Coronavirus updates and meetings
— The Massachusetts Senate and House are scheduled to meet today, even though social-distancing restrictions will make it hard to conduct normal business, 11 a.m.
— MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board and Department of Transportation board of directors hold a joint meeting with social distancing restrictions, with topics on the agenda including a review of the fiscal year 2020 budget amid the coronavirus emergency, State Transportation Building, 10 Park Plaza, Boston, 12 p.m.
— U.S. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal takes part in a Zoom webinar organized by the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate to discuss legislative issues surrounding the coronavirus, 1 p.m.
— Gov. Charlie Baker and legislative leaders, including House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Karen Spilka, are expected to participate in their weekly meeting remotely via teleconference, 2 p.m.
— At what is believed to be a first-ever live remote legislative Zoom hearing, lawmakers will consider testimony on legislation that would boost cash benefits available to low-income residents at a Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities virtual hearing, 1:30 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: 70 additional deaths, 756 total deaths, 2,615 new cases
CBS Boston has the latest confirmed coronavirus numbers for Massachusetts. The number of deaths is up 253 since MassterList last published while the total confirmed coronavirus cases soared past the 20,000 mark over the weekend, hitting 25,475 cases on Sunday.
‘We’re Absolutely In The Surge’
Going into the weekend, Gov. Charlie Baker said he expected the number of confirmed coronavirus cases to peak at about 2,500 per day in Massachusetts, starting around April 20 (CBS Boston) – and then the state over the weekend blew right past that figure, hitting 2,615 new confirmed cases on Sunday (see post above). So it looks like the surge is indeed here – and some doctors believed it arrived last week, as WBUR’s Carey Goldberg reports.
The questions now: How bad will it get? And are hospitals ready? SHNS’s Colin Young (pay wall) and the Globe’s Liz Kowalczyk report on bed capacity within the state’s hospitals. Things were looking cautiously good as of late last week – but that was late last week.
Cities now ordering people to wear masks everywhere
Gov. Charlie Baker, citing the spread of the coronavirus by people who currently don’t exhibit symptoms of the virus, is now advising people to wear protective masks when outside their homes – and the governor is now practicing what he preaches, reports Bruce Mohlat Commonwealth magazine.
But the Herald’s Rick Sobey reports that some cities and towns are now saying to hell with recommendations. They’re ordering people to wear protective masks.
Lynn institutes overnight curfew; Chelsea pleads for state help
Some communities are now going well beyond ordering people to wear masks. The Item’s David McLellean reports that Lynn Mayor Thomas McGee has declared a 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew for all non-essential workers in his hard-hit working-class city. Meanwhile, the Globe’s John Hilliard reports city officials in Chelsea, yet another working-class community hit hard by the coronavirus, are pleading for help from the state amid the COVID-19 crisis.
About that points system for who get to use ventilators …
The Globe’s Andy Rosen reports that a group of health-care workers are pushing back against the state’s suggested life-and-death guidelines for who get to use ventilators during medical emergencies, saying that the points system is weighted against a “disproportionate number of indigenous people, Black people, Latinx people, other communities of color, elders, immigrants, asylees, refugees, and those who are undocumented, uninsured, incarcerated, homeless, experiencing poverty, or living with disability.”
In other words, a rather large swath of society in general.
Many state health care workers to get hazardous pay
Others deserve this too. From SHNS’s Matt Murphy: “Thousands of state health care workers will be getting a raise after the union representing licensed nurses and caregivers working in Massachusetts state hospitals and group homes struck a deal Sunday night with the state to increase pay by as much as $10 an hour for the duration of the COVID-19 health emergency.”
SHNS (pay wall — free trial subscription available)
Nursing homes account for nearly half of all COVID-19 deaths in Massachusetts
MassLive’s Douglas Hook and the Globe’s Laura Crimaldi and Laura Krantz examined the data on coronavirus-related deaths on different days in Massachusetts, but they came to the same grim conclusion: More than 40 percent of the deaths are tied to nursing homes.
Just look at some of the stunning headlines from Friday and over the weekend to grasp what’s happening. From Liam Knox at WBUR: “21 Residents Dead, 93 Test Positive For COVID-19 At Longmeadow Senior Home.” … From WCVB: “More deaths reported at Littleton nursing home.” … Also from WCVB: “Whistleblower nurse who spoke out about Littleton nursing home dies of COVID-19.” … Meanwhile, the Globe’s Jenna Russell profiles one nursing home-worker and why he’s still working despite the perils of the job.
Lelling’s office to investigate Holyoke Soldiers’ Home deaths
Speaking of group homes, this was announced on Friday – and it already feels like ancient news, to wit: The launch of a third investigation into the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home tragedy, the latest by U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling’s office, as WGBH’s Isaiah Thompson reports. The Herald’s Joe Battenfeld says the fed action puts an “intense and legally perilous spotlight” on the Baker administration’s oversight of the home in general – and it’s politically appointed superintendent in particular.
