Happening Today

State House leadership meeting, coronavirus updates and hearing, and more

— U.S. Reps. Stephen Lynch and Seth Moulton hold digital conferences, rather than in-person events, with Lynch holding a Facebook discussion on the coronavirus outbreak with Dr. Dennis Teehan Jr. of Steward Dedham Primary Care and Dr. Gabriela Andujar Vazquez of Tufts Medical Center, 1:30 p.m., and Moulton holding a Facebook town hall event, 6 p.m.

— Gov. Charlie Baker and legislative leaders meet privately at the State House, Room 360, 2 p.m. 

Department of Public Health posts a daily update on the number of confirmed and presumptive positive COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts, 4 p.m.

— Boston City Council’s Committee on Public Health holds the first of two hearings regarding COVID-19, with attendance limited to councilors, staff and panelists and broadcast live on Comcast 8/RCN 82/Verizon 1964, City Council Chamber, City Hall,5:30 p.m.

— Mayor Marty Walsh and U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark are guests on ‘Greater Boston,’ WGBH-TV Ch. 2, 7 p.m.

For the most comprehensive listing of calendar items, check out State House News Service’s Daily Advances (pay wall – free trial subscriptions available), as well as MassterList’s Beacon Hill Town Square below.

Today’s Stories

Note to readers: SHNS Coronavirus Tracker available for free

The intrepid staff of the paywalled State House News Service, which produces MASSterList, is making its full Coronavirus Tracker available to the community for free on a daily basis each morning via ML. SHNS Coronavirus Tracker.

State of Emergency, II: Baker orders all schools closed, slaps restrictions on restaurants, bans gatherings over 25 people

In an unprecedented move, Gov. Charlie Baker last evening ordered the closure of all schools in Massachusetts, public and private, starting tomorrow, while issuing other restrictions that dramatically escalate the state’s attempt to contain the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. The new restrictions include banning on-site consumption of food at restaurants (though food take-out and delivery services can continue) and prohibiting public gatherings of more than 25 people.

There are lots of other new rules – and they’re all covered by the Globe’s Felice Belman and John Hilliard, WBUR’s Ally Jarmanning and SHNS’s Chris Lisinski. 

Btw, from Paul Singer at WGBH: “Baker Launches Statewide Command Center To Run Coronavirus Response.”  

Btw, II: See the ‘Existential Threat’ post below about the reeling restaurant industry in Massachusetts.

Is a total ‘shelter in place’ shutdown next?

Gov. Charlie Baker yesterday said he has ‘no plans’ to impose a statewide quarantine/shelter in place/shutdown for all businesses in Massachusetts, despite rampant rumors and speculation, according to reports by MassLive’s Scott Croteau and and WBUR’s Ally Jarmanning. But … you have to wonder. A total local shutdown is being pushed by at least one online group, #ShutDownMASS, and Rep. Michael Connelly is endorsing the idea. Meanwhile, SHNS Tracker reports that Connelly says Cambridge and Somerville officials are at least considering the idea. And the nation’s top infectious disease expert is openly talking about it, via the AP at the LA Times: “Fauci open to a 14-day national shutdown to stem coronavirus.” 

More likely is a further tightening of Baker’s current rules. But we’ll see. One day at a time, folks. One day at a time. 

Ready or not: Medical personnel brace for ‘war-like’ conditions

This is an ominous sign, via WBUR: “Workers At Brigham And Women’s, Mass. Eye And Ear Test Positive For Coronavirus.” Meanwhile, from the Globe: “Many local (public) health agencies aren’t ready for any medical emergency, let alone coronavirus.” … From Agnus Chen at WBUR: “Hospitals Prepare For A Possible Wave Of Critical Coronavirus Patients.” … From Universal Hub: “MGH cancelling elective surgeries and clinical visits.” … From the Globe: “In effort to prevent hospital visits, paramedics treat patients in their homes.” … From the Herald’s Rick Sobey: “Front-line hospital workers facing ‘unprecedented challenge’ with coronavirus.”

And, finally, from the Globe’s Priyanka Dayal McCluskey: “Mass General president: We should be in ‘war-like’ preparations to combat coronavirus.”

Testing, testing, testing, Part II: Baker vows more tests are on the way

Amid criticism of Gov. Charlie Baker’s handling of coronavirus-testing matters in Massachusetts, the state last evening announced that 969 people have now been tested for coronavirus across the state, reports the Globe’s John Hilliard. That’s up from 799 tests announced earlier in the day and up from 475 on Saturday, reports Scott Croteau at MassLive.

