Keller at Large

The coming COVID-19 political stress test

In his latest Keller at Large on MassterList podcast, Jon Keller notes the long lines forming outside food banks, the coming debate over re-opening of the economy and his mind drifts to Lenin’s line: “Every society is only three [missed] meals away from chaos.” 

Keller at Large

Happening Today

Remote budget hearing, coronavirus updates

— Top state budget officials remotely convene economic experts to offer their perspectives about the unprecedented economic turmoil spurred by widespread business closures aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19, Room 428, 10 a.m.,

Betsy Lehman Center and the Perinatal-Neonatal Quality Improvement Network of Massachusetts (PNQIN) co-host virtual town hall to share challenges and innovations in perinatal care during the pandemic, 12 p.m.

— The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce hosts a virtual panel discussion focusing on supporting small and minority-owned businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, 1 p.m.

Massachusetts High Technology Council hosts a virtual roundtable on managing careers in the current work-from-home era, 5 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: 88 new deaths, 844 total deaths, 1,392 new cases

MassLive has the latest confirmed coronavirus numbers for Massachusetts, including a significant daily drop in the number of confirmed cases.

Massachusetts joins multi-state coalition eyeing partial re-opening of economies

Hours after downplaying talk of re-opening the economy amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, the Baker administration yesterday officially joined a new coalition of states that’s making preliminary plans to … partially re-open their economies. The Globe’s Matt Stout and SHNS’s Matt Murphy (pay wall) have more on the very, very preliminary talks.

To stress: No one is talking about relaxing social-distancing restrictions at this point, especially with the state of Massachusetts yet to hit an anticipated peak in COVID-19 cases sometime in the next week or so. But they are talking about a future after the upcoming surge peak – a future that will likely loosen some, but certainly not all, restrictions.

The NYT has more on the multi-state coalition that includes, in the Northeast, Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island, in addition to the late-entry Massachusetts.

‘Dire straits’: Harvard announces university-wide budget cuts

Talk of partial re-opening of the economy aside: If this is happening at Harvard with its massive multibillion-dollar endowment fund, think what smaller colleges are facing. From the Harvard Crimson: “Facing dire economic straits brought on by the global COVID-19 pandemic, Harvard is instituting an immediate University-wide salary and hiring freeze, cancelling or deferring discretionary spending, and considering deferring all capital projects.”

The administration also isn’t ruling out eventual layoffs and furloughs, the Crimson reports.

Harvard Crimson

BU isn’t the only college thinking of keeping campuses closed this fall

And speaking of higher education, the Globe’s Deirdre Fernandes and the Herald’s Erin Tiernan report that an increasing number of local universities – including UMass, MIT and Harvard – are now thinking the once unthinkable: Campuses may have to remain closed this coming fall due to the coronavirus outbreak. No final decisions have been reached yet. MassLive reported on BU’s deliberations the other day.

Meanwhile, from Fred Thys at WBUR: “Students with college loans feel added pressure as the Economy tanks.”

Will the surge please make up its mind?

Are we or are we not already in the midst of the coronavirus surge? The Herald’s Erin Tiernan reports that, yes, it’s here. And Tiernan reports separately that Mayor Walsh believes it’s here too, or at least “in motion.” And from Dialynn Dwyer at “‘The surge has officially started’: Boston Medical Center ER doctor shares update from COVID-19 front lines.”

But not everyone agrees that a surge is a surge just because some numbers surged over the weekend. From Shira Schoenberg at CommonWealth: “Is Massachusetts seeing the COVID-19 surge? State gears up to make, distribute PPE.” It seems the surge is also being defined by a multi-day spike in hospital admissions, not just spikes in coronavirus cases, and the former has been holding steady. Then again, Universal Hub has a chart showing a very distinct surge in deaths in Massachusetts.

State retreats on nursing-home conversions amid pandemic

From a three-reporter team at the Globe: “Bowing to concerns about moving old and frail residents, Baker administration officials Monday backpedaled on a controversial plan to empty select nursing homes across the state to treat COVID-19 patients discharged from hospitals. Instead, they said, they’ll add nearly 1,000 beds by temporarily reopening former nursing homes for COVID-19 recovery.”

And now government officials can also focus more on existing dire conditions at occupied nursing homes, where the city of Cambridge recently discovered, as a result of new testing, that there’s far more infected patients than previously believed, as Cambridge Day’s Sue Reinert reports.