And, finally, from the Gazette: “World War II vet who stood guard at Nuremberg trials dies during COVID-19 outbreak at Soldiers’ Home.”
MCAS tests canceled for the year
Here’s another news item announced on Friday – and it also seems like ancient news at this point. From the Globe’s James Vaznis: “In an unprecedented move, Massachusetts education officials Friday night canceled this spring’s MCAS exams, weeks after educators mounted a spirited campaign to ditch the standardized tests amid a statewide closure of schools due to the coronavirus pandemic.”
SHNS’s Chris Lisinski (pay wall) has more on Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley’s decision, made hours after Gov. Charlie Baker signed a bill giving Riley the authority to cancel the standardized tests.
BU may not open campus until Jan. 2021
Speaking of education, MassLive’s Douglas Hook dug into a report by BU’s official newspaper about the university’s ‘Covid-19 Recovery Plan’ and he found, buried down, this rather important morsel: “The Recovery Plan recognizes the possibility that the beginning of the fall term may have to be delayed, and that a January reopening may be necessary, in which case summer 2021 academics would replace those now planned for fall 2020.”
Fyi: For what it’s worth, we’ve been hearing from some students, as well as tuition-paying parents, that they may forgo the fall semester if only remote-learning classes are offered by colleges. Just passing it along.
Looking ahead: Epidemiologists drawing up plans for partial re-opening of local economy
It won’t happen until after the current surge – and it would only be a partial relaxation of current social-distancing restrictions. But the Globe’s David Abel and Naomi Martin nevertheless report that local “epidemiologists are drawing up plans for a glide path out of the (current) purgatory, which they say could start as early as sometime in May.” The keys to a partial re-opening: Testing, testing and more testing.
Meanwhile, from Bloomberg News at the Globe: “Fauci says US reopening could start ‘in some ways’ in May.” And from the Globe’s Tim Logan, Larry Edelman and Shirley Leung: “Trump wants to reopen the economy May 1. What’s the plan for Massachusetts?/Business leaders and economists urge caution in face of uncertainties.”
Do the Bob Kraft-delivered masks fall short?
One little letter. The Globe Dugan Arnett reports the planeload of masks Patriots owner Robert Kraft helped get out of China and into the hands of medical professionals are not the most sought-after “N95” model but a close copy (“KN95”) that some hospitals say don’t always measure up – and some are refusing to use them.
Long shot? Gun stores sue state over closures; shop owner vows to literally fight to death to stay open
Gun shop owners and a Second Amendment group went to federal court Friday to ask a judge to toss out Gov. Baker’s ordered gun-shop closures on constitutional grounds, Jeffrey Wagner reports in the Herald News.
Meanwhile, one particularly defiant gun shop owner, John Costa of The Gunrunner in Middleboro, told conservative radio talk show host Glenn Beck that Gov. Baker — whom he labeled a socialist — that authorities would “have to drag me out of here or kill me” to get him to close and said sales are surging thanks to all the attention he’s getting, Ben Berke reports at the Patriot Ledger.
Protests, not virus, prompt shut down of Lynn apartment project
The developer of a 10-story, $90 million apartment project in Lynn says he has all but shut the project down because of what he calls increasingly “violent” public protests about work continuing amid the coronavirus shutdown. Gayla Cawley has the details at the Lynn Item.
Mail-it-in fight over voting …
SHNS’s Michael Norton (pay wall) reports that Senate Democrats, facing a court challenge and under pressure from candidates, are proposing legislation that would lower the signature requirements for candidates seeking to get on the ballot during the coronavirus emergency.
Meanwhile, a full-scale national debate has broken out over proposed mail-in-voting. As the Globe’s Jess Bidgood and James Pindell report: “Republicans fight expanded mail-in voting as coronavirus makes in-person elections dangerous.” But the Washington Post reports many Republicans appear to be retreating on the issue: “GOP pushes voting by mail — with restrictions — while Trump attacks it as ‘corrupt.’” The Herald’s Lisa Kashinsky has more on how the COVID-19 crisis has changed elections this year – and perhaps permanently.
Grocery workers can be tested at drive-thru sites reserved for first responders
Maybe they can get hazardous pay too? From WBUR’s Steve Brown: “Grocery store and supermarket workers can now be tested for coronavirus at two drive-thru sites operated by the state’s Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, following a Friday night directive from the Baker administration.” The sites are at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough and the Big E fairgrounds in West Springfield.
Btw, from Anthony Brooks, also at WBUR: “Grocery Worker Who Died Of COVID-19 Lacked Protective Gear She Needed, Husband Says.”
Mystery supplies: Not even the local FEMA chief knows what happened to federal ventilators
File under: ‘Oh, great.’ From WBUR’s Beth Healey: “The federal government’s COVID-19 chief for New England said he could not explain the missing shipments of ventilators and medical masks Massachusetts has experienced, and cited a scarcity of supplies ‘that we’ve never faced before.’” But W. Russell Webster, who’s coordinating the FEMA’s New England pandemic response, sounds a bit more confident about the whereabouts of some of the supplies, telling the Herald’s Sean Philp Cotter that 200 ventilators are on the way.
