Keller at Large
For transit reform, major delays ahead
In his latest Keller at Large on MassterList, Jon Keller says that the coronavirus crisis has been a “perfect storm of bad news” for those pushing for public transit reforms and new revenues – and they may have to wait a while before many of the issues are tackled by lawmakers.
New senators sworn in, COVID-19 updates, and more
— Massachusetts State Retirement Board meets, with Treasurer Deborah Goldberg expected to chair the meeting, 10 a.m.
— Gov. Charlie Baker swears in Senators-elect John Velis of Westfield and Susan Moran of Falmouth, who won special elections on May 19, Grand Staircase, 10:15 a.m.
— Regional Transit Authority Council meets to discuss best practices for operations under the Baker administration’s phased reopening plan and other topic, 1 p.m.
— State Rep. Tram Nguyen and Pam Wilmot of Common Cause Massachusetts hold a virtual town hall to discuss how COVID-19 has affected voting in the state and potential responses, 4 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: 74 new deaths, 6,547 total deaths, 547 new cases
NBC Boston has the latest confirmed coronavirus numbers for Massachusetts, including the grim national milestone of 100,000 deaths across the nation.
Nursing home tragedies: It’s worse than thought
Most everyone knows by now that nursing homes have been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus outbreak. But now we have more data on just how hard hit: More than 80 long-term-care facilities in Massachusetts have each recorded at least 20 deaths during the pandemic, according to new facility-by-facility data released by the state, reports the Globe’s Robert Weisman and Rebecca Ostriker.
Meanwhile, from MassLive’s Steph Solis: “Nearly 300 Massachusetts long-term care facilities have had coronavirus-related deaths.”
Healey launches COVID-19 probe into Nashoba Valley Life Care Center
Based on the nursing-home numbers in the above post, this is just one of potentially many investigations to come. From the Lowell Sun’s Robert Mills: “The Massachusetts Attorney General has announced that her office is now investigating the response to the coronavirus outbreak by the Life Care Center of Nashoba Valley. The long-term care facility in Littleton reported close to two dozen coronavirus-related deaths, including a nurse who spoke out about the conditions inside the facility.”
The latest non-nursing home cluster: 28 people at Sam’s Club distribution center test positive for virus
Think the coronavirus threat is largely over for non-older people? Think again. WCVB reports that 28 people at a Sam’s Club distribution center in Worcester have tested positive for COVID-19. The facility is near the Walmart store on Tobias Boland Way, where 81 employees contracted the virus earlier in the spring, the station reports.
Speaking of non-nursing home clusters, the Herald’s Lisa Kashinsky reports that Chelsea and Brockton are still reporting high rates of new coronavirus cases.
State: Unemployment benefits may be delayed due to massive fraud scheme
SHNS’s Matt Murphy (pay wall) and MassLive’s Steph Solis report that unemployment benefits to some claimants in Massachusetts may be delayed due to widespread fraudulent claims that are hitting other states as well. The Globe’s Sean Murphy identifies the probable identity-theft culprits: Scammers based in Nigeria. The NYT was reporting on the massive multimillion-dollar scheme earlier this month.
In other unemployment insurance news, SHNS (pay wall) reports that Gov. Charlie Baker has signed legislation extending unemployment benefits in Massachusetts, while MassLive reports that the state recently launched unemployment applications in four more languages.
State GOP pressures Baker to pressure Dems critical of reopening plans that Republicans have criticized themselves
When it comes to the Massachusetts Republican Party, the image of a dog chasing its own tail does come to mind. The latest evidence, from the Herald’s Hillary Chabot: “Bay State Republicans revved up their campaign engines Wednesday, lashing out against state Democrats and asking Gov. Charlie Baker to publicly scold liberal politicians who claim the governor opened up the state too quickly amid the coronavirus crisis.”
They’re basically asking the governor to defend his cautious reopening plan that many Republicans have criticized as being overly cautious. Among the governor’s critics on the right: Howie Carr, whose latest column calls for Baker’s ouster from the Corner Office.
The ‘T’ word, Part II: Poll shows strong support for new transportation revenues
From SHNS’s Chris Lisinski: “In a MassINC Polling Group survey of 1,478 Massachusetts residents released Wednesday, 74 percent of respondents said they strongly or somewhat support generating more revenue to go toward roadways and public transit while 67 percent strongly or somewhat supported the still-in-development Transportation and Climate Initiative.”
The poll came out a day after a group of economists urged Gov. Charlie Baker and legislative leaders to raise taxes in general to avoid deep state budget cuts. But the Herald’s Michael Graham is praising Baker for resisting the calls to raise taxes.
Baker touts fast-track T repairs amid ridership slump
Speaking of transportation issues, Gov. Charlie Baker yesterday touted fast-track repair work on the T’s Blue Line, an accelerated work program made possible by the dramatic fall in T ridership during the pandemic, CBS Boston reports.
Meanwhile, the T is still grappling with how to eventually ramp up service as the economy slowly reopens and (hopefully) rebounds. Among other things, the T must determine what exactly constitutes overcrowding during these coronavirus times. MassLive’s Tanner Stening and SHNS’s Matt Murphy (pay wall) have more on crowding considerations.
As firm’s stock price soars amid vaccine hopes, Moderna executives have cashed out $89M in shares this year
Hope fulfilled? Or at least one hope. From Damian Garde at Stat News: “The top five executives at the biotech company Moderna have sold more than $89 million of stock so far this year — initiating nearly three times as many stock transactions than in all of 2019 — as the company’s share price has soared on hopes for its Covid-19 vaccine. The trades, which led to about $80 million in profits, were prescheduled through a legal program that allows company insiders to buy and sell shares at a later date.”
Colleges have a reopening plan: Liability protection
The BBJ’s Hilary Burns reports on a proposed four-phase reopening plan unveiled yesterday by a group of local college leaders. Meanwhile, the Globe’s Deirdre Fernandes reports that higher-ed officials are also “urging the governor and Legislature to change the law so that institutions are held legally harmless if they reopen and people get sick.”
Baker: There are ‘imaginative and creative’ ways to reopen schools this fall
Speaking of education, Gov. Charlie Baker sure sounds like he’s determined to reopen K-12 schools this fall, saying he thinks there are “imaginative and creative” ways to keep students, faculty and administrators safe when schools reopen, reports Marc Fortier and Young-Jin Kim at NBC Boston.
Meanwhile, the Globe’s Joan Vennochi is wondering about education today, not this fall: “What’s the plan to get Boston’s virtual dropouts back to school?”
Tale of two cities’ finances
Framingham Finance Committee members want most major department heads to come up with forward-looking budgets at least 10 percent lower than this year’s city budget — as long as it can be done without disrupting services. Zane Razzaq at the MetroWest Daily News has the details. It’s a different budget story in Quincy, where officials say a conservative approach has put the city in a strong position to weather any coronavirus budget woes, Joe DiFazio at the Patriot Ledger reports.
About that alleged game-changing mask decontamination machine …
From the Globe’s Dugan Arnett: “Hailed as a ‘game changer’ in the region’s quest for much-needed protective medical gear, a massive machine used to sterilize respirator masks that was rushed into emergency use has come under increased scrutiny in recent weeks. The machine, which Partners HealthCare arranged to bring to the Boston area in April, has been sharply criticized by some health care workers.”
Somerville keeps strict cap on church attendance
The Herald’s Joe Dwinell reports that Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone is maintaining a cap on church attendance at only 10 congregants in his