Happening Today

Coronavirus meetings and updates

— Gov. Charlie Baker’s schedule for today has not been released, but daily updates from the governor have become the norm during the current coronavirus emergency.

— Democrats in the Senate will caucus via conference call as the legislative focus on Beacon Hill has shifted squarely onto the coronavirus response, 11 a.m.

— Rep. Jon Santiago, an attending physician in emergency medicine at Boston Medical Center, joins Fourth Congressional District candidate Ben Sigel for a virtual town hall to give an update on COVID-19, 4 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

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 numbers: Nine dead, 777 confirmed cases, 8,922 tests

CBS Boston and WBUR have the latest grim coronavirus numbers for Massachusetts, including the four new deaths reported yesterday by state officials. The Globe has a county-by-county count of confirmed coronavirus cases in Massachusetts.

State of emergency: Baker orders closure of non-essential businesses, issues stay-at-home advisory

As SHNS’s Matt Murphy (pay wall) and the Globe’s Matt Stout report, Gov. Charlie Baker, after days of resisting calls to impose more strict lockdown measures in Massachusetts, yesterday imposed the most dramatic restrictions yet in the battle against the spread of the coronavirus: He ordered closure of all non-essential businesses, issued a stay-at-home advisory and lowered the public-gathering limit to just 10 people in Massachusetts.

In doing so, Baker is following the lead of governors in other states (and the leaders on Nantucket and in Provincetown) who have already issued shelter-in-place/stay-at-home orders (they’re all roughly the same thing). And Baker is winning some applause here from previous critics, as WGBH’s Adam Reilly.

‘Charlie Parker of Massachusetts’

The Herald couldn’t resist – and neither can we – when it comes to pointing out Joe Biden’s good-intentioned but botched shout-out yesterday for our very own “Charlie Parker of Massachusetts.” …  Hey, we all need a laugh these days, right? … Anyway, back to the governor’s emergency coronavirus orders. …

Boston Herald

It’s still OK to panic-buy at supermarkets

So what are essential versus non-essential businesses under Gov. Charlie Parker/Baker’s new stay-at-home advisory issued yesterday? WBUR’s Ally Jarmanning has an excellent list of what essential businesses are open and what non-essential businesses are closed under the governor’s emergency edict.

The good news for those worried about home and other provisions: Supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations, liquor and convenience stores, and restaurant take-out services will remain open and residents can drive to them when needed. Btw: The exemptions are in line with what other states are doing regarding shelter in place/stay at home policies.

But marijuana industry cries foul over Baker’s essential-business split decision

Cannabis company executives are slamming Gov. Charlie Baker’s decision to exempt medical marijuana dispensaries — not to mention liquor stores — but not retail pot shops from his statewide closure order yesterday, Felicia Gans and Dan Adams at the Globe report. Word of the shutdown sparked a run on recreational shops on Monday, including in Brockton, where that city’s only shop drew huge crowds, the Enterprise reports.

Grocery stores installing plexiglass barriers to protect workers

They’re now officially considered “essential” workers – and some grocery store chains are making plans to protect their employees by installing plexiglass barriers at checkout lanes in an attempt to limit the spread of the coronavirus, WCVB reports.  

Meanwhile, in other supermarket-related news, from Universal Hub: “Cambridge orders coronavirus-related ban on reusable bags at stores, lifts 10-cent fee for store bags.”


So what happens if you don’t comply with social-distancing rules? Hint: The police are watching

Steph Solis at MassLive reports that Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration is “now imposing a fine for anyone who overtly violates the ‘social-distancing’ guidelines issued by the state Department of Public Health.” 

In Haverhill, the mayor has ordered police to keep a watch over public parks and other gathering places now that the governor has enacted a stay-at-home advisory to combat the spread of coronavirus, reports the Eagle Tribune’s Allison Corneau.