Though an improvement, some say it’s still “not nearly enough,” as Hilliard reports – and the state’s pace of testing appears to be significantly lagging behind the 6,000 daily tests New York hopes to be doing soon (WSJ – pay wall). But SHNS’s Matt Murphy (pay wall) reports the governor expects “tons more testing” in coming days and weeks, partly the result of the loosening of testing rules announced on Friday, as the Globe’s Kay Lazar and Deirdre Fernandes report.

Yet, the governor also says more testing will lead to more confirmed cases of the virus – and, as of yesterday, that stood at 164, as MassLive reports

Is the coronavirus crisis testing Baker’s credibility?

Speaking of tests: Before his dramatic restaurants-and-schools closure announcement on Sunday, Gov. Charlie Baker’s management of the coronavirus crises was taking major flak from the Globe’s editorial board, which on Saturday said the governor’s “response to the coronavirus pandemic in these extraordinary times seems lacking in boldness, clarity, and transparency, especially given his expertise and the state’s reputation as a national leader in health care.”

We’ll let the Globe cite specific examples, but we have to say the entire testing fiasco has not reflected well on the governor. 

Boston Globe

Other coronavirus updates: First cases reported on Cape and in Plymouth and Hampden counties; charities step up; casinos closed; possible MBTA changes

This isn’t good. From the Cape Cod Times: “Cape Cod’s first COVID-19 case is spouce of school staff member.” … MassLive reports on Hampden County’s first coronavirus case. … From the Brockton Enterprise: “Plymouth County has its first coronavirus case.” …  Boston.com has a good county-by-county map of the 164 coronavirus cases in Massachusetts. 

In other coronavirus news from around the state, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission has also ordered the closing of the state’s three casinos, the Herald reports. … From the Globe: “Union asks state to allow more telecommuting during health crisis.” … The Globe’s Janelle Nanos reports that the Boston Foundation and United Way are stepping up to help the vulnerable, as part of a new city coronavirus fund. … From the Herald’s Andrew Martinez and Lisa Kashinsky: “Community centers ready to provide food, trauma aid during shutdowns.” … Cambridge Day’s Alex Bowers reports city schools may be closed, but school buses will still be making deliveries – as in delivery of meals to needy students.

And, of course, it seems like old news already, but, yes, it’s official: The Boston Marathon has been postponed until next fall, as Boston.com reports.

Going virtual: Local governments shut doors, cancel meetings

Even before Gov. Baker’s latest declaration, local governments were rethinking operations and postponing spring town meetings en masse. Stephen Peterson of the Sun-Chronicle reports several cities and towns are shutting government buildings entirely or restricting access, and Kim Ring at the Telegram reports Worcester city government will go virtual. 

And, finally, from Wicked Local: “Democracy delayed: Cornoavirus disrupts local government.”

Existential threat: Across state, restaurants, tourist businesses face uncertain future

And even before Gov. Charlie Baker’s emergency order last night to close down on-site consumption of food at restaurants, reeling eateries were already seeking government assistance, as the BBJ reports. And now … and now it will only get worse. From the North Shore to the Berkshires, hospitality businesses are waking up to a harsh new reality and some restaurant owners are wondering if they’ll survive the new restrictions. 

Michael Bonner at MassLive checks in with the owner of just-opened Worcester Public Market and others and finds food businesses working to invent new business models from scratch.  Dustin Luca of the Gloucester Times reports social distancing could all but collapse the key Cape Ann’s tourism sector — and local leaders are able to do little. Meanwhile, the most apt headline on the gloomy restaurant scene, via Boston Magazine: “Keep Calm—and Carry Out?”

It’s come to this: Cannabis panic buying

WGBH’s Tori Bedford reports on the early stage of marijuana panic buying. Our prediction of the next panic-buying item of choice: Booze.


Lelling finally calls it quits on Boston Calling case

It’s finally over. From the Globe’s Danny McDonald: “A month after a federal judge vacated convictions of two former City Hall aides accused of extorting union jobs from organizers of the Boston Calling music festival, the US Attorney for Massachusetts announced Friday his office will no longer pursue the case. The decision by US Attorney Andrew Lelling officially brings to a close a years-long legal saga that has dogged Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s administration.”

