House and Senate meet and more COVIC-19 matters
— 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.
— Treasurer Deborah Goldberg will lead a virtual meeting of the state Retirement Board, 10 a.m.
— The Senate, both Democrats and Republicans, hold a joint ‘tele-caucus,’ 10 a.m.
— The House and Senate, whose session will be available via livestream, meet to deal with coronavirus-related issues, House and Senate chambers, 11 a.m.
— U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark joins Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui for a virtual town hall on small business in the wake of the coronavirus, Cambridge CCTV Channel 9 and on Zoom, 3:30 p.m.
— U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan holds a telephone town hall with Dr. Zandra Kelly of Greater Lawrence Family Health Center, Dr. Eric Dickson of UMass Memorial Health Care, and Bob Nelson, Massachusetts district director for the Small Business Administration, 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.
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: 19 deaths, 1,838 confirmed cases, 19,794 tests
WCVB has the latest numbers on the coronavirus outbreak in Massachusetts.
The latest emergency measures: Schools ordered closed till May 4, mandatory social-distancing at supermarkets
Yet more emergency coronavirus orders announced yesterday by the Baker administration. First, from Jack Mitchell at WBUR: “All schools and non-emergency child care centers in Massachusetts will remain closed through the end of April, reopening ‘no sooner than May 4,’ Gov. Charlie Baker announced (yesterday) during a daily briefing about the state’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.” … From MassLive’s Steph Solis: “Monica Bharel, commissioner for the state Department of Public Health, issued an order on Wednesday that makes stores set up a marked ‘social distancing line’ at least 6 feet from all checkout counters, among other things.”
And, finally, from the BBJ’s Catherine Carllock: “Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has banned reusable bags and lifted local bans on plastic bags at grocery stores and pharmacies as part of his administration’s latest steps to limit the spread of the coronavirus.”
Are hospitals teetering on the brink?
The expected big wave of coronavirus hospitalizations hasn’t even hit Massachusetts yet – and already hospital officials are warning of system overload and a possible meltdown. From Marth Bebinger and Carey Goldberg at WBUR: “Hundreds Of Mass. Doctors Sign Plea Warning Health System Could Be Close To Collapse.” … From CommonWealth’s Michael Jonas: “Safety net hospitals teetering on brink/Pandemic is choking revenue flow to providers on the front lines.”
Here’s another yet worry, via the Globe: “How New York’s spiraling coronavirus outbreak could affect Mass.”
Day tests positive, Pressley shows symptoms, Moulton self-quarantines
SHNS’s Matt Murphy (pay wall) reports that Rep. Mike Day, a Stoneham Democrat, has become the first member of the Legislature to test positive for the coronavirus. Meanwhile, CommonWealth’s Sarah Betancourt reports U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley is suffering from flu-like symptoms and is now awaiting coronavirus test results. And from WCVB: “Moulton in Self-Quarantine Following Symptoms.”
Moulton can’t quarantine himself from criticism over blame-China resolution
He may have self-quarantined himself yesterday after experiencing coronavirus symptoms, but U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton couldn’t quarantine himself from criticism over his co-sponsorship of a resolution that officially blames China for COVID-19, as the Salem News and Universal Hub report (with lots of comments from readers at UH). And from MassLive: “Warren’s former campaign manager Roger Lau calls resolution against Chinese government ‘fear mongering.’”
In new poll, 16 percent of Mass. residents report losing their jobs since pandemic
Let’s hope this poll is as off as the polls were in 2016. Unfortunately, we don’t think that’s the case. The BBJ’s Gintautas Dumcius has the alarming numbers from a new survey by MassINC Polling Group.
Federal funds expected to flow to Massachusetts – but will it be enough?
The U.S. Senate yesterday finally passed a $2 trillion economic-stimulus package – and the U.S. House is expected to follow suit as soon as today, reports the Washington Post. Meaning: Billions of federal dollars will soon be flowing to Massachusetts, including $1,200 checks to many individual residents, as MassLive’s Benjamin Kail reports.
