Happening Today

COVID-19 updates

— Gov. Charlie Baker’s schedule is not available, but daily coronavirus briefings have become routine in recent weeks.

— Boston City Councilor Andrea Campbell is on ‘Boston Public Radio’ to talk about her district being hit disproportionately with COVID-19 cases, WGBH-FM 89.7, 1 p.m.

— U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley is among the guests on ‘Basic Black’ talking about the CARES Act, WGBH-TV Ch. 2, 7:30 p.m.

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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: 70 additional deaths, 503 total deaths, 2,151 new cases

WCVB has the latest confirmed coronavirus numbers for Massachusetts.

The new coronavirus hotspot: Chelsea

The city of Chelsea is getting hit particularly hard by the coronavirus –so hard that the city manager is now advising a 24-hour curfew, reports Seth Daniels at the Chelsea Record. Meanwhile, from Universal Hub: “A city under siege: Chelsea has state’s highest rate of coronavirus infection.” And from MassLive: “Chelsea now a COVID-19 hotspot; city officials plead for assistance.”

Some of the reasons why Chelsea is getting hit so hard can probably be deduced from preliminary data on Boston’s own outbreak, to wit: Working-class communities of color are disproportionately suffering (Universal Hub).

The other hotspot(s): The latest staggering nursing-home numbers

Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse at state nursing homes, it gets worse. From a three-reporter team at the Globe: “On Thursday, Massachusetts reported 1,633 cases among staff and residents of long-term care facilities, an increase of 32 percent from Wednesday, with some 159 sites reporting at least one case. The total is likely far below the actual number of cases because testing is still not universally available.”

CommonWealth’s Bruce Mohl has more on the unfolding drama within nursing homes, where “things are starting to get scary.” Meanwhile, four more deaths have been reported at the hard-hit Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, as MassLive reports, and the home’s placed-on-paid-leave superintendent is once again saying that he repeatedly warned state officials about the dire conditions at the facility, as MassLive’s Cynthia Simison reports.

Boston Globe

True love: Married 61 years, Watertown man uses bucket-lift crane to see his wife in nursing home

Speaking of nursing homes: If this doesn’t bring a tear to your eye, nothing will. Wicked Local’s Joanna Tzouvelis reports that an 88-year-old Watertown man, helped by his son and family friends, donned protective gear and rode in a bucket-lift crane to a second-floor window of a Waltham nursing home so he could see his wife of 61 years.

“We touched finger tips through the window screen,” said Nick Avtges. “That was the highlight.”

Wicked Local (with photos)

Cutting through the red tape: Baker’s executive orders allow foreign doctors and nursing students to join the coronavirus fight

CommonWealth’s Sarah Betancourt and the Herald’s Erin Tiernan report that Gov. Charlie Baker has “cut the red tape” via a series of executive orders that will allow foreign-trained doctors, nursing students and recent graduates to join the health-care frontlines amid the coronavirus emergency.

They really are analyzing stool samples on a massive scale …

They’re very serious. From the Herald’s Sean Philip Cotter: “An MIT-affiliated team of scientists is analyzing sewage samples from more than 100 cities across the country — and here at home — with the goal of figuring out how many people have contracted the coronavirus and how quickly it’s spreading.”

Says Brigham and Women’s Dr. Peter Chai, who’s working on the study: “This is a really crude but accurate measuring stick.” Researchers from both Harvard and MIT are involved in the giant stool-sampling project, fyi.

Boston Herald

Mass. jobless claims already surpass Great Recession levels. Next up: Great Depression levels?

First, the bad news, from WBUR’s Callum Borchers: “Job losses are accelerating at a breathtaking pace amid the coronavirus pandemic and have now reached a grim milestone: Massachusetts workers filed more initial unemployment claims in the past three weeks than they did during the first year of the Great Recession.”

Now some good news, from the Herald Review’s Jo C. Goode: “Mass. announces start of CARES Act unemployment benefits.” SHNS’s Chris Lisinski (pay wall) reports that the state now has an impressive 600 employees working on UI claim processing, up from the normal 50 employees.

Now back to the bad news, from the Washington Post: “Economists say the U.S. unemployment rate is now 13 percent, the worst since the Great Depression.” Meanwhile, a new poll shows that 14 percent of respondents say they’ve lost their jobs in the past few weeks in Massachusetts, as CommonWealth reports. Suddenly, the Pioneer Institute’s projected 25-percent unemployment rate doesn’t sound so far-fetched (BBJ).

Federal Reserve to the rescue: Additional $2.3 trillion made available to cash-strapped states, localities and businesses

This will help – a lot. From the AP at the Globe: “The Federal Reserve unleashed a new series of moves Thursday to try to make loans available to states, localities, and companies that have been hard hit by the coronavirus. In doing so, the Fed will pump an additional $2.3 trillion into the U.S. economy.”

SHNS’s Matt Murphy (pay wall) has more on the Fed move that “could help Massachusetts and other states address potential cash shortfalls.”

About those direct-deposit funds for each and every American … maybe next week?

Didn’t they say last week that individual Americans would start to see direct federal payments into their checking accounts starting this week? Yes, they did. But now they’re shooting for next week again, as Benjamin Kail reports at MassLive. But don’t hold your breath. From WBUR: “IRS Budget Cuts, Staffing Challenges Create Coronavirus Payment Headaches.”

Massachusetts food banks struggle to meet demand

In Massachusetts, we’re not yet seeing the long lines of desperate people seeking food outside food banks, as is the case in other states around the country. But the situation is nevertheless getting very serious here, reports Cheryl Fiandaca at CBS Boston.

