Elections postponement vote, – Child-care closures, Winter storm warning
— As the state deals with the coronavirus crisis, the National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for much of Massachusetts, with some regions expected to receive heavy, wet snowfall starting later today (MassLive).
— Under an executive order issued last week, Gov. Charlie Baker has required early education centers and family child care providers to close operations today, though some emergency centers for frontline workers will open.
— The Massachusetts House and Senate meet with lawmakers expected to pass legislation allowing municipalities to postpone elections due to the COVID-19 state of emergency, 11 a.m.
— The Department of Transportation Board of Directors and MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board hold a joint meeting with precautions taken against the spread of coronavirus, with some members participating via conference calls, State Transportation Building, 10 Park Plaza, Boston, 11 a.m.
— Gov. Charlie Baker, Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Robert DeLeo and other State House leaders meet, with the coronavirus crisis expected to be the top agenda item, 2 p.m.
— U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark and Mayor Marty Walsh are guests on ‘Radio Boston,’ WBUR-FM 90.9, 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 health care front: Five deaths reported, Baker warns of difficult days ahead, hospitals struggle, Army Corps eyes emergency care sites
It finally happened: The first reported COVID-19 deaths in Massachusetts, five in the past few days, reports MassLive. Meanwhile, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the state continues to climb (Globe). And from MassLive: “Majority of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts are people under 50 years old.”
Gov. Charlie Baker says to expect a spike in confirmed cases as testing for the virus ramps up, reports SHNS (pay wall). Meanwhile, the Globe has a video of the governor giving an “emotional explanation of the human toll of social distancing.” In related health news, hospitals across the region are groaning under the pressure of treating so many patients and as their own staffers fall victim to the virus. From CBS Boston: “10 Tufts Medical Center Workers Test Positive For The Coronavirus.”
Meanwhile, the governor and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are exploring options to create emergency coronavirus care facilities, WCVB reports. … From the Herald: “Boston Cop, EMS test positive for coronavirus.” … From the Telegram: “Worcester eyes DCU Center, other sites for patient overflow.” … From the Herald: “Paramedics will soon perform at-home coronavirus tests in Massachusetts.” … Also from the Herald: “Chelmsford-based ventilator company Zoll ramping up production to battle coronavirus.” … From MetroWest Daily News: “Framingham declares local state of emergency as 10 residents test positive for coronavirus.” …
And, finally, from the Globe’s Tonya Alanez: “She attended the Biogen conference, got miserably sick, and came through it.”
Sewing clubs to the rescue?
It’s tempting to think, ‘Oh, how quaint. Sewing clubs.’ But it’s not quaint when lives are at stake – and when a small army of volunteers and others are rushing to make critically needed supplies for hospitals, including home-made medical masks. CommonWealth’s Shira Schoenberg and the Globe’s Victoria McGrane have more on the wide-spread effort to make and get supplies to frontline workers during the current coronavirus crisis.
Meanwhile, from Universal Hub: “Medical staffers show other hospitals how to craft respirators out of other stuff they may have lying around.”
Lawmakers preparing emergency housing bill
SHNS’s Michael P. Norton reports that lawmakers on Beacon Hill are preparing emergency legislation designed to provide “crucial safety net” protections for renters and homeowners, amid concerns of possible evictions and foreclosures caused by coronavirus-crisis layoffs and other economic hardships.
Meanwhile, the Globe’s Tim Logan has more on the housing front, with renters out of work indeed fearing evictions and landlords fearing not being able to make mortgage payments.
Emergency child-care centers opening up for frontline workers
From Simón Ríos at WBUR: “As child care centers across Massachusetts close their doors, an array of emergency sites are opening to allow frontline workers in the battle against the coronavirus to get to their jobs.” Separately, Scott Croteau at MassLive has more on the hundreds of exempt emergency daycares that will be opening today to help various frontline workers.
Nantucket and Provincetown issue ‘stay at home’ and ‘shelter in place’ orders after first reported cases
Things are getting serious at the local levels. From the Globe’s Matt Rocheleau and Dugan Arnett: “The island of Nantucket announced its first confirmed case of COVID-19 Sunday and said it is preparing to issue a ‘stay at home’ order, becoming the first community in Massachusetts to take such a step amid the coronavirus pandemic. ‘People could die from inadequate access to medical care if we don’t take these extreme measures,’ the town said in a statement.”