But the question is: Will it be enough for state government and local hospitals? Take a gander at this Post piece (scroll down) on who’s getting what. It sure looks top-heavy with funds for industries and businesses. Anyway, it does include sizeable chunks of funds for unemployment insurance and hospitals etc. SHNS’s Chris Lisinski (pay wall) takes a preliminary look at what it all could mean for Massachusetts. Western Mass. Politics & Insight thinks there’s not nearly enough money earmarked for hospitals. The NYT has its own five takeaways on the package.
Pressure builds to delay tax-filing deadline in Massachusetts
Speaking of finances, the Globe’s Jon Chesto reports that the Massachusetts Society of CPAs has launched a campaign to pressure the Baker administration to delay the state’s April 15 tax-filing deadline to match the new federal deadline. And pressure is also coming from the Globe’s editorial board. And from MassLive: “MassFiscal calls on lawmakers to extend Massachusetts tax filing deadline, suspend meals tax.”
To be fair, the administration is obviously worried – and rightly so – about how a delay could impact the state budget at a time when the state needs every penny it can get. Our humble compromise suggestion: A delay until May 15, which would still bring in revenue in the current fiscal year?
As three T bus drivers test positive, Brockton drivers simply let passengers ride free
CommonWealth’s Bruce Mohl reports that three MBTA bus riders have tested positive for COVID-19. In Brockton, public bus drivers are taking matters into their own hands, saying the-hell-with-fares and just letting passengers ride free, “representing an informal but sweeping policy change that the authority is yet to officially sanction,” reports Ben Berke at the Enterprise.
Government updates: MBTA’s revenue plunges, inmates released, casinos to remain closed till April 7
Needless to say, a lot is happening on the government front these days. First up, via CommonWealth’s Bruce Mohl: “MBTA fare revenue off $35m in March.” Multiply that by three months and you’re looking at a $100M-plus shortfall this spring alone. … From Deborah Becker at WBUR: “Some Mass. Prisoners Are Being Released In Response To The Coronavirus Outbreak.” We’re not talking about a lot of releases – nor releases of dangerous inmates. … In a related move, from MassLive: “ACLU of Massachusetts sues Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release 2 detainees at risk of COVID-19.” … Switching governmental gears, via WCVB: “Casino Closures Extended Until April 7.” In his latest MassterList segment (see below), Jon Keller doesn’t think casinos will be opening anytime soon. … From the Boston Herald: “Healey urges online retailers to crack down on price gouging amid coronavirus pandemic.” … And from the Herald again: “No-rent resolution during coronavirus crisis blocked at Boston City Council.”
Keller at Large: The truth about casino fool’s gold in Massachusetts
In this latest Keller at Large on MassterList segment, veteran political journalist Jon Keller is betting the state’s new casinos in Everett, Plainville and Springfield won’t be re-opening early next month – and, if and when they do re-open, they’ve probably lost future customers to online betting. “Good luck sanitizing all those chips, cards, highball glasses, and one-armed bandits,” he says.
Btw, proving Jon’s point, via MassLive: “As people are stuck at home online gaming hits record number of players.”
Health care updates: Hynes center eyed as emergency care facility, Southie restaurant to become blood donation center
From Universal Hub: “Mayor Walsh said today that officials have begun looking at how to use the South Boston convention center as a place to set up treatment stations and beds for Covid-19 patients, similar to the way New York City has been transforming its Javits convention center.” Fyi: Other mayors across the state have made similar suggestions about using their convention centers as emergency care facilities. … From the Herald: “Charlestown manufacturer builds face shields for hospitals fighting coronavirus.” … And from Universal Hub again: “South Boston restaurant to be repurposed as blood-donation center on Friday.”
Beacon Hill’s latest legislator is sworn in – from a distance
It was one of the more unusual legislative swearing-in ceremonies ever held on Beacon Hill, i.e. Kate Lipper-Garabedian taking the oath of office yesterday as the 32nd Middlesex District’s new representative in the House. It was all legal – even if Gov. Charlie Baker and House Speaker Robert DeLeo kept an appropriate social-distancing distance during the ceremony at the foot of the Grand Staircase. SHNS’s Chris Van Buskirk has more (including a photo of the ceremony) .
