Gov. Charlie Baker announced a wide-ranging series of COVID-19 emergency orders in a Sunday evening March 15, 2020 news conference, including school closures, a ban on most gatherings of 25 people or more, and prohibition of on-premises food or drink consumption in restaurants and bars. Photo by Sam Doran | State House News Service

Almost exactly two years to the day that the coronavirus pandemic was declared an emergency in Massachusetts, the state’s top public health officer painted a brightening picture of the pandemic Wednesday and said she is optimistic about the trajectory of the state’s response.

“With vaccines and boosters and new COVID-19 therapeutic treatments, we are in a much better place than we were at this time last year,” Commissioner of Public Health Margret Cooke told the Public Health Council. “Residents have finally been able to gather more safely with family and friends. Students are in classrooms where they should be and more people are returning to their workplaces. I am confident that the commonwealth and the department will continue to make progress on the COVID-19 front and, with our help, will bring life to a new normal.”

Cooke said the state’s COVID-19 data points are encouraging “across the board.”

Since the Public Health Council’s last meeting on Feb. 9, Cooke said, the seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases has decreased by 65 percent and COVID-19 hospitalizations have decreased by more than 70 percent. Roughly 77 percent of Massachusetts residents are now fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, she said.

In about two years, there have been over 1.54 million confirmed coronavirus infections in Massachusetts and at least 22,916 people have died of the disease here. Gov. Charlie Baker on March 10, 2020 declared a state of emergency around the pandemic, which lasted until June 15, 2021. Since the early days of the pandemic when COVID-19 tests were in short supply and extremely hard to secure, Massachusetts has now administered more than 41.3 million tests for the virus.

Cooke stopped well short of declaring victory over the coronavirus Wednesday. About 10 months ago, when he ordered the end of most state-mandated COVID-19 restrictions, Baker came as close as any elected official has come to putting the pandemic in the past.

“Unless something very odd happens I would say that it is pretty much over but … I would put an asterisk on anything that says it’s over,” the governor said on May 28. “But I do believe that it is certainly on the run in a big way and, given the data as it currently exists right now, Massachusetts is in a place where we can lift these restrictions and do so with a fairly high degree of confidence that people have done the things that we needed to do to beat this thing down.”

The asterisk Baker put on his statement turned out to be warranted. After remaining at favorable levels through last summer, the delta and omicron variants fueled a fall COVID-19 resurgence that saw new cases skyrocket above previous surges, though vaccines and treatments helped to hold down hospitalizations and deaths.

Mass. in ‘Much Better Place’ on COVID Anniversary

by State House News Service time to read: 2 min