Meanwhile, from the Cape Cod Times: “Provincetown issues shelter-in-place order after two COVID-19 cases.” Btw: ‘Shelter in place’ and ‘stay at home’ are effectively the same thing. Btw II, from the Inquirer & Mirror: “Nantucket hospital calling for reserve physicians.”
Baker on statewide ‘shelter in place’: ‘I’m not going to do it just because somebody else did it’
Despite the ‘stay at home’ orders by governors in other states (and we presume by town leaders on Nantucket and in Provincetown), Gov. Charlie Baker late last week again insisted he has no plans for a similar statewide ‘shelter in place’ order here, reports Michael Bonner at MassLive. “We are very much in social distancing and in shutdown mode here in Massachusetts, based on what we’ve already done,” Baker said. “I’m not going to do it just because somebody else did it.”
Fyi: Bonner writes that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo “refused to use the term ‘shelter in place,’ saying the term is outdated and invokes fear.”
Is Baker’s technocratic leadership style up to the task?
The Globe’s Matt Stout reports on how Gov. Charlie Baker has handled the coronavirus crisis so far, often relying on a technocratic, data-driven approach towards decision making. But some say the coronavirus data is constantly changing and the governor needs to follow his gut instincts more often.
Btw: SHNS (pay wall) has a list of all the executive orders Baker has issued since the onset of the coronavirus emergency.
Report: State asks hospitals not to release testing totals – and hospitals are refusing
Speaking of data-driven policies, keep in mind this is the same administration that only a short while ago seemed very reluctant to release testing data to the public. From the BBJ’s Jessica Bartlett: “The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has asked the state’s hospitals not to disclose the number of patients waiting on coronavirus testing results or the results of the patients they have seen. Some say that’s helping obscure the true size of the epidemic.”
Bartlett reports “hospital executives have ignored the recommendation,” and the head of UMass Medical Health is quoted as saying: “I don’t think there’s any benefit to keeping any of this a secret.”
So how long will all this last?
The big question on a lot of people’s minds these days: How much longer will the coronavirus emergency – and the near lockdown of society and the economy – last? At least a few more weeks of intense disruptions, some experts say, while other experts say major disruptions could last for as long as a year. It all depends. The Globe’s Naomi Martin and the Herald’s Rick Sobey have more on the big question.
It seems the public agrees with the experts, as a new poll shows residents are expecting the crisis to last a while longer, reports CommonWealth magazine.
Is there are doctor in the House? Yes, and pay attention to him, fellow lawmakers
There literally is a doctor in the Massachusetts House, Dr. and state Rep. Jon Santiago, and he talks with the Globe’s Adrian Walker about what he’s seeing on the health-care front lines and the “bold, robust policymaking” he says is needed to confront the coronavirus crisis.
The mix of open and shut construction sites: ‘It’s nuts’
The Globe’s Tim Logan reports on the “patchwork nature of the construction shutdowns” across the state, with some communities allowing construction and others not, and at least one major contractor is calling the situation “nuts.” Btw: Logan reports that Boston may have a construction ban, but it apparently doesn’t apply to Massport land. Meanwhile, Sean Phillip Cotter reports that the MBTA is proceeding with its GLX work, saying it’s not aware of any local construction bans.
First case reported of inmate testing positive for COVID-19
NBC Boston reports on what is believed to be the first coronavirus case in a state prison or jail, an inmate at the Massachusetts Treatment Center, and DOC says the inmate and his roommate have been quarantined.
Meanwhile, from MassLive: “Northwestern DA looks to release selected low-level detainees to reduce virus spread.” Shannon Dooling at WBUR has a piece on the crowded conditions among detained immigrants in Bristol County. And from the Boston Globe: “Activists turn to Anne Frank’s legacy to pressure Gov. Baker to release immigrant detainees.”
But the Herald’s Wendy Murphy writes that inmates in general are safer from the coronavirus while in prison – and so are their victims. From the Herald’s editorial board: “Releasing prisoners over virus fears dangerous idea.”
