Virtual rally, hearing and seminar, and more
— METCO — the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity — will hold a virtual advocacy rally instead of the group’s traditional annual advocacy day at the State House, 11 a.m.
— The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority Advisory Board is taking Gov. Baker up on his order that allows public bodies to meet and conduct business during the coronavirus pandemic without offering physical access to members of the public, with the advisory board ‘remotely’ holding a hearing on the agency’s new budget, 11 a.m.
— Massachusetts Health Council and Associated Industries of Massachusetts host a webinar to provide employers information on how to handle disruptions caused by the global coronavirus pandemic, 12 p.m.
— U.S. Rep. Richard Neal visits one of 14 sites across Springfield set up to provide breakfast and lunch for Springfield students during the COVID-19 school closures, Lincoln School, 732 Chestnut St., Springfield, 12 p.m.
— Mass Cultural Council offers a one-hour webinar led by staff from the Boston Public Health Commission on COVID-19 Preparedness for the Cultural Sector, 3 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.
Reminder to readers: SHNS Coronavirus Tracker available for free
A reminder to our readers as the coronavirus crisis unfolds: 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.
The number of statewide coronavirus cases now stands at 256, with Middlesex County having the most cases, reports WCVB. A total of 2,054 people have been officially quarantined so far during the outbreak, state officials say. Meanwhile, as of yesterday, there has been 1,367 coronavirus tests in Massachusetts, a figure medical officials criticize as woefully low. The BBJ’s Jessica Bartlett has more.
The health care front: Berkshires hit hard by virus, hospitizations surge, testing tents, Tufts offers dorms for patients
Needless to say, there’s a lot happening on the coronavirus front this morning. So we’re once again mostly going with headlines and quick summaries. First up, from the Globe’s Laura Crmaldi: “Coronavirus is wreaking havoc on rural Berkshire County.” On a per capita basis, it’s getting pretty bad out west. … From WGBH’s Liz Neisloss: “Hospitals Are Putting Up Tents For Coronavirus Testing.” … From the Globe:“Escalation of hospitalized patients for coronavirus continues.” … From Gabrielle Emanuel at WGBH: “Boston Hospitals Reuse Masks As Testing Shortage Contributes To Supply Shortage.” … From the Globe: “Tufts, Middlebury will make some facilities available if they’re needed to help fight Covid-19.” … In a Globe opinion piece, Dr. Anthony P. Monaco, president of Tufts University, is urging other colleges to offer up their facilities as a way to help relieve the overburdened health-care system.
Government updates: House employee tests positive, daycare centers ordered shut, state budget and tax-collection delays, lawmakers fast-track UI bi;;
It was only a matter of time. From MassLive’s Steph Solis: “House Employee tests positive for COVID-19.” … The Herald’s Mary Markos reports that lawmakers passed a bill requested by Gov. Charlie Baker that would allow for the faster processing of unemployment-insurance claims. … MassLive’s Steph Solis reports on Baker’s order yesterday to close day-care and early education centers around the state. From SHNS’s Matt Murphy (pay wall): “Michlewitz: House Budget in April ‘Highly Unlikely.’” … From the BBJ’s Greg Ryan: “State to give small businesses respite on sales and other taxes.”
And, finally, from Shira Schoenberg at CommonWealth magazine: ‘Legislative work on ice — State lawmakers respond to the pandemic.”
Law enforcement officials reducing number of arrests – and, hopefully, number of those packed into jails
Face it: This is a risky gamble. But these aren’t normal times. From the Globe’s Danny McDonald: “Facing public health risks posed by the growing coronavirus pandemic, prosecutors and police in Massachusetts said Wednesday they are moving to narrow the criteria for when people should be taken into custody.”
Along the same lines, MassLive’s Tanner Stening reports that ICE has announced that, for the time being, it won’t be making non-criminal arrests of immigrants.
Meanwhile, DOC backtracks on suspension memo; Pressley calls for prisoner releases
There seems to be an internal communication problem at DOC. Sarah Betancourt at CommonWealth magazine reports that Carol Mici, commissioner of the Department of Correction, is disavowing a memo issued yesterday saying authorities were suspending disciplinary actions against agency workers, in an apparent attempt to keep prison staffing up during the coronavirus crisis.
Meanwhile, a member of the state’s congressional delegation has an idea, via the Herald’s Lisa Kashinsky: “Ayanna Pressley calls for ‘compassionate leave,’ commuting prison sentences due to coronavirus.” It’s not as radical as it sounds. See above post about new law-enforcement arrest policies.