Meanwhile, from WBUR: “Baker Says State Is Ramping Up Support For Hard-Hit Nursing Homes, Chelsea Residents.” … And from CommonWealth magazine: “Nursing home leader warns of death and devastation/Asks state for more testing, more PPE, and $130m more a month.”

Boston Globe

Fidelity and Amazon are planning to hire thousands of people?

As area hotels endure ‘devastating’ times (WBUR) and other businesses scramble for survival, here comes Boston’s Fidelity Investments announcing that it’s … hiring 2,000 workers nationwide? The Globe’s Jon Chesto has the details on the mutual-fund giant’s plans to ramp up hiring to accommodate the demand for financial guidance for customers.

Meanwhile, from the BBJ’s Lucia Muffei: “Amazon to add 1,800 Mass. jobs during pandemic.” They’re mostly going to be working at local fulfillment centers, it appears.

Closing window: Polar Park won’t be ready if shutdown extends into June

The wiggle room is all but gone. Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus Jr. tells Brad Kane of the Worcester Business Journal that if work remains halted on Polar Park into June, the WooSox will not be able to start the 2021 season on time as planned.


MBTA ridership plunges more than 90 percent

Looks like we’re going to need more transit funds from the feds. The Herald’s Rick Sobey and SHNS’s Colin Young (pay wall) report that MBTA ridership has plummeted by 90 percent in recent weeks, punching a $231 million hole in the T’s fiscal 2020 budget. The numbers are just brutal.

Does changing candidate signature-gathering requirements really have to be so difficult?

WGBH’s Adam Reilly takes a look at the debate over changing signature-gathering requirements for political candidates amid the current coronavirus outbreak in Massachusetts. Yesterday, a Senate bill that would lower the number of signatures required to get on the ballot hit a wall, after it drew objections from Sen. Ryan Fattman, as Reilly reports. Now the “prospect of the Massachusetts House and Senate agreeing on a fix may seem increasingly unlikely.” 

SHNS’s Matt Murphy and Sam Doran (pay wall) have more on the signature-gathering controversy on Beacon Hill.


As if coronavirus quarantines aren’t bad enough, tens of thousands without power this morning due to high-wind storm

At one point yesterday, more than 100,000 customers lost their power as a result of the high-wind storm that swept through the region. As of this morning, the number of customers without power stood at just over 42,000, according to MEMA.

WBUR reports utilities are attempting to restore power while their employees try to practice safe social-distancing procedures. Meanwhile, Gov. Charlie Baker said yesterday that hospitals appeared adequately prepared for power emergencies amid the coronavirus outbreak, WGBH reports.

Government updates: Spilka backs diversity task force, stronger safety-net measures urged, hospitals to get funds

SHNS’s Katie Lannan (pay wall) reports that Senate President Karen Spilka, reacting to recommendations proposed by the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus, has agreed to establish “a diversity advisory task force” with the goal of keeping track of emerging racial health disparities amid the current coronavirus crisis. … Along the same lines, from SHNS’sChris Lisinski: “Rep: People Hurting Before COVID-19 Suffering Disproportionately.”

Meanwhile, in other government news, from MassLive: “Lawmakers, advocates press for more aid for children, disabled and older residents.” … From SHNS: “Remote Negotiations Underway on Housing Bill.” Lawmakers are hoping to finally have a housing bill sometime later this week. … From MassLive: “Coronavirus recovery bill sends $841M to Massachusetts hospitals, Rep. Richard Neal says.”

Bernie Rubin, founder of Bernie & Phyl’s, dies of coronavirus illness

Another sad one. From WCVB: “Bernie Rubin, the founder of Bernie & Phyl’s chain of furniture stores, has died from coronavirus-related complications. Rubin was 82. Rubin started the furniture store with his wife Phyllis in 1983, expanding to nine stores in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire.”

In Bernie’s honor, Universal Hub has posted one of the company’s so-bad-it’s-good TV commercials. Bernie Rubin, RIP.


Senate hopeful outlines economic recovery plan: Return of ‘Happy Hours’

GOP state Senate candidate Jay McMahon unveiled his own version of an economic recovery plan for the Bay State, including the return of happy hour to local bars and restaurants after a 36-year absence, rollbacks of sales and other taxes, a two-week unpaid furlough for all state workers and a 30-day pause on meals taxes once restaurants reopen, Geoff Spillane reports in the Cape Cod Times. 