‘The lovechild of Montgomery Burns and Ebenezer Scrooge bids his workers a good day’
The Globe’s Christopher Gasper is going after TD Garden and Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs over his handling of employee pay issues, saying the “Charles Montgomery Burns of Boston sports (has) resorted to his miserly ways this week.” Btw, we borrowed the headline above from Universal Hub.
Btw II: Attorney General Maura Healey, who has been critical of Jacobs of late, gets a shout-out from the Globe’s Joan Vennochi for her previous criticism of the Baker administration’s early handling of unemployment-insurance claims.
Resistant to any and all known viruses: Political fundraising
The Herald’s Lisa Kashinsky reports that U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, amid all the coronavirus action these days on Capitol Hill in Washington, has nevertheless managed to find the time for some good old-fashioned political fundraising.
To close or keep open construction sites? The debate continues
They’re not exactly feuding, but the Globe’s Tim Logan reports on the conflicting construction-site-closure policies of Mayor Marty Walsh and Gov. Charlie Baker. Meanwhile, CBS Boston reports that many construction workers simply don’t feel safe on job sites – and they’re worried about possibly taking virus infections home to loved ones.
Btw: Baker is telling towns that stay-at-home orders applying to construction sites won’t fly, reports the Martha’s Vineyard Times.
We’re doing something right: Massachusetts gets an ‘A’ for social-distancing
MassLive’s Tom Matthews reports on Unacast’s ranking of how states are responding to the coronavirus outbreak – and Massachusetts gets top grades for its social-distancing policies.
In closed meeting, council approves lifetime court post for wife of ex-lawmaker
Here’s hoping we don’t see more of this ‘good day to bury bad news’ type of governance during the current crisis. From the Herald’s Mary Markos: “The Governor’s Council approved a lifetime, six-digit salary court appointment for a politically connected candidate Wednesday in a private meeting — prompting an accusation that it was an unprecedented, unnecessary violation of ‘public trust.’” The vote was for Kerrin Costello, who is married to an ex-state representative, as clerk magistrate of the Newburyport District Court .
There will always be a Fill-A-Buster’s
MassLive’s Steph Solis reports that Fill-A-Buster’s, a luncheonette institution next to the State House, is still open for take-out business on Beacon Hill. But all is not well for other take-out restaurants across the state, such as pizzerias in Brockton, where customers are wary of ordering take-out food, reports Ben Berke at the Enterprise. We assume it’s the same story across the state.
Grass roots: Veterans group seeks to pressure Baker, lawmakers on pot shops
The Veterans Cannabis Project says it will launch a grassroots effort to pressure Gov. Charlie Baker and state lawmakers to lift the ban on recreational marijuana sales, Melissa Hanson at MassLive reports. The group’s bottom line: Because of hurdles in obtaining medical marijuana cards, some vets use recreational cannabis ‘”to help cope with physical and psychological injuries sustained on the battlefield.”
Meanwhile, the Small Business Administration says state-licensed pot shops will not be eligible for disaster relief loan programs because marijuana remains illegal under federal law, the Globe reports.
Sheriffs dish off inmate care to private health companies
As part of WBUR’s ongoing investigative series ‘Dying on the Sheriff’s Watch,’ Christine Willmsen and Beth Healey report on county jails’ increasing use of private companies to provide care for inmates – “with contracts that provide incentives to curb costs and hospital trips.”
Backed up: Appeals court agrees former Mount Ida students are owed nothing
Zero point zero. That’s how much a federal appeals court says former Mount Ida College students are owed because the college allegedly hid its financial woes from them before abruptly shutting down, Adam Gaffin at Universal Hub reports.
Target subsidiary to pay over $2M in lawsuit filed by Massachusetts woman
From the AP at CBS Boston: “A Target Corp. subsidiary will pay nearly $2.3 million to settle a class action lawsuit filed by a Massachusetts woman who alleged it engaged in illegal debt collection practices, court records show. Target Enterprise Inc. will pay $7,500 to Gabrielle Carlson, of Clinton, and about $300 to each of the 5,484 other state residents.”
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