Keller at Large

Keller at Large

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Keller at Large

Happening Today

SJC inmate-release hearing, board of education, Lottery meeting

— The Supreme Judicial Court will hear arguments in a case seeking the release of prisoners at risk from COVID-19 and to limit the spread of the disease in detention facilities across the state, 10 a.m.

Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meets remotely, with an agenda that includes a discussion of steps to support schools, students and families during coronavirus-driven school closures, 9 a.m.

Mass. Lottery Commission virtually meets and is expected to receive a report on sales, with Treasurer Deborah Goldberg chairing, 10:30 a.m.

Senate Democrats meet virtually for a ‘tele-caucus,’ 11 a.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: 56 deaths, 5,752 confirmed cases, 42,793 tests in Mass.

MassLive has the latest coronavirus numbers for Massachusetts.

After 11 deaths at Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, superintendent ousted

Eleven deaths in one facility, five of them confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 56 confirmed coronavirus deaths statewide – and so, yes, the state acted swiftly yesterday to put the superintendent of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home on paid administrative leave, i.e. he was stripped of his duties. MassLive’s Jeanette DeForge, the Gazette’s Dan Crowley and the Globe’s Brian MacQuarrie have more on the tragedy unfolding in Holyoke, where an additional 25 residents at the center are believed to have contracted the coronavirus. Remember: These are veterans. And they didn’t deserve this.

Berkshire County rattled by COVID-19 deaths and ‘hotspot’ designation

In nearby Berkshire County, Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyler says her western Mass. city has been rattled by a NYT article that has designated the area as a national hotspot of per capita coronavirus cases and deaths, reports CommonWealth’s Bruce Mohl, who notes the hotspot is actually all of Berkshire County at this point. We addressed the Pittsfield issue in yesterday’s MassterList.

This story at the Berkshire Eagle on the first COVID-19 death/funeral in the area is pretty jaw-dropping. And from MassLive: “James Taylor and wife donate $350,000 to Berkshire Medical Center.”

Bottom line: Western Massachusetts is more vulnerable to the coronavirus outbreak than many people may think.

The Surge: Baker estimates big wave of COVID-19 cases could hit starting next week

Here it comes. From SHNS’s Chris Lisinski (pay wall): “The surge in coronavirus cases long expected by public health officials could start to hit Massachusetts between April 7 and April 17, Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday, stressing the importance of taking steps to prepare additional health care capacity.”  

The Herald’s Mary Markos and Todd Prussman and NBC Boston have more on anticipated surge and the all-out effort to prepare for it in Massachusetts.

More ventilators: They’re coming

It’s not enough, but it’s welcome. From the AP at Boston 25 News: “Federal officials have approved the state’s request for at least 1,000 ventilators to help care for those with severe respiratory COVID-19 symptoms, Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday. The state should begin receiving those ventilators soon, he said.”  

Also this from Boston 25: “The state also received a delivery of personal protective equipment like masks and gloves for health care workers from the strategic national stockpile, Baker said.” Again, it’s not enough, but it’s welcome.

Boston 25 News

Health care updates: Possible BI vaccine gets huge investment, number of hospital workers testing positive soars, state eyes 1,000 nursing-home bed conversions

We now have a number for the amount of nursing home beds that the state hopes to convert to emergency coronavirus care facilities: 1,000 and in a “bunch of different places,” as Gov. Charlie Baker put it (SHNS). … In other health-care-related news, from the Boston Herald: “Number of health care workers with coronavirus soars at Boston hospitals.” … Some potential good news via the Globe: “US and J&J commit $1b to coronavirus vaccine codeveloped by Beth Israel.” It’s a big bet. But a welcome bet. … Also from the Globe: “Chief executive at Beth Israel Lahey Health taking 50 percent pay cut for three months.” … From SHNS: “Research Suggests Sterilized Masks Remain Effective.”

Democratic Party calls off 2020 state nominating convention

From MassLive’s Noah Bombard: “The Massachusetts Democratic Party has called off the 2020 Nominating Convention, which had been scheduled for May 30 at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell. Both campaigns for U.S. Congressman Joe Kennedy III and Sen. Edward Markey announced Monday night that the convention had been called off. Concerns over public safety with the coronavirus pandemic drove the decision.”

