Happening Today

Congressional delegation on COVID-19 aid, and more

— The state’s U.S. House delegation host a media call to discuss provisions in the CARES Act that directly support families and businesses in Massachusetts, with Reps. Katherine Clark, Jim McGovern, Lori Trahan, Joseph Kennedy, Seth Moulton, Ayanna Pressley, Stephen Lynch and Bill Keating joining in on the briefing, 12 p.m.

— New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell and city officials announce further measures to protect public health in New Bedford amid the COVID-19 outbreak, New Bedford City Hall (front steps) – 133 William Street, 11 a.m.

Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce hosts Boston Federal Reserve Bank President and CEO Eric Rosengren for a virtual talk on the economic effects of COVID-19, 2 p.m. 

— Massachusetts motorists today begin facing fines of $100 to $500 for violating the state’s new distracted driving law, which bans all use of phones behind the wheel except for a single tap or swipe to active hands-free mode.

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: 33 additional deaths, 89 total deaths, 6,620 confirmed coronavirus cases in Mass.

WCVB has the latest confirmed numbers on the coronavirus outbreak in Massachusetts.

The Holyoke Soldiers’ Home Tragedy: Deaths were allegedly kept secret for days

The number of deaths at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home has climbed to 13, according to the state, and the question of the day is now, as a WGBH headline puts it: ‘What the hell happened’? 

Exactly how and why it was allowed to happen is not clear. But we do know that the multiple-coronavirus related deaths at the facility were apparently/allegedly kept quiet for days before Holyoke and state officials got a tally from the now ousted superintendent. A sampling of some of the headlines. From the Globe: “Accusations swirl at Holyoke veterans hospital, mayor says coronavirus outbreak was kept secret even as death toll rose.” … From WBUR: “Holyoke Mayor: For Half A Week, Soldiers’ Home Deaths Were Not Reported To State Or City Officials.” … From CommonWealth: “How vets died of COVID-19 and no one knew.” … And then there’s this from MassLive: “Family members say they were left in the dark as sickness spread.” … The Herald’s Joe Battenfeld thinks the Baker administration has a lot of questions to answer.

And, finally, from the Globe: “He served his country on dangerous ground for 40 years. The Holyoke coronavirus outbreak took his life.”

Meanwhile, National Guard deployed to help out at nursing homes across the state

Amid the tragedy unfolding in Holyoke, from WBUR’s Barbara Moran: “The state will roll out seven mobile teams to conduct on-site coronavirus testing for nursing home residents. Teams for the pilot program will be staffed by trained personnel from the state National Guard.”

Many nursing homes and other elderly-housing facilities definitely need the help. From WCVB: “Six more coronavirus cases at Revere senior housing facility; death toll climbs.” Meanwhile, Sam Hudzik at WGBH, in a story mostly focused on the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home deaths, notes that Greenfield’s Buckley HealthCare Center has 17 confirmed cases of COVID-19.


But the state’s nursing home conversions hit a major snag

The state previously announced it was hoping to covert a number of nursing homes into emergency coronavirus-care facilities ASAP. But the Globe’s Robert Weisman reports that the timetable for the conversions has taken a hit, after officials ran into problems at a nursing home in Worcester, where one of the current long-term residents tested positive for the coronavirus and brought the transfer of other patients out of the facility to a halt. From Weisman: “(The delay) throws into question the feasibility of relocating hundreds of long-term care residents ― the population at the highest risk for getting seriously ill or dying from the virus ― in the midst of the public health crisis.”

Boston Globe

State setting up emergency ‘field hospitals’ in anticipation of coming surge

Speaking of emergency-care facilities, the Baker administration is scrambling to set up ‘field hospitals’ around the state as health-care officials brace for an expected surge in COVID-19 cases – and Worcester’s DCU Center is the first such field hospital, reports Universal Hub. MassLive’s Michael Bonner reports that FEMA trucks have already arrived at the DCU Center, unloading supplies and mobile equipment etc. Yes, FEMA, of the where-the-hell-have-you-been variety.

Baker extends shutdown order through April amid evidence that it’s working

Think about it: The governor of Massachusetts yesterday ordered an extension of his non-essential/stay-at-home/social-distancing policies through all of April and into early May, as the BBJ’s Catherine Carlock reports, and it’s not even the top news story this morning. Why aren’t people upset with the huge economic disruptions that the policies are causing? Maybe because they feel they’re needed and because they’re working. As a team of Globe staffers report, there’s preliminary evidence that the shutdown may indeed be slowing the spread of the deadly coronavirus in Massachusetts.

Meanwhile, the Globe’s Jon Chesto reports that thousands of businesses are flooding the administration with inquiries over what’s “essential” and “non-essential.”

No vacancies for non-essential workers and tourists at hotels and Airbnb rentals

CBS Boston reports that the Baker administration has ordered that hotel rooms and short-term rental units (i.e. Airbnb) can only be used by emergency workers battling the coronavirus outbreak. “Hotels and short term rentals like Airbnb may no longer be booked for vacation or leisure purposes,” the governor said. “People really should be using common sense on this one and should not be going on vacation right now.”

