Keller at Large

About our techno-challenged lawmakers …

In his latest Keller at Large on MassterList podcast, Jon Keller takes a look at the botched virtual budget meeting Beacon Hill lawmakers tried – and failed — to hold earlier this week. It would be a laughing matter if the stakes weren’t so high these days, he says.

Keller at Large

Happening Today

Gaming Commission, Cannabis Control and more

Mass. Gaming Commission plans to hold a meeting via conference call to get updates on legislative activities, the budget and a report on the impact of casino gaming on the Lottery in Springfield, 10 a.m.

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Cannabis Control Commission meets to review license renewals, requests for changes of ownership, staff-recommended provisional licenses and more, 10 a.m. 

— The House and Senate meet in informal sessions, 11 a.m.

— U.S. Rep. Richard Neal is a guest on ‘Boston Public Radio,’ WGBH-FM 89.7, 12:30 p.m.

— Education Commissioner Jeff Riley appears on ‘Greater Boston,’ WGBH-TV Ch. 2, 7 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: 77 new deaths, 433 total deaths, 1,588 new cases

MassLive has the latest confirmed coronavirus numbers for Massachusetts.

Baker: Numbers indicate state may avert Wuhan or NYC-style catastrophe

Are we bending the curve in Massachusetts? Maybe. Just maybe. From WGBH: “At a press conference on Wednesday, Governor Charlie Baker said officials are ‘cautiously optimistic’ that social distancing measures are working and that there may not be as steep an acceleration in coronavirus cases like the ones seen in New York and Wuhan, China.” Christian Wade at the Salem News has more on the “cautiously optimistic” numbers.

But here’s some very alarming news, from the Herald’s Sean Philip Cotter: “Massachusetts sewage suggests more than 100K coronavirus cases in state: MIT lab.” Well, it’s hard to argue with old tried-and-true sewage analyses. Meanwhile, from the Globe’s David Abel: “Hospitals brace for a surge of coronavirus patients, but how accurate are the projections?”

WGBH

Despite incomplete data, signs point to racial disparities in COVID-19 cases across the state

WBUR’s Ally Jarmanning reports that the state yesterday released new data that, while incomplete, suggests that there may indeed be a racial disparity in the number of COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts. MassLive’s Tanner Stening reports that the ACLU of Massachusetts has sifted through health data and ZIP codes and found that, yes, Boston neighborhoods with large numbers of Blacks and Latinos are indeed getting hit hard by the coronavirus.

But Dr. (and state Rep.) Jon Santiago, who’s been treating patients at Boston Medical Center, needs no incomplete state report or ACLU ZIP code analysis to arrive at his own conclusion, to wit: “The disproportionate impact the virus has on black/brown communities is concerning. Hang in there!”

Recreational pot shops sue state over closures, push Baker toward snapping point

With medical personnel trying to save as many lives as possible across the state and with thousands of businesses struggling to make ends meet, we divert your attention to this breaking news, from the BBJ’s Jessica Bartlett: “Five cannabis dispensaries and a medical marijuana patient seeking to open a recreational dispensary have sued Gov. Charlie Baker over his decision to ban all recreational sales during the coronavirus pandemic.”

Universal Hub reports that Baker appears to be getting a “bit irritated” with pot-related complaints/questions and would rather focus on other things, such as, oh, saving lives. Meanwhile, from CommonWealth’s Shira Schoenberg: “Baker to pot firms: I’m focusing on surge.”

BBJ

As two more veterans die at Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, AG Maura Healey launches investigation into tragedy

MassLive’s Jeanette DeForge reports that two more residents at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home have died, bringing the total deaths at the facility to 24. And it appears Attorney General Maura Healey has had enough, with WCVB reporting Healey’s office has launched an investigation into what happened at the facility.

Btw, from the Globe’s Hanna Krueger: “Staffing issues still plague Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke despite National Guard presence and state assurances.”

Despite high patient infection rates, state moving forward with nursing home relocations

In other group-home news, from the Globe’s Robert Weisman: “State officials are pressing ahead with a plan to designate nursing homes across Massachusetts as treatment centers for recovering COVID-19 patients despite infection outbreaks at the first three homes that agreed to relocate residents to accommodate patients discharged from hospitals.”

