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BOSTON, MA – MARCH 14-SATURDAY: Massachusetts Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders, right, answers reporters’ questions after Gov. Baker named her the head of a command center in response to issues caused by the COVID-1 virus, at the State House March 14, 2020, in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Paul Connors/Media News Group/Boston Herald)
BOSTON, MA – MARCH 14-SATURDAY: Massachusetts Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders, right, answers reporters’ questions after Gov. Baker named her the head of a command center in response to issues caused by the COVID-1 virus, at the State House March 14, 2020, in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Paul Connors/Media News Group/Boston Herald)
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BOSTON – Vaccinations began in the state’s two soldiers’ homes on Tuesday, while the Department of Public Health reported 3,659 new cases and 58 recent deaths linked to the respiratory disease.

About 60 percent of the 12,218 COVID-19 deaths in Massachusetts to date — a total that includes 11,958 deaths among people with test-confirmed COVID-19 and another 260 among people with probable cases — have occurred in long-term care facilities, and 415 long-term care facilities have reported at least one case of the coronavirus.

“The first wave of vaccinations of residents and staff at long term care facilities in the Commonwealth gives us hope for the beginning of the end of this devastating pandemic, one that we know has disproportionately impacted residents of long term care facilities,” Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said in a statement Tuesday. “While there is hope, we must continue to be vigilant in the face of COVID-19, and I deeply appreciate the ongoing efforts of frontline health care workers like the team at the Soldiers’ Homes during this unprecedented time.”

Robert Aucoin, a 78-year-old Air Force veteran who was the first Holyoke Soldiers’ Home resident to get the shot, said, “My wish is that everyone in the world can get the vaccine,” and World War II Army Air Corps veteran Dominic Pitella, a 94-year-old resident of the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home, said, “I’m hopeful this will help everybody.”

While DPH data show the seven-day average of new confirmed cases is markedly lower than it was two weeks ago — 2,635 on Dec. 28 compared to 4,643 on Dec. 14 — the average positive test rate has increased over that same time period, rising from 6.2 percent to 7.6 percent.

The seven-day average of hospitalizations has also been tilting upward, hitting 2,139 as of Monday. On Tuesday, the DPH said, there were 2,259 confirmed COVID-19 patients in Massachusetts hospitals, including 431 in intensive care units. An estimated 78,215 people statewide are considered to have active cases of COVID-19. – Katie Lannan

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