CBS Boston

Baker: No, pot shops are not essential businesses, and here’s why

This actually makes some sense, though we know cannabis-industry folks and potheads everywhere would disagree. From Universal Hub: “Gov. Baker says he kept recreational or adult-use marijuana shops on the list of ‘non-essential’ businesses that can not open to the public because the last thing we need is potentially infected people driving into Massachusetts.” Remember: Pot isn’t legal in most other states.

Universal Hub

Health care updates: Community hospitals struggle, BMC furloughs, medical retirees called up, Warren’s blistering FEMA letter

On the surface at least, there seems to be a contradiction here: As BMC and Atrius Health outline their furlough programs for workers amid the financial hardships facing care providers, as the BBJ’s Jessica Bartlett reports, the state is calling up retired medical workers and others to help out in the battle against the coronavirus, as the Globe’s Shirley Leung reports. … Meanwhile, if large hospitals are struggling to handle the deluge of coronavirus patients, how are small community hospitals faring? Not well, as the Globe reports. … And, finally, FEMA has started delivering critically needed supplies to Massachusetts (see ‘field hospitals’ post above), but it only came after sustained pressure from the Baker administration and other state pols, like U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who sent a blistering letter to FEMA earlier this week, reports MassLive’s Douglas Hook.

State education board grants commissioner Jeff Riley emergency powers on school deadlines and tests

SHNS’s Katie Lannan reports that the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has approved an emergency regulation giving commissioner Jeff Riley the authority to “suspend, extend, or waive any timeline or due date in the Board’s regulations to the extent permitted by state and federal law.” At the top of Riley’s TTD list: Make a decision on MCAS testing.

Meanwhile, Boston city councilors are pressuring Riley to delay plans for a state intervention to help the troubled Boston Public Schools system, saying now is not the time for such an intervention, reports SHNS’s Katie Lannan (pay wall). And still on the subject of education, from Christian Wade at the Gloucester Times: “Public schools won’t be required to extend year.”

SHNS (pay wall — free trial subscription available)

Remote working: The state itself is working out the kinks

As everyone knows, the state has ordered a shutdown of non-essential businesses and asked for non-essential employees to stay at home as much as possible. And the orders apply to state government too. But, like many private businesses, the state is discovering “kinks in its own telework policies,” reports Shira Schoenberg at CommonWealth magazine.


Government: Hazardous pay pushed, Senate housing bill, Lottery sales continue to plunge

Any one of the following stories would make for separate posts during normal times. But these aren’t normal times. So we’re going with only headlines today. From Christian Wade at the Eagle Tribune: “Hazard duty pay sought for Mass. first responders.” … From the Globe: “MBTA to begin taking temperature of employees.” …From SHNS (pay wall): “Senate Panel Backs Housing Security Bill 15-0.” … Also from SHNS (pay wall): “Drop in Mass. Lottery Sales Gaining Speed.”

Stat: ‘The Medical News Site That Saw the Coronavirus Coming Months Ago’

Not all media outlets are struggling these days. Stat, the science and medical website that was started by Red Sox and Boston Globe owner John Henry, gets a huge shout-out from the NYT, which credits the Boston-based Stat with being way out front in its coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Its reward: “The site has attracted nearly 30 million unique visitors this year, which is four to five times its usual traffic.”


The economy: Boston Calling canceled, financial hardships ahead, manufacturers step up, Logan flights down

It’s official, from Boston Magazine: “Boston Calling 2020 Is Officially Canceled.” And it will not be rescheduled this year. … Meanwhile, Bruce Mohlat CommonWealth magazine reports on a new survey that shows 40 percent of Massachusetts residents expect to face major financial hardships over the next two months as a result of coronavirus disruptions. … From the Patriot Ledger: “South Shore restaurants: Takeout business is not enough to sustain us.” … From WBUR: “Travel Drops 76% At Boston Logan Airport Amid Coronavirus Outbreak” … It’s not all bad news. From the BBJ (pay wall): “The state asked for manufacturers’ help fighting COVID-19. Hundreds of hands went up.”

Shut ‘em down: Trade union wants construction halted

The state’s largest building trades union is calling on Gov. Baker to reverse his decision to declare construction sites essential and send workers home for the month of April, saying work sites can’t be made safe, Tim Logan and Andrea Estes at the Globe report. 

Boston Globe

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


Marty Walsh cracks down on gatherings at public parks in Boston as coronavirus spreads – Boston Herald

Judge denies prosecutors request to strike reference to misconduct in Boston Calling case – Boston Globe


Smith & Wesson employee has Covid-19, part of factory closes – MassLive

Local colleges offer refunds to students on housing, other fees – Salem News


New York City’s death toll passes 1,000 – New York Times

Biden: Difficult to imagine having Democratic convention as scheduled – Politico

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