The other frontline heroes: Supermarket cashiers and food delivery drivers
Can you sing the praises enough of supermarket cashiers and, lately, shopper and delivery drivers? Answer: No. The Herald’s Lisa Kashinsky takes a specific look at how shoppers and delivery drivers have “quickly found themselves on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis as hundreds of thousands of people across Massachusetts keep to their homes.”
The local economy: Cities take lead in closing spas and salons, Walsh warns against open houses, economy in ‘medically-induced coma’
Local governments across the state are taking the lead, not the state, in ordering ‘personal care’ businesses to close – spas, salons, barber shops, gyms, etc. Some of the most recent actions have been taken by Cambridge (Cambridge Day), Northampton and Somerville (MassLive), Holyoke, Agawan and Chicopee (MassLive), Quincy and surrounding towns (Patriot Ledger), and the list goes on. … Meanwhile, from the BBJ: “Boston mayor warns against holding open houses.” …Michael Jonas at CommonWealth magazine reports how the local economy, according to experts, has effectively been put into “medically-induced coma.” … From the Globe: “As coronavirus spreads, workers say employers are putting them at risk.”
And, finally, there is some positive employment news out there. From the BBJ: “Coronavirus has Amazon hiring in Mass.”
As virus spreads, gun sales spike in Bay State shops
A firearms store in Stow says sales have soared 400 percent in recent weeks, Holly Camero reports in the MetroWest Daily News. South of Boston, a similar trend: Guns and ammo have been flying off the shelves at stores in Lakeville and Middleboro, reports the Enterprise’s Marc Larocque.
First of many: Wellfleet warns of budget cuts amid virus impact
Here’s a preview of coming attractions across the state: Officials in Wellfleet say they will have to make adjustments to budget plans — read: cuts — because the town can’t count on the usual summer windfall that comes from sales of beach-parking permits and local taxes on hotel rooms and meals, Mary Ann Bragg at the Cape Cod Times reports.
MBTA ask passengers to board back doors to protect drivers
From CBS Boston: “The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is asking passengers to board all buses and trolleys from their rear doors to help keep distance between drivers and passengers during the COVID-19 pandemic … ‘The MBTA is undertaking these measures to protect our frontline employees while maintaining regional mobility for essential trips by healthcare workers and emergency responders,’ MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said in a statement.”
Healey gets action: Bruins owner sets up $1.5M fund for workers
We’re generally against shaming tactics, but in this case Attorney General Maura Healey was right last week to publicly urge the owners of the Bruins and TD Garden to act on behalf of its workers. The Bruins were the last of 31 NHL team to release a statement on gameday employees who have lost jobs during the coronavirus crisis – and on Saturday ownership acted. The Herald’s Marisa Ingemi has the details.
‘The all important Dunkin’ tracker’
He may win a Nobel Prize for this. Universal Hub reports on how Kevin Duffy has selflessly listed the hours of Dunkin’ Donuts in Malden during these difficult times. Meanwhile, another Nobel contender: Boston Restaurant Talk lists area breweries that are making home deliveries.
Larry Rasky, Boston PR strategist and Biden confidant, RIP
Amid all the coronavirus news, now this sad news: Larry Rasky, a veteran public relations strategist for numerous local political leaders and a confidente of former Vice President Joe Biden, has died, according to a company statement. SHNS’s Matt Murphy (pay wall) and the Globe’s John Hilliard have more. The Herald’s Joe Battenfeild, noting Rasky’s close ties to Biden, says Rasky “might one day have been White House chief of staff.”
Our condolences to Larry’s family and countless friends and colleagues.
Troopers accused of OT fraud get to keep their pensions
There is such a thing as “innocent until proven guilty” in this country. From the Globe’s Matt Rocheleau: “Fourteen retired Massachusetts State Police troopers who have been implicated — but not criminally charged — in a widespread payroll fraud scheme can keep receiving their pension payouts, according to the Massachusetts State Retirement Board.” The governor and others had called for their pensions to be rescinded.
Warren’s mystery super donor revealed
Nevertheless, she donated. Despite U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s pledge to run for president without taking SuperPAC donations, a California surgeon and major Democratic donor poured nearly $15 million into the Persist PAC in the waning days of Warren’s bid, Alex Thompson reports via Politico.
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