MassLive

‘Dramatic collapse’: Tufts center warns state budget shortfall could hit $1.8B to $3B

More cheerful news. From SHNS’s Katie Lannan: “A policy research group is warning state lawmakers to prepare for a ‘dramatic collapse’ in state revenue, estimating a tax revenue shortfall of $1.8 billion to $3 billion over the next 15 months.”

Meanwhile, WGBH’s Mike Deehan reports that the tentative plan to delay the state’s tax-filing deadline until July 15 could blow a temporary $3 billion hole in the state’s budget – a hole Gov. Charlie Baker hopes to fill by short-term borrowing. Lawmakers may have other ideas, as Deehan notes.

SHNS (pay wall — free trial subscription available)

Labor unrest: GE workers walk off jobs, protests at Instacart and Amazon

Look for more labor-related protests and tensions as the coronavirus crisis deepens in coming weeks. The BBJ’s Greg Ryan and MassLive’s Jackson Cote report that some General Electric workers in Lynn and elsewhere walked off the jobs yesterday to protest coronavirus-related layoffs and to urge GE to start building badly needed ventilators at facilities. And the Globe’s Katie Johnston reports GE’s Lynn workers are also concerned in general about work-place safety conditions.

Meanwhile, WGBH’s Phillip Martin and the Washington Post report on labor unrest at InstaCart, Amazon and Whole Foods stores, here and elsewhere, as employees demand safer work environments and hazardous-pay boosts, among other things.

Those extra federal funds for unemployment insurance? Workers may have to wait a bit

Speaking of labor-related issues, SHNS’s Chris Lisinki (pay wall) reports that the federal government’s economic-stimulus bill includes gobs of extra funds for expanded unemployment-insurance benefits. But Gov. Charlie Baker is warning that “the not-so-good news” is states have not yet received implementation instructions from the feds – and so “these benefits are not available to be applied for today.”

Government updates: More MBTA workers and cops test positive, Walsh bans evictions, SJC delays bar exam

CBS Boston reports that Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced yesterday the city is temporarily banning evictions, delaying property tax payments till June and providing rental vouchers to 1,000 families with school students. … In other government-related news, from WBUR: “18 MBTA Workers Have Now Tested Positive For COVID-19.” … From the Globe: “MBTA, unions looking for more ways to slow the spread of coronavirus.” … Also from WBUR: “19 Boston Police Officers, 3 Civilians Test Positive For Coronavirus.” … From Universal Hub: “Boston to remove street-hockey and tennis nets from city parks, in addition to zip-tying basketball hoops.” Ditto in Worcester (MassLive). … From a Boston Globe editorial: “The Legislature should find a way to meet online.” … From WBUR: “Pressley And Warren Call For Racial Data In Coronavirus Testing.” … And from Universal Hub: “Would-be Massachusetts lawyers will have to wait a bit longer for the bar exam.”

And, finally, from the Globe: “Mass. marijuana regulator joins fight to allow recreational pot stores to reopen.”

Keller at Large: How bad will the Mass. slump be?

In his latest Keller at Large on MassterList, veteran political analyst Jon Keller takes a look at the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation’s “five-alarm analysis” of what the coronavirus is doing to the state’s economy – and it’s not an encouraging analysis.

Keller at Large MassterList

Mayor to fanatical golfers: ‘What is wrong with you people?’

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno yesterday angrily uncorked on scores of golfers who have apparently sneaked onto city-owned golf courses during these stay-at-home and social-distancing times. “What is wrong with you people?” a dumbfounded Sarno asked yesterday. MassLive’s Peter Goonan has the details.

MassLive

Gannett announces COVID-19-related furloughs at newspapers

Local journalism continues to take major financial hits during the coronavirus crisis. Dan Kennedy at Media Nation reports that Gannett, now the largest owner of newspapers in Massachusetts and across the country, has announced “massive COVID-19-related cost reductions through June,” including rolling furloughs for employees making more than $38,000. Dan has the details and the company memo outlining the actions .

Media Nation

‘Zoom-Bombing’: FBI warns of hacker hijacks of online school classes and other meetings

Is this demented or what? CBS Boston reports that hackers are trying to disrupt video-conferencing and other online ways of communicating – with the FBI warning that two Massachusetts schools have been the victims of ‘Zoom-bombing’ this month. Officials have tips on how to lock out unwelcome conference crashers, such as strict use of passcodes.