Mystery solved: Feds seize protective gowns ordered by Milford Fire Department
Aha! A clue to the whereabouts of the missing federal supplies! Alison Bosma at the Milford Daily News reports that the feds have seized 30,000 protective gowns ordered by the Milford Fire Department, which planned to distribute them to first responders and hospitals. Now all FEMA’s W. Russell Webster has to do is find out which federal agency swiped them and – presto – supplies shortage solved.
TheWashington Post has more on the surreal, perhaps unfathomable, relationship between the feds and states when it comes to emergency supplies.
Government updates: Unemployment fund running out of money, Steamship Authority lays off 100, and more
From Christian Wade at the Eagle Tribune: “Amid a crush of coronavirus-related jobless claims, the state’s unemployment fund could be tapped out in a few weeks, according to the new report. The nonpartisan Tax Foundation reports that Massachusetts only has about six weeks of unemployment benefits funding available before they run out.” The obvious and inevitable solution: The state will have to beg and borrow from the feds as it routinely does during recessions. … From WGBH’s Tori Bedford: “Massachusetts Launches Spanish-Language Portal For Unemployment Claims.” … From SHNS’s Matt Murphy (pay wall): “Speaker Wants UI Benefits Application in Multiple Languages.” … From the Martha’s Vineyard Times: “Steamship Authority lays off close to 100.” …. From the Globe’s Adam Vaccaro: “RMV workers union calls for agency to shutter all branches.” … From SHNS’s Chris Lisinki (pay wall): “Baker Hopes for Eviction Moratorium Bill in Days.”
Marines hit the beach
Actually, they landed at Bedford’s Hanscom Air Force Base via Osprey aircraft. But they’re here all right: 170 members of the Second Marine Expeditionary Brigade to medically help fight the coronavirus outbreak, specifically at the new ‘Boston Hope’ field hospital. Beth Germano at CBS Boston has the details.
Lowest of the low: Thieves break into cars of Boston nurses amid coronavirus pandemic
They knew exactly what they were doing. WCVB has the details on among the lowest of the low thieves out there.
Best of the best: Anonymous donor buys groceries for elderly at Provincetown Stop & Shop
Forget the lowest of the low. Let’s focus on the best of the best who are rising to the pandemic occasion, the latest being an anonymous donor who covered the $5,000 cost of groceries for elderly people who showed up at the Provincetown Stop & Shop on Easer Sunday morning. Beth Treffeisen at the Cape Cod Times has more on a kind act that brought tears to the eyes of one customer and a store cashier.
Bad timing: Student Opportunity Act Funding up in air amid revenue plunge
Last in, first out? The future of the $1.4 billion in new education funding contained in the Student Opportunity Act is uncertain amid a plunge in state revenues, Zane Razzaq reports at the MetroWest Daily News. Senate President Karen Spilka says whether the new tranche of funds will need to be cut or delayed should be clearer this week after legislative leaders and Gov. Charlie Baker hold a confab on the state of revenues.
Cash flow: Springfield seeks MGM payments despite shutdown
Keep the money coming. Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno says MGM Springfield should continue to make its community impact payments to the city even as it sits idle during the coronavirus shutdown, Peter Goonan of MassLive reports.
Emily Rooney returns to expanded ‘Greater Boston,’ while ‘Beat the Press’ takes a break
She’s back. Former ‘Greater Boston’ host Emily Rooney is returning to the nightly WGBH news show to help with the station’s coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, hosting the program on Thursday and now, for the first time, Friday nights. Meaning: Rooney’s popular ‘Beat the Press’ show on Friday nights will take a hiatus. MetroWest Daily News has the details.
Attention readers: Hosting your events online?
As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, large gatherings have been banned in Massachusetts. Because of this, more and more organizations are hosting events online. If you have one that you want to publicize, you can submit it to our Beacon Hill Town Square events page or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Public Health Update w/ Dr. Ashish Jha
Newton City Councilor Jake Auchincloss will speak again with Dr. Jha, Newton resident, physician, and Director of the Harvard Global Health Institute for a COVID-19 public health update.
Newton City Councilor Jake Auchincloss
Graduate Student Conference 2020
The John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies hosts a Graduate Student Conference 2020 on Policy and Global Studies. The conference includes several panels and flash talk presentations on the theme: “Policy and Politics Across Public Spaces: Building Communities from the Local to the Globa
Demand Grows For Boston Public Schools’ Free Meals – WGBH
The BPDA: Paved and confused – Boston Magazine
Mashpee tribal members recount long history of fighting for land – Cape Cod Times
‘Essential businesses’ in Lawrence face $300 fines – Eagle-Tribune
State unemployment site now available in Spanish – CommonWealth Magazine
Romney, Murphy introduce bill to name global health coordinator, council amid coronavirus pandemic – The Hill
He Could Have Seen What Was Coming: Behind Trump’s Failure on the Virus – New York Times
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