting to see a surge-on-a-surge from Thanksgiving-related Covid-19 cases.
Even with a new field hospital in Worcester and a second scheduled to open in Lowell, hospitals simply can't keep taking in as many non-emergency non-Covid-19 patients, in part because we're no longer just running short of beds, but of doctors, nurses and other staffers, he said.
"We can't afford continue the to strain the hospital system at this rate," he said, adding he and state health officials have been talking to hospitals about such a move for several days now.
"We're certainly better to handle this than we were before," with the state far better stocked with PPE and other supplies than in the spring, but there's only so much hospitals can do, he said.
Although current hospitalization rates remain below those during the spring surge, they have been rising over the past couple of weeks. The latest state statistics, released yesterday, showed that Boston hospital beds are now 81% full. Boston ICU beds are only 57% full, but ICU beds in the Merrimack Valley are completely occupied.
Baker added that he will detail on Wednesday how the state will administer the 300,000 doses of Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine the state has been told it will likely get by the end of the month. He said first-line responders will get shots first, followed by residents of long-term care facilities. He said he does not expect major distribution issues, because the state already has an extensive program for distributing various vaccines each year, although one difference is that the vaccine requires two shots.
Baker said both he and some mayors are very frustrated with people who keep doing stuff like having inside gatherings
He said most people in the Commonwealth are doing the right thing, but "it's critically important for people to up their game." He said he hasn't eaten with his father since February. "I don't like that," but those are the rules of this game, he said.
He said Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner is fundamentally different than those in restaurants. At a holiday gathering, people sit around a table, don't wear masks, talk at and to each other, for hours, mostly with people they don't tend to spend much time with. In contrast, he said, restaurants have been strictly regulated by the state and most people going to restaurants are couples or members of the same household. And they wear masks while not opening their mouths for eating or drinking, he said.