Cape Cod Times

Kay Doyle leaving Cannabis Commission for private sector

There is some non-coronavirus news out there. From SHNS’s Colin Young: “About four months before her initial term is set to expire, Cannabis Commissioner Kay Doyle will step down from her role as a marijuana regulator next month in favor of a yet-to-be-announced job in the private sector.”

SHNS (pay wall — free trial subscription available)

He’s back (literally): Weld returns to Mintz

The BBJ’s Gintautus Dumcius reports that former Gov. Bill Weld, after taking a leave of absence to unsuccessfully run for president in the GOP primary, has returned to Boston law firm Mintz as a member and as a principal at the firm’s lobbying arm, ML Strategies.


ROAR Web Series with Josefina Bonilla and Special Guest Eneida Roman

Join us as we discuss the emergence of new leadership styles in trying times. Eneida Roman will discuss estate planning, will creation and Trusts.


Live Q&A—Coronavirus stimulus programs and your business.

John Blackstock of the Small Business Administration of NJ, talks with host Julie Hyman about federal economic relief programs for small businesses.

Verizon Small Business Webinar Series

FRRACS Virtual Monthly Meeting

As we continue to distance ourselves physically, we want to make sure we keep in touch with you all virtually. This Tuesday, April 14, we will be live-streaming our regular monthly meeting on Facebook.

Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station

ELM Wednesday Webinars | Session 2: Climate Justice

Join ELM for Session 2 with the Reverend Mariama White-Hammond, Climate Justice Fellow with the Green Justice Coalition and Associate Minister for Ecological Justice at the Bethel AME Church in Boston. COVID-19 has highlighted the longstanding inequities among our residents. Initial data shows that people of color are contracting the disease and dying at much higher rates than whites.

Environmental League of Massachusetts

ROAR Web Series with Josefina Bonilla and Special Anne Marie Pizarro

Known in the Old and New Testament as the Book of Life, the Akashic Records is a library of knowledge that holds the collection of all human events, thoughts, words, emotions and intent ever to have occurred in the past, present or future.


Conference with Greg Sullivan of Pioneer Institute: Study on MA Unemployment Predictions

MassFiscal will be hosting an online video web forum with Greg Sullivan, former MA Inspector-General and the current Research Director of the Pioneer Institute.

Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance

ROAR Web Series with Josefina Bonilla and Special Guest Aniesia Williams

Join us as we discuss the emergence of new leadership styles and importance of keeping connected and managing your social media platforms. Aniesia will also discuss how she became a social media influencer.


Making a Digital Marketing Strategy for Unpredictable Times

Entrepreneur Melinda Emerson shows us why marketing and social media are essential in difficult times—and how to be ready when those times are over.

Verizon Small Business Webinar Series

Technology trends to help your small business stay the course

71 percent of small- to medium-sized businesses are addressing the forecasted slow growth by making long-term plans, taking into account anticipated technological, demographic and economic changes over the next 5-10 years*. A secure, sustainable approach to technology and innovation will help business owners combat future challenges.

Boston Business Journal

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

Jewish Social Justice Study Session

Join JALSA for a weekly Jewish social justice themed conversation, facilitated remotely every Thursday evening at 7:00 PM. This Thursday, we’ll be discussing food justice and equity: how we can make sure all members of our community have what they need to grow and thrive.

Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action

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

McCormack Graduate School

Art Happy with Katie series

Join Art Happy with Katie for fun, stay-at-home activities for the family!

Art Happy with Katie

Today’s Headlines


City planning online events for annual Marathon remembrance on One Boston Day – Universal Hub

Coronavirus triggers 90 percent drop in MBTA subway ridership – Boston Herald


Worcester School Department to reinvest COVID-19 budget savings, buy laptops – Telegram & Gazette

New Bedford seafood workers report overcrowding, poor sanitation – Standard-Times

Chelmsford: State to review whether Paul Cohen investigation should be made public – Lowell Sun


Independent Rep. Justin Amash says he’s ‘looking closely’ at White House run – Washington Post

How Mitch McConnell became Trump’s enabler in chief – The New Yorker

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