Ten-hut: Walsh drafts retired Army general to review Boston’s emergency response plans

Mayor Marty Walsh is calling up the reserves: Retired four-star Army Gen. Stanley McChrystals’s consulting firm. The mission: To review the city of Boston’s emergency plans and response to the coronavirus pandemic. The Herald’s Sean Phillip Cotter and the Globe’s Danny McDonald have the details.

Commissioner to insurers: Be flexible with premium payments, please

This is a hidden big monthly cost facing many hard-pressed people, in addition to rent and mortgage payments. From SHNS’s Matt Murphy: “Insurance Commissioner Gary Anderson published a notice on Monday urging all insurers, including those who provide health coverage to millions of residents, to provide employers and individuals ‘as much flexibility as is reasonably possible’ on the payment of premiums during the public health crisis.”

SHNS (pay wall — free trial subscription available)

Chaos in Washington: Tempers flare over stimulus bill, Trump considers reopening economy

It was a wild day in Washington yesterday, as tempers flared and Democrats and Republicans squabbled over a national economic stimulus bill, the Washington Post reports. But there were signs last night that lawmakers are close to agreement on a $2 trillion economic-stimulus package. The Herald’s Joe Battenfeld is blaming Democrats for delaying passage of the legislation, saying they’re trying to stuff standard liberal-agenda items into the bill.

Meanwhile, yet more policy confusion emerged yesterday when President Trump openly said he’s considering relaxing social-distancing requirements, arguing that the economy is suffering too much and that the coronavirus cure cannot be “be worse than the problem itself,” the NYT reports. Public health officials say relaxing social-distancing rules is exactly what the president shouldn’t be doing. The Herald’s Jeff Robbins is ripping into President Trump over just about everything he’s said to date.

Keller at Large: Baker’s superior political instincts are serving him well

In his latest Keller at Large on MassterLIst segment, veteran political journalist Jon Keller takes a look at what President Trump is saying and doing versus what Gov. Charlie Baker is saying and doing regarding the coronavirus crisis – and he’ll take Baker’s leadership style over Trump’s any day. From Jon: “Baker’s superior political instincts are serving him well.” Check out Jon’s thoughts on national-vs.-state leadership right here.

Comptroller struggles to pay state bills and employees

Amid the coronavirus emergency and a slowly cratering economy, Comptroller Bill McNamara’s office is working to ensure that payments related to the state’s coronavirus response are made as quickly as possible and that state employee payrolls are met, reports SHNS’s Colin Young. It isn’t an easy task and some payment systems are apparently under strain, but the checks are indeed flowing.

SHNS (pay wall — free trial subscription available)

Special legislative elections postponed till May and June; lawmakers mull future signature-gathering requirements

As expected, Beacon Hill lawmakers have indeed postponed this month’s planned Senate and House special elections – and yesterday set specific make-up dates: Tuesday, May 19, for the two vacant Senate seats, and Tuesday, June 2 for the two vacant House seats, as SHNS’s Katie Lannan (pay wall) and MassLive’s Jeanette DeForge report.

But now another election-related problem is rearing its head: What about election signature-gathering procedures moving forward amid coronavirus fears? SHNS’s Colin Young (pay wall) reports that House and Senate leaders are discussing the “possibility of lowering the number of signatures certain candidates must collect to secure ballot access.”

Hometown hero: Briefings superstar Dr. Fauci, the pride of Holy Cross

He’s not just a star — he’s our star. Bill Doyle at the Telegram reminds us that Dr. Anthony Fauci, a key point person in the federal government’s coronavirus fight, is a 1962 grad of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, not to mention the personal hero of fellow Holy Cross alum Bob Cousy. 

Fyi: We felt it imperative to claim Fauci as our own ASAP because reports are mounting that his tell-it-like-it-is approach is increasingly drawing the ire of President Trump. The Globe’s Kevin Cullen writes that it sure looks like Fauci’s days are numbered at the White House.