CommonWealth magazine’s Bruce Mohl has more on how the coronavirus is ravaging nursing homes across the state, with the number of infected staff and patients growing six-fold since last Thursday. From the Herald’s Lisa Kashinsky: “Massachusetts nursing homes fighting coronavirus are ‘teetering on the edge of collapse.’”

And, finally, there’s this what-the-hell piece from WGBH’s Gabrielle Emanuel: “Mass Nursing Homes Losing Nurses Because Of Obscure Rule That Caps Pay.”

Boston Globe

So what’s the governor up to regarding ventilators?

Is Gov. Charlie Baker planning another Pats-like mission to China? He certainly doesn’t sound optimistic these days that the federal government will come through with its promised ventilators for Massachusetts, as Universal Hub reports, and he’s now talking about “pursuing ventilators through other strategies.”

But here’s an intriguing piece from the AP at WGBH: “Some hospitals have reported unusually high death rates for coronavirus patients on ventilators, and some doctors worry that the machines could be harming certain patients.” Nothing wrong with the ventilators themselves. It’s the treatment itself that’s concerning doctors. And, finally, from Kirk Carapezza at WGBH: “63 Respiratory Therapists, Urgently Needed By Hospitals To Operate Ventilators, To Graduate In Mass.”

Government updates: Housing protection bill, State Police cadets step up, National Guard step in, and Bristol County officers test positive

The Massachusetts Senate today is expected to take up the thorny issue of how much protections should be given to tenants and homeowners during the current coronavirus crisis, reports SHNS’s Katie Lannan (pay wall), whose article covers a lot of other legislative issues that Senate President Karen Spilka hopes to tackle in coming days and weeks. … Meanwhile, from the Globe’s Tim Logan: “Block evictions during the crisis, or just delay them? Lawmakers must decide.”

In other government-related matters, from the Herald Review: “Two Bristol County security staffers test positive for COVID-19.” … From MassLive: “National Guard starts duties at Springfield triage tents to aid homeless population.” … And also from MassLive: “State Police academy to graduate 241 troopers earlier than planned to aid in COVID-19 emergency.” … From the Herald: “Healey calls on auto insurers to cut rates during low-traffic coronavirus.”

Putt patrol: Brockton cops dispatched to course as golfers swing away

The closed gates and abundant signs aren’t keeping golfers from trespassing onto links in Brockton, so Mayor Robert Sullivan says he’ll dispatch police officers to both public and private courses if needed to enforce social distancing rules, Marc Larocque at the Enterprise reports. 

Enterprise

Filings for welfare assistance soar in Mass.

SHNS’s Chris Lisinski reports on the “flood of new applications’ for welfare assistance in Massachusetts, with filings tripling in the past month for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children program (TAFDC) and the Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled and Children (EAEDC).

And that doesn’t count the massive number of people applying for unemployment-insurance assistance. From Christian Wade at the Salem News: “Self-employed struggle as they await benefits.” … And from MassLive: “Baker administration working on updating unemployment application to expand language options.”

SHNS (pay wall — free trial subscription available)

Going dark: JetBlue wants to shut Worcester service until June

JetBlue is seeking permission from federal regulators to suspend flights from Worcester Regional Airport entirely until at least early June as it scrambles to cut costs amid a plunge in passenger traffic, Steven H. Foskett Jr. at the Telegram reports. 

Telegram

Tech sector takes coronavirus hits as some warn of historically high jobless rates

We’re slowing shifting from widespread hourly-worker layoffs to salaried-worker layoffs – and that’s not a good sign. From the Globe’s Janelle Nanos: “The economic shock from the COVID-19 pandemic is now reaching deeper into Boston’s once-booming tech industry, with two of the region’s most promising companies announcing layoffs and furloughs of employees in recent days.”

Meanwhile, the BBJ’s Hilary Burns (pay wall) has a list of the major layoffs/furloughs implemented so far by companies across the state. And SHNS’s Michael Norton (pay wall) reports on a new Pioneer Institute brief that warns the unemployment rate in Massachusetts could hit 25 percent. Let’s hope the Pioneer institute is wrong about its projections. 

Boston Globe

‘Super Workers’ to the rescue?

Here’s an interesting story by CommonWealth’s Shira Schoenberg: Will those who survive COVID-19 infections turn into future immune “super workers” capable of handling coronavirus-era jobs that others can’t perform? It’s not clear yet whether such “super workers” would indeed by immune from contracting the coronavirus again. But preliminary data (repeat: preliminary data) looks promising.

