Keller at Large

Back to the future: Why the age of the virus is like Vietnam

In his latest Keller at Large on MassterList, Jon Keller notes the U.S. is about to reach a grim COVID-19 milestone – surpassing the number of combat deaths in Vietnam – and he sees parallels between our political leadership then and now.

Keller at Large

Happening Today

Coronavirus updates and more

Joint Committee on Public Service, via a Google Form, accepts written testimony on a handful of bills dealing with pay for state employees during state of emergencies and state workers who miss work due to COVID-19 infections, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

— Both the House and Senate meet in sessions, with Senate Democrat hosting a private virtual caucus, 11 a.m.

— The Center for Education Reform holds a free Zoom conference with two education stakeholders on the future of school amid the COVID-19 pandemic, 11 a.m.

— Boston Medical Center’s Dr. Thea James and Harvard Street Neighborhood Health Center’s Stan McLaren take part in a panel discussion hosted by the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce about health disparities in communities of color and efforts to mitigate the effects on those communities from COVID-19, 1 p.m.

— Boston City Council Committee on Public Health holds a virtual hearing on the social impacts of COVID-19 pandemic response measures relative to domestic violence, social isolation, and mental health, 2 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: 103 new deaths, 1,809 total deaths, 1,566 new cases

NBC Boston has the latest confirmed coronavirus numbers for Massachusetts, including a substantial daily drop in reported deaths. The state yesterday also released, for the first time, case numbers by specific hospitals and other infection measurements (MassLive).

Surge slowdown? Baker and researchers signal worst may be over

SHNS’s Colin Young (pay wall) reports that Gov. Charlie Baker is growing more confident that the COVID-19 surge may be peaking, or at least close to peaking, and that the state’s hospital system is “not going to be overwhelmed” as once feared.

Meanwhile, the Globe’s Liz Kowalczyk reports that Mass General Hospital doctors and mathematicians are “now optimistic that the number of coronavirus patients has plateaued at their institution, as well as in their larger hospital network, and will not overwhelm clinicians.” And here’s more good news, although one day doesn’t make a trend, via the Berkshire Eagle: “No new cases reported in Berkshire County.”

Not that the outbreak is receding – nor that pockets around the state won’t see mounting cases. Officials are still urging social-distancing vigilance, and a frustrated Mayor Marty Walsh is warning that police will keep dispersing crowds in Boston and that the city is “considering expanding the 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew beyond May 4,” the Globe separately reports.

New state numbers for hospitalizations but no numbers for … nursing homes?

The state yesterday began reporting new coronavirus stats, beyond general death and test counts, such as the number of patients at specific hospitals. MassLive’s Tanner Stening has some of the hospital figures. Meanwhile, WBUR has some hospitalization and ICU graphics.

But this report, by CommonWealth’s Bruce Mohl, caught our attention: “But the (state) dashboard’s analysis of nursing home cases and fatalities was totally inadequate. The Department of Public Health abruptly stopped reporting on Monday the total number of deaths at long-term care facilities, a number that has been rising swiftly and steadily and as of Sunday accounted for 52 percent of all COVID-19 deaths in the state.” Our reaction: Huh? Why? Another transparency glitch by the administration?

Nursing-home updates: The suffering continues

Speaking of nursing homes, the headlines remain grim. … From MassLive: “Coronavirus spreading in Wilbraham health care facility, 8 residents dead, 46 test positive.” … From the MetroWest Daily News: “17 residents and 7 staff at Framingham’s St. Patrick’s Manor have coronavirus. How did outbreak start?” … From CBS Boston: “Sixty-two veterans who lived at the Holyoke Soldiers Home have now died during the coronavirus pandemic.” … From MassLive: “Coronavirus at Holyoke Soldiers’ Home: Flags to fly at half-staff.” … From the Herald: “Final salute for Soldiers’ Home (WWII) vet who died of coronavirus.” … From Rob Weisman and Laura Krantz at the Globe: “Federal agency orders nursing homes to alert residents, families to coronavirus cases.” … … From Chris Burrell at WGBH: “State Watchdogs Have Been Banned From Nursing Homes, Along With All Visitors.”

And, finally, some nursing-industry leaders are accusing the Baker administration of having “misplaced priorities,” reports CommonWealth’s Bruce Mohl.