Boston Globe

State to assert new oversight over troubled Boston schools

It could have been worse for Boston. From CommonWealth’s Michael Jonas:  “State and city leaders have agreed to an unusual plan for oversight of the long-struggling Boston public schools, one that keeps the district in local hands but will set firm goals for improvement and give state education commissioner Jeff Riley broad authority to monitor progress on a range of measures — and intervene if the schools fail to demonstrate clear gains.”

Kathleen McNerney at WBURhas more on the scathing state report that’s led to the intervention.


Souza-Baranowski: From ‘toxic culture’ to ‘powder keg’

Jackson Cote at MassLive takes a look at all the tension that led up to the January assault on prison guards at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center – and the groundswell of prison issues, complaints and controversies that later emerged.


Should the public just buy Columbia Gas?

Craig Altemose, executive director of the Better Future Projects, wonders why Eversource gets to buy Columbia Gas of Massachusetts for $1.1 billion, following the 2018 pipeline explosions and fires in the Merrimack Valley – and wonders why the public can’t buy Columbia Gas and turn it into a municipal-owned utility. Not that he’s holding out much hope that it will happen.


Short list? Biden promises female VP in debate, adopts Warren bankruptcy plan

Finally, re- start the speculation machine. Former Vice President Joe Biden used the one-on-one, audience-free debate with Sen. Bernie Sanders last night to promise he would choose a female as his running mate, Matthew Choi at Politico reports. Sanders, for his part, said he’d most likely choose a woman as well. The Washington Post ranks the chances of various women landing on the ticket, and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren doesn’t rank very high.

Just a day earlier, Biden said he would embrace the bankruptcy reform plan put forward by Warren during her presidential campaign, a move seen as one of several olive branches Biden will hold out to the party’s progressive wing as he moves to coalesce support, reports Tal Axelrod at The Hill.


Boston Speaker Series: Susan Rice

Rice served as National Security Advisor from 2013 to 2017. She also served as the United States ambassador to the United Nations from 2009 to 2013. Under President Clinton, Rice worked for the National Security Council and was Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.

Lesley University

Predicting the Democratic Nominee

Welcome to the Democracy Studio! Join us as we combine politically-inspired images and words to provoke a deeper understanding of the state of our democracy.

Tom Manning, Harvard ALI Senior Fellow 2020

Boston Speaker Series: Susan Rice

Rice served as National Security Advisor from 2013 to 2017. She also served as the United States ambassador to the United Nations from 2009 to 2013. Under President Clinton, Rice worked for the National Security Council and was Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.

Lesley University

Screening; Seven Communities, Seven families, One story: The Opioid Crisis

This compelling film, created through the generosity and civic-mindedness of Wareham Community Television, and produced by Queen Banda and Andrea Pergament, shares first hand accounts from seven parents who’ve endured the unimaginable heartbreak and trauma of losing a child to the Opioid Crisis now raging across the United States. In Massachusetts, the system is failing.

Queen Banda and Andrea Pergament (producers)

Jane Swift: The History of Women in Politics

Jane Swift was the youngest woman ever elected to the Massachusetts State Senate and the First Woman Governor of Massachusetts.

Aliali Belkus, Dean of Inclusion, Diversity and Equity

An Evening With Paul Tremblay

Celebrated horror author Paul Tremblay comes to Millbury to read from his work, talk about writing, answer some questions, and sign books.

Jeff Raymond

The Centenary of the 19th Amendment: New Reflections

Join legal and political science scholars to discuss lessons learned from the centenary of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.

Boston University School of Law

Election 2020: The Crucial Questions – Conversations on the Edge

A discussion on the crucial questions of the 2020 Election with seasoned political pros.

Cambridge Center for Adult Education

Ex-Rep. Jay Kaufman (D-Lexington) – On how we can bring more democracy & transparency to the Massachusetts Legislature

Ex-Rep. Jay Kaufman (D-Lexington) – On how we can bring more democracy & transparency to the Massachusetts Legislature, and so improve the systems that help deter corruption in state government.

Indivisible Williamsburg and Indivisible Northampton

Today’s Headlines


Walsh, major Boston landlords agree to halt evictions during coronavirus – Boston Globe

Another veteran dies without family, prompting new funeral policy from Brockton police – Brockton Enterprise


“Back to the drawing board” for proposed pot farm in Cheshire – Berkshire Eagle

Lowell council bans NDAs in legal settlements – Lowell Sun

Small businesses say gas tax hike would drive up costs, impact customers – Telegram & Gazette


Trump’s Florida sanctuary becomes a gilded petri dish for a global disease – Politico

Winners and losers from the Biden-Sanders debate – Washington Post

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