CommonWealth

SBA chief: The loan checks are in the mail!

Speaking of economic turmoil caused by the coronavirus crisis, the BBJ’s Greg Ryan talked with local SBA chief Robert Nelson, who says it’s ‘absolutely’ realistic for some local businesses to get federal-government stimulus loans as early as this week, despite all the talk about loans delays.

Considering all the other broken federal promises of late, we’ll file this one under: ‘Trust, but verify.’

BBJ (pay wall)

Baker files legislation to provide health-care workers with liability protections

From a report at MassLive: “Gov. Charlie Baker filed legislation Wednesday afternoon that would extend liability protection to health care workers during the coronavirus pandemic to address a fear of some front-line medical personnel who are being asked to work in abnormal conditions, according to an administration source. “

After poncho pushback, McGovern says medical supply chain still broken

U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern is standing by comments suggesting medical professionals have been forced to use plastic rain ponchos as personal protective equipment, though he acknowledges that may not be happening inside Bay State facilities, Kim Ring at the Telegram reports. McGovern is also touting his efforts to press federal authorities to get more supplies where they are needed. 

Telegram

Now that Bernie has dropped out of presidential race, it’s … VP sweepstakes time!

The Globe’s Liz Goodwin reports that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders yesterday officially dropped out of the Dem race for president, clearing the way for Joe Biden to represent the party in this fall’s showdown with President Trump. And Bernie’s move also clears the way for lots and lots of media VP-pick speculation. The Washington Post gets off to a fast start with its own “most logical picks” list, with U.S. Sen. (and former presidential candidate) Elizabeth Warren ranked fourth.

Meanwhile, Warren has lots of plans within a plan to deal with COVID-19 crisis

Speaking of Elizabeth Warren, she sure looked like her old campaign self yesterday, rattling off all sorts of plans within a general plan to tackle the coronavirus outbreak sweeping the country. She outlines her ideas in a NYT op-ed.

NYT

No contest: Kennedy virtually beating Markey

The Herald’s Joe Battenfeld thinks it’s no contest: Ed Markey has been “outmaneuvered at every turn by the younger, more nimble and more social media adept Democratic challenger,” i.e. Joe Kennedy, in the U.S. Senate race, and Markey is in “danger of falling further behind” during this strange coronavirus-era campaign.

We could be wrong, but we’ve actually been a little impressed with Markey’s somewhat scrappy campaigning of late. He’s certainly working hard and conceding little.

Boston Herald

Galvin: Please fill out online census forms so workers don’t have to go to your home during pandemic.

Secretary of State William Galvin says that Massachusetts remains above average in online response rates to the U.S. Census – but more residents still need to fill out outline surveys. And Galvin says he really doesn’t want to dispatch census employees to individual homes to get counts. Not now. Not with the coronavirus outbreak, as SHNS’s Chris Lisinskireports (pay wall).

ROAR Web Series with Josefina Bonilla and Special Guest Lisa Coleman, Ph.D.

The ROAR Webinar Series with Josefina Bonilla and special guest Lisa Coleman, Ph.D., Senior Vice President, Global Inclusion and Strategic Innovation, New York University, Thursday, April 9, 2020 at 1:00 P.M. Join us as we discuss the emergence of new leadership styles in trying times.

RIYHT Media

ROAR Web Series with Josefina Bonilla and Special Guest Darla Pires DeGrace

The ROAR Webinar Series with Josefina Bonilla and special guest Darla Pires DeGrace, Diversity Equity Inclusion Strategist, Friday, April 10, 2020 at 1:00 P.M. Join us as we discuss the emergence of new leadership styles in trying times.

RIYHT Media

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

Lynn GE employees join second protest, seeking safer conditions – Lynn Item

Expansion of liquor licenses in Boston gets pushback from restaurant group – Boston Globe

Massachusetts

CARES Act provides fiscal godsend for Worcester-area churches in wake of pandemic – Telegram & Gazette

Barnstable County imposes hiring, spending freeze – Cape Cod Times

Long-awaited $40 million reconstruction of the Natick Center commuter rail station is underway – MetroWest Daily News

Nation

Hearst promises journalists at its newspapers no furloughs, no pay cuts – Poynter.org

Recovery bill allows feds to spend billions without keeping records – Politico

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