Transportation updates: Toll revenues plunge, Amtrak cancels Acela trains, MBTA juggles priorities

As the coronavirus scare reduces traffic on state roadways, the state is seeing a dramatic drop in toll revenues and expects to take a hit of $38 million in lost collections through June, assuming current trends hold, reports SHNS’s Chris Lisinski (pay wall) and CommonWealth’s Bruce Mohl. State Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack says the state is well-equipped to handle the shortfall. … Meanwhile, Universal Hub reports that Amtrak has cancelled Boston-NY-DC Acela Express service due to a lack of demand for fast-train trips. … SHNS’s Chris Lisinski (pay wall) reports in a separate story that the MBTA is also grappling with lower ridership and falling revenue, while GM Steve Poftak is hinting “there may be a situation in the future” where the T further scales back transit services.

‘A Coronavirus End Game That Avoids A Depression’

Boston University economist Laurence Kotlikoff has a plan to avoid long-term economic disaster: The National Governors Association should band together to set coordinated responses to the coronavirus crisis – and ignore most everything President Trump is saying. The key to saving the economy, he writes at Forbes, is to kill off the virus outbreak ASAP so it doesn’t keep rearing its head over the next year and drawing out the economic pain.

But here’s the flaw in his plan: Not even governors agree on a consistent approach on how to deal with the outbreak. Check out this NYT map of which states now have stay-at-home policies – and which don’t.


Too crowded? Outdoor destinations start to close to visitors too

The weren’t ordered to do so by the governor, but the Mass. Audubon Society and The Trustees of Reservations have closed scores of trails and outdoor destinations statewide in a bid to tamp down on crowds that have gathered in search of relief from lockdown boredom, Sue Scheibel reports in the Patriot Ledger.  

On Cape Ann, some communities have closed beaches entirely, while Gloucester has blocked parking lots to keep people away, according to a report at the Gloucester Times. And in Springfield, public works employees removed basketball hoops from city playgrounds to discourage pickup games, MassLive reports.

Patriot Ledger

The nursing home industry’s ‘no visit’ policies: Necessary but still heartbreaking

This is heartbreaking just thinking about it, let alone actually having to live through it, i.e. what families are enduring with loved ones in nursing homes amid “no visit’ policies during the coronavirus pandemic. The Globe’s Robert Weisman has the details.

Boston Globe

McGovern weighs options for keeping Congress open

He rules the rules. U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, chairman of the House Rules Committee, is warning members of Congress that changing rules to allow members to vote remotely is not a viable option and wants the body to work within current rules to enable the House to vote on the $2 trillion stimulus bill soon to land on its doorstep, Cristina Marcos at The Hill reports. 

The Hill

‘Dying on the Sheriff’s Watch’

Considering the ongoing debate over whether to release some inmates amid the coronavirus emergency, this story by WBUR’s Christine Willmsen and Beth Healy could just as easily be rolled into the COVID-19 coverage above. But it shouldn’t, because it’s the first of a multi-part investigative series that obviously was in the works well before the current crisis – and it just so happens to be more relevant today than ever, to wit: How county jails in Massachusetts have a history of providing questionable care for inmates, sometimes “with fatal consequence,” and how sheriffs and for-profit companies face little oversight and often keep details of jail deaths from the public and families. 


GE cleanup plan OK draws open meeting complaints

A bevy of open-meeting law complaints about the way select boards in the Berkshires approved the Housatonic River cleanup agreement with GE and the EPA are landing on the desk of Attorney General Maura Healey, Clarence Fanto reports at the Berkshire Eagle.  

Berkshire Eagle

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

Today’s Headlines


GE to lay off thousands of aviation employees – Boston Business Journal

MBTA approves plan to consolidate stops on Green Line’s B branch – Boston Globe


Coronavirus: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected 2020 Census participation – MassLive

Columbia study says Worcester County best case scenario is 20K coronavirus cases – Worcester Business Journal

Cancelled county meeting draws challenge – Cape Cod Times


Trump considers reopening economy, over health experts’ objections – New York Times

Is it time to shut down the stock market? – Politico

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