Universal Hub is blunt about who some of these low-life trollers are: “FBI: Nazis, doxxers and other pests looking for Zoom sessions to swarm.”

CBS Boston

Cape Cod residents: ‘Close the bridges’

It seems some on Cape Cod want to impose Rhode Island-like border restrictions. The Herald’s Mary Markos reports on a petition campaign on the Cape to close the Bourne and Sagamore bridges in order to keep out New York and other out-of-state vacation homeowners — and thus avoid potentially overwhelming Cape hospitals with COVID-19 cases.

Btw, from the Cape Cod Times: “State allows Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard to bar construction.”

Boston Herald

Numbers game: Amid uncertainty, towns lead the way in disclosing local cases

To disclose or not disclose? Many local health agents say they’re awaiting guidance from the state on whether to report how many coronavirus cases are in their communities, but in the meantime some are choosing to disclose the numbers on their own, Henry Schwan reports at the MetroWest Daily News. 

MetroWest Daily News

Federal judge urges ICE not to send more detainees to Bristol County

WBUR’s Shannon Dooling and CommonWealth’s Sarah Betancourt report that a federal judge is urging ICE officials to stop sending detainees to the Bristol County House of Correction and that the judge may consider releasing some non-violent detainees.

Empty baskets: Churches eye cuts amid plunge in donations

The pews are empty–and so are donation baskets. Social distancing is hitting the bottom line of local Catholic parishes, with the Springfield Diocese saying local churches in Western Mass. are staring down losses of at least $1 million in coming weeks, Anne-Gerard Flynn reports at MassLive.  On Cape Ann, some parish priests are forgoing salaries and have started to cut staff or institute furloughs, Taylor Ann Bradford reports at the Gloucester Times.

‘Social Distancing Is Making Bostonians More Social’

We’ve noticed the same thing as WGBH’s Callie Crossley: People seem to be nicer these days – or at least they’re going out of their way to say hello and wish people well during these tense times.

WGBH

SJC: Judge just can’t order public defenders to take on more cases

Finally, we enter non-coronavirus news territory, from CommonWealth’s Michael Jonas: “The Supreme Judicial Court ruled that a Springfield judge overstepped his authority in ordering the overburdened local public defenders’ office to take on more cases than the office said it could handle, but the justices deferred to the Legislature when it came to solving the problem of a chronic shortage of lawyers for poor defendants.”

CommonWealth

Politics marches on: Candidates start to toss hats in North Attleboro

At least three candidates have said they’ll seek the 14th Bristol state represenative seat being vacated by Elizabeth Poirier after 20 years, Tom Reilly reports at the Sun Chronicle. One Republican and two Democrats quickly announced bids after Poirier said she would not seek re-election to the North Attleboro seat the GOP has held since the late 1990s. 

Sun Chronicle

Do Morals Matter?

Political scientist Joseph Nye, leader scholar of international relations considers the foreign policies of presidents from FDR to Trump to see which come up short in the morality polls.

Cambridge Forum

Book Talk, Slavery and the Making of Early American Libraries

Join former Athenaeum New England Regional Fellowship recipient Sean D. Moore (2014-2015) as he shares the culmination of his studies of early American libraries and how these institutions stood at the nexus of two translatlantic branches of commerce–the book trade and the slave trade.

Boston Athenaeum

2020 Robert C. Wood Visiting Professor of Public and Urban Affairs Lecture featuring Christiana Figueres

Each year, the Robert C. Wood Professorship brings a distinguished public leader to campus for a lecture and conversation to engage students, faculty, and community members in discussions of public policy and public service. The McCormack Graduate School is pleased to announce Christiana Figueres as the 2020 Robert C. Wood Visiting Professor of Public and Urban Affairs.

McCormack Graduate School

Today’s Headlines

Metro

19 Boston police officers, three civilian employees test positive for coronavirus – Boston Globe

City cracking down on group sports at its parks – Dorchester Reporter

Massachusetts

James Taylor and wife donate $350,000 to Berkshire Medical Center – MassLive

WooSox co-owner adds to Worcester holdings – Worcester Business Journal

Nation

Facebook to invest $100 million to support local news amid coronavirus pandemic – The Hill

Furloughs at Macy’s, Gannett and Gap signal mounting economic distress – Washington Post

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