‘Spreading like wildfire’: 76 have now died in Brockton

The surge may be ebbing statewide, but the Enterprise’s Marc Larocque reports Brockton is still getting hammered by the coronavirus, recording 28 more deaths over the weekend and bringing the city’s total death toll to 76. Most of the deaths have occurred at nursing home. Still, with a population of about 96,000, Brockton’s death rate per 100,000 people is approximately triple the statewide per capita rate, according to Statista data.


State revises its who-gets-to-use-ventilators guidelines

Under pressure from U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley and others, the state yesterday revised its controversial guidelines on who gets to use ventilators in dire medical emergencies during the coronavirus outbreak, WBUR’s Martha Bebinger reports. Bottom line: Hospitals’ decisions must be based on a patient’s chance of short-term survival, not long-term survival. Bebinger explains more fully.

And then there are patients who may not want ventilators. From the Globe’s Naomi Martin: “Do I want a ventilator? Coronavirus prompts more people to consider, or revisit, end-of-life care.”


Walsh: Schools won’t reopen May 4 … and after that?

The Herald’s Erin Tiernan and NBC Boston report that Mayor Mary Walsh yesterday said there “isn’t any question” about students returning to school on May 4 due to the coronavirus outbreak. And, if we’re reading the accounts right at the Herald and NBC Boston (and Boston Magazine), he’s “not too confident” schools will reopen at all this spring. It’s a little confusing – and made more confusing by the Herald “Massachusetts” reference in its headline.

Anyway, this much is clear, from the Herald: “Teachers call on governor to keep schools closed as coronavirus surges in Massachusetts.” The governor has said he will clarify matters soon.

After walking off jobs, construction workers want their jobs back

Speaking of closures and non-closures, also from the Herald’s Erin Tiernan: “Construction workers in Massachusetts signaled Monday they’re ready to go back to work after setting down their tools and walking off job sites two weeks ago over coronavirus safety concerns.” Hair stylists definitely want to go back to work, perhaps as soon as next week, reports Steph Solis at MassLive.

Boston Herald

Thinking ahead: So what happens when restaurants reopen?

Erin Kuschner at is also looking ahead — to the time when restaurants reopen. So what might happen? It will happen slowly, in phases and take-outs will still be key. And there may not be as many restaurants.

We’d add that many customers will be reluctant to go out at all — for both safety and financial reasons. Unemployment benefits can only go so far.

Squeezed out: Mass. cities, towns and small businesses fret over lack of loan funds

SHNS’s Michael Norton (pay wall) reports that no cities and towns in Massachusetts are eligible for a new Federal Reserve Bank relief program – and a group of U.S. senators, including Elizabeth Warren, are pressing the Fed to ease up on its restrictions on the COVID-19 credit and lending initiative.

Meanwhile, the federal government’s “Paycheck Protection Program” has run dry on loan funds – and many local small-business owners who were squeezed out of the first round of funding are already lining up for a possible second round, reports the Globe’s Jon Chesto. The Globe’s Shirley Leung writes the federal government’s rescue efforts, in general, are leaving behind minority-owned businesses.

How desperate are local businesses for loans? From the BBJ’s Catherine Carlock: “Wellesley entrepreneur applied for a PPP loan from her hospital bed.” And, finally, from the Herald’s Rick Sobey: “Harvard under fire for accepting more than $8M in coronavirus relief package.” Yes, Harvard, the school with a $40 billion endowment fund.

You too, Tom: Brady booted from Tampa park

A Florida man who was asked to leave a virus-shuttered Tampa, Florida park where he was working out — against city rules — turned out to be new Buccaneers quarterback and Patriots legend Tom Brady. Bet he misses that big Brookline backyard now. 

Boston Globe

‘Baker is the right governor at the tight time’

WGBH’s Callie Crossley says her friends in Florida, Arkansas and South Carolina have “a case of Governor’s envy” when they compare what their governors have done – or not done – to Charlie Baker’s emergency pandemic actions here in Massachusetts. She knows Baker isn’t perfect, but at least she can count on him to “lead us through this period of fear and uncertainty.” One other thing: “It’ll be a long time before I spend time in Florida.”


‘Even in a pandemic, the gears of the Mass. Legislature grind as slowly as ever’

The governor may be getting accolades from some quarters for his handling of the coronavirus emergency. But the Massachusetts Legislature? It’s largely remained in the distant background, as lawmakers have vainly tried to figure out how to hold votes and pass laws during a pandemic. The Globe’s Matt Stout and Victoria McGrane have the non-detail details.