CBS Boston

Emergency field hospitals: They’re ready

WCVB reports that the state’s first emergency field hospital opened yesterday at Worcester’s DCU Center, with 214 beds for COVID-19 patients. And here’s some heartening news: More than 1,000 applied to work at the facility, including medical students, retired doctors and nurses.

Meanwhile, WCVB also reports that Boston’s second emergency field hospital, with 1,000 beds, is scheduled to open today at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, serving homeless and noncritical patients.

The Great Ventilators Debate: Are they critical or overrated?

CommonWealth’s Michael Jonas and Stat’s Sharon Begley look into a debate within medical circles about how effective ventilators really are in treating COVID-19 patients – and whether they’re as critical as touted or overrated. Our question: Maybe they’re both? They’re clearly helping save the lives of some patients, jus not all patients. 

As lawmakers reach stalemate on housing bill, Walsh announces 3-month mortgage payment reprieve

First, from Beacon Hill, via SHNS’s Michael Norton: “The Massachusetts Legislature is about to have its first conference committee of the COVID-19 era. Unable to agree on emergency eviction and foreclosure protections for people at risk, the House and Senate on Thursday formed a six-member conference to try to hammer out a consensus approach.”

But from Boston City Hall, via WGBH News: “Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced during a Thursday press conference that 12 housing lenders that service mortgages in Boston will allow homeowners to delay mortgage payments. According to Walsh, the deferral will last for three months and could be extended should circumstances require it.”

SHNS (pay wall — free trial subscription available)

Boston Sports Clubs and Faneuil Hall Marketplace move fast to shed their new Masshole image

Universal Hub has two quick reports on how Boston Sports Clubs and the company operating Faneuil Hall Market Place are now reversing course, under legal and public pressure, regarding monthly fees and rents during these coronavirus times.

Executive order or not, many school districts now assume students won’t be returning to classrooms this year

Christian Wade at the Salem News reports that “school administrators are becoming increasingly skeptical that students will return for the rest of the school year,” no matter what Gov. Charlie Baker may decide about keeping schools closed or not beyond May 4.

In other education news, Beacon Hill lawmakers yesterday sent to Baker’s desk legislation that waives some MCAS testing requirements and easing other school deadlines amid the coronavirus emergency, as SHNS reports (pay wall).

Salem News

Bring it on: Mass. residents embracing tele-medicine

Use of remote medical options such as telemedicine has nearly tripled among Bay State residents since stay-at-home orders were issued, Maeve Duggan of MassInc. reports via WBUR. Data from Blue Cross Blue Shield show adoption has been especially strong among older patients. 

WBUR

For Hampshire College, it’s deja vu all over again

The last crisis prepared them to handle the current crisis. Jacquelyn Voghel at the Daily Hampshire Gazette reports Hampshire College officials feel that despite its relatively paltry endowment, the school is well-prepared to weather the coronavirus crisis because of the steps it took to reduce costs — and its student-body size–to address its previous financial crisis since last year. 

Gazette

Candidate for our times: Ex-Hampden County commissioner convicted of attempted murder is now running for Cape commissioner

The race for Barnstable County commissioner now has two convicted felons running for office. Jeff Spillane at the Cape Cod Times provides the campaign details (and criminal backgrounds). Meanwhile, MassLive’s Patrick Johnson dives deeper into the history of Abraham Kasparian Jr., a one-time Hampden County Commissioner who served 14 years in prison after being found guilty of attempting to murder his wife.

Cape Cod Times

Report: MGM Springfield not eating into lottery sales

UMass Amherst researchers say there is no evidence that the opening of the MGM Springfield resort casino has dented sales of Mass. Lottery products, Peter Goonan atMassLive reports. Lottery tickets sales were off slightly in Springfield year-over-year, but the drop is more likely tied to oversized jackpots in some games in the prior year. 

MassLive

Happy Virtual Easter and Passover, everyone

Most in-person religious services have been cancelled across the state, forcing congregations online for Holy Week, Passover and this Sunday’s Easter services. And in Springfield, Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski is asking all catholic churches in the diocese to toll their steeple bells at the same time on Easter morning, reports MassLive.

No matter how you celebrate religious services this weekend, we wish all our readers a happy and safe Easter and Passover. And don’t forget: Many supermarkets will be closing on Sunday to give workers a well-deserved rest and time with family.

Sunday public affairs TV: Karen Spilka, Ed Markey and more

Keller at Large, WBZ-TV Channel 4, 8:30 a.m. This week’s guest: Senate President Karen Spilka, who talks with host Jon Keller about the state’s coronavirus response, the impact on the budget and tax hikes, and the ballot access and signature-gathering debate.

This Week in Business, NECN, 10 a.m. Eastern Bank Chairman and CEO Bob Rivers discusses the thousands of businesses that have already applied for federal-stimulus small business loans; Little Leaf Farms CEO Paul Sellew on the Devens based hydroponic farm; and the BBJ’s Doug Banks reviews the top business stories of the week.

On The Record, WCVB-TV Channel 5, 11 a.m. This week’s guest: U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, who talks with hosts Ed Harding and Janet Wu, followed by a political round-table discussion with analysts Mary Anne Marsh and Rob Gray.

CityLine, WCVB-TV Channel 5, 12 p.m. With host Karen Holmes Ward, the week’s topic: Interracial adoption.

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

My Life in the Age of COVID: MFA Director Matthew Teitelbaum – Boston Magazine

Brockton mayor: Some residents need to take social distancing more seriously – Brockton Enterprise

Massachusetts

Berkshire Health Systems retracts sick-leave policy that roiled union – Berkshire Eagle

Lawrence mayor opening emergency homeless shelters – Eagle-Tribune

Coronavirus testing begins at Big E – MassLive

Nation

Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot is breaking up some parties herself to enforce social distancing – Washington Post

Barack Obama wins the Democratic primary – Politico

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