In what may have been his final COVID-19 briefing of 2020, Gov. Charlie Baker offered an update on the state’s vaccination efforts and reflected — at length, and at times with intense emotion — on the impact the virus and efforts to contain it have had on the lives of Massachusetts residents.

This week, Baker said, more than fifty vaccine clinics will be held in long-term care facilities, leading to the initial vaccination of more than 20,000 individuals.

As of Wednesday morning, Baker added, every resident of the Chelsea and Holyoke soldiers’ homes who wanted to begin the process has been vaccinated.

The Holyoke facility was ravaged by COVID-19 this spring, with 76 residents dying after contracting the virus. In Chelsea, 30 residents passed away.

“Some of our most vulnerable residents who have served our country have now been vaccinated and received their first dose,” Baker said. “It … gives us and their loved ones a sense of comfort and relief to know that they are one step closer to being immunized at this point in time — another big statement about the fact that we do have brighter days ahead.”

Still, Baker said, the spread of COVID-19 is placing “significant strain” on the healthcare system as the holiday season draws to a close, with 2,259 people currently hospitalized for treatment and 431 in intensive care.

On New Year’s Eve, Baker said, Massachusetts residents should celebrate indoors with the people they live with, and not host large gatherings. Any visits with people outside their immediate circle should be briefly and prudently conducted outdoors, he said.

New restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings that went into effect the day after Christmas will remain in place for at least two weeks, Baker added.

As Baker spoke of New Year’s Eve ushering out 2020, he banged both fists on the podium and said, “Finally!”

Asked later to reflect on the course of the year, Baker described COVID-19 as an almost diabolically effective adversary.

“If you wanted to put together a virus that was as destructive — physically, emotionally, and spiritually — as it could possibly be, it would look like COVID-19," he said.

"It would be asymptomatic for a lot of people, so that they could spread it to others without knowing they were doing it, and at the same time convince a whole bunch of people that it’s really not that bad. And at the same time it would be an absolute murderous infection for many other people who were on the other end of this spectrum," he continued.

In addition, Baker said, “You’d want it to be something that was so contagious that you couldn’t touch anyone anymore throughout the course of the pandemic. So you can’t hug anybody, in the midst of a period of time when you’re about as anxious as you’ve ever been in your life. You can’t even shake somebody’s hand.”

And yet, Baker said, amid the death, suffering, and isolation brought by the virus, there have been some unexpected silver linings.

“I certainly think a lot of people have discovered that they can work in ways they never thought they could work and still be productive," he said. "And for many of them it’s translated into a lot more facetime with their families than I think they ever thought they could find. And for many people, that found time has been incredibly valuable, and I’m sure a lot of them don’t want to lose that, whenever it is we get back to something that looks more like whatever the after-normal is.

“I can’t tell you how many people have told me in the last year that they’d never been to a state park,” Baker added. “They’d never been to a local park; they’d never been to the walking trails in their communities.

“People have discovered all sorts of recreational opportunities in their communities that they didn’t know about, or had never bothered to pursue, that have now become part of their regular routine. There are definitely positives in this, right, that I hope we don’t lose when we get past it.”

Asked about president-elect Joe Biden’s criticism of the Trump Administration’s vaccine-rollout efforts, Baker — a Republican who has frequently been critical of the president — called the process “bumpy,” but added: “We were expecting to get about 300,000 doses by the end of the calendar year, and we’re going to get about 300,000 doses by the end of the calendar year.”