UMass Amherst faces $40M budget deficit

Now that we can see a dim light at the end of the coronavirus-surge tunnel, maybe it’s time to start taking stock of the financial/economic damage caused by the public-health emergency. And at UMass Amherst, they’re looking at a budget deficit of $40 million, reports Jim Russell at MassLive.

We’re going to be hearing a lot more about governmental shortfalls in coming days, weeks and months. So brace yourself. A surge of a different kind is on its way.


He still has some qualms, but Galvin backs early voting by mail for fall elections

Shira Schoenberg at CommonWealth magazine reports that Secretary of State Bill Galvin is now “backing expanded voting by mail for this year’s elections, due to the uncertainty around the coronavirus’s trajectory.” But Galvin still has concerns about the logistics and thinks gung-ho advocates “don’t really understand what they’re talking about” when it comes to the complexities of running a voting system.


About time: ‘Gig’ workers can now apply for unemployment benefits

Gov. Charlie Baker announced yesterday that self-employed and various gig workers in general can now, for the first time, start to collect unemployment benefits as called for under federal-stimulus rules and administered by the state. Adam Reilly at WGBH has the details.  

And, btw: Those $1,200 checks that the IRS is supposed to be sending off to millions of Americans? Some may have to wait 20 weeks for payments to arrive in the mail, reports Jim Kinney at MassLive.


Baker signs housing-protection bill

MassLive’s Steph Solis reports that Gov. Charlie Baker yesterday signed legislation barring evictions and foreclosures from moving forward during the coronavirus emergency. The legislature passed the bill late last week.


Too close: Haverhill idles teacher parades amid distancing concerns

Even car parades are out. Haverhill officials say processions of vehicles containing teachers paying drive-by visits to their students have to cool their heels for the time being because the crowds that turn out to watch aren’t observing social-distancing protocols, Allison Cormeau reports at the Eagle-Tribune. 

Eagle Tribune

Chump change: Bloomberg tab for brief presidential run hit $1 billion

The final numbers are in and Zach Montellaro at Politico reports Medford native Michael Bloomberg spent an even $1 billion during his 104-day run for the presidency, or about $17 million per delegate earned. Bloomberg spent more than 10 times as much as now-presumptive nominee Joe Biden. 


Still digging: Paper pries loose details on Hull superintendent’s departure

Their numbers may be dwindling, but the Bay State’s remaining local reporters are still on the job. Look no further than Hull, where Jeff DiFazio of the Patriot Ledger reports that after repeated public records requests and appeals, the paper received records suggesting the reason Hull Superintendent Michael Devine was placed on leave back in February stems from communications he had with a former student. 

Patriot Ledger

Pivoting your Small Business: A 30/60/90 Day Plan

Brian Moran provides practical and tactical advice with an actionable plan to help you navigate your business through these unpredictable times.

Verizon Small Business Webinar Series

The Economic Recovery Should Be a Green One with U.S. Senator Ed Markey

The COVID-19 crisis has hurt our communities and the economy. The climate crisis presents similar issues. Join ELM for an informative, engaging Earth Day webinar with U.S. Senator Ed Markey on how a strategic and coordinated economic recovery could be done in a way that supports our economic, climate, and environmental justice goals simultaneously.

Environmental League of Massachusetts

Affordable ways to find new customers now.

Steve Strauss talks with host Julie Hyman, sharing easy, affordable ways to find new customers even in these challenging times.

Verizon Small Business Webinar Series

Freedom of Information Laws and Your Right to Know

The motto “assume your government will be open, but be prepared to fight for it,” seems even more important at a time when we are depending on the government for information which will keep citizens healthy.

New England First Amendment Coalition

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


Harvard under fire for accepting more than $8 million in coronavirus relief package – Boston Herald

City program has paid nearly $300,000 to Quincy landlords – Patriot Ledger


Assumption establishing $3 million fund to help students during pandemic – Worcester Business Journal

Construction first, schools last: What reopening Worcester may look like following the surge of Covid-19 cases – MassLive

City solicitor says Framingham within its rights to order face coverings – MetroWest Daily News


Trump says he will temporarily halt immigration to US – New York Times

Democrats dream of Biden’s perfect running mate: An Obama – Politico

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