Cape clerks: Call off special senate election now — or we’ll see you in court
Just postpone it. That’s the message from city and town clerks on Cape Cod, who say they are prepared to head to court as soon as today to seek an emergency order to postpone the special state senate election still on the books for March 31, Geoff Spillane reports at the Cape Cod Times.
Social isolation? Long lines form outside re-opened RMV branches
Isn’t there a rather simple solution to this problem, i.e. deadline and other extensions? Anyway, the Enterprise’s Ben Berke and the Herald’s Meghan Ottolini report on the long lines that formed outside re-opened Registry of Motor Vehicle branches yesterday, with people sometimes standing right next to each other, despite distancing mandates. The Herald has the photographic proof of the non-social-isolation reality.
Fleeing to the Cape
With kids in tow due to school closures, it seems a lot of people are flocking to the Cape these days, launching the summer season a little early and keeping local businesses busy. Bob Seay at WGBH has the details.
Of course, the well-heeled are escaping to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, reports the Globe’s Dugan Arnett and Matt Rocheleau.
Political scorecard time: True leaders? True losers?
We were wondering when the scorecards would appear judging how our political leaders are handling the coronavirus crisis. The Herald’s Joe Battenfeld thinks Gov. Charlie Baker and Mayor Marty Walsh have flunked the leadership test. But CBS Boston’s Jon Keller thinks they’re doing generally well, despite a few cautionary missteps here and there.
Meanwhile, the Globe’s Edward Fitzpatrick isn’t handing out pass-fail grades, but he does report that this is Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo’s “flannel shirt moment” in the Ocean State. He explains.
The local economy: Simon closing area shopping malls, booming liquor sales, ketchup shortage
The BBJ’s Catherine Carlock reports that Simon Property Group, one of the nation’s largest shopping-mall owners, has announced it is closing its shopping meccas around the country, including 14 properties in Massachusetts. Among them: Copley Place in Boston, Liberty Tree Mall in Danvers and South Shore Plaza in Braintree. Carlock has the full list.
In other local economic news, from CBS Boston: “Some Stores Opening Exclusively To Seniors First To Curb Coronavirus Spread.” … From MassLive: “Springfield offers grants to restaurants and their employees affected by partial shutdown.” … As we suspected might happen, the Globe is reporting that, with restaurant and bar closures across the state, local liquor stores are doing booming business.
And, finally, in a post headlined “Today’s oddball shortage: Ketchup,” Universal Hub’s Adam Gaffin writes: “Every day, it seems like people look at the empty toilet-paper and chicken shelves at the Dedham Stop & Shop and go ‘Oh, no, what can I buy instead?!?’ Today, the store was completely out of ketchup.”
Strings attached: Warren pushes conditions for business bailouts
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren wants any emergency corporate bailout bill that emerges from Congress to come with a host of conditions, including a permanent ban on stock buybacks and pledges to boost minimum wages to $15, Matt Egan of CNN reports. While Warren may get some of her wishes, most think the entire package of demands is a non-starter.
T Ridership: The Great Descent
At this pace, they may have to make additional service adjustments. Bruce Mohl at CommonWealth magazine reports that MBTA ridership continues its free-fall amid the coronavirus scare, with subway ridership down 72 percent and bus ridership off 50 percent.
Keller at Large debuts on MASSterList today
In non-coronavirus news: He’s been following state government and politics since the mid-eighties, and his knowledge base, wisdom and insight have never been more valuable. These trying times are a good time for Jon Keller to bring his popular Keller@Large audio commentary to MASSterList, matching a great journalist with a great audience. He’ll be weighing in, and no doubt inveighing, Tuesdays and Thursdays, right here: Keller at Large. Welcome, Jon!
Weld, the Bay State’s last presidential hope, calls it quits
Former Gov. Bill Weld, faced with the fact President Trump numerically has locked up the GOP nomination for president, yesterday officially ended his insurgent Republican quest for the White House. The Herald’s Lisa Kashinsky has the details. As SHNS’s Katie Lannan (pay wall) notes, Weld’s decision finally leaves Massachusetts without a presidential candidate in the race.
Hurry while supplies last: Marked-down Warren campaign memorabilia for sale!
Speaking of failed presidential bids: If anyone is looking for memorabilia of Elizabeth Warren’s now defunct presidential campaign, this might be the time to buy. As Christian Wade of the Eagle-Tribune notes on Twitter, the erstwhile campaign’s swag shop is slashing prices. Believe it not: 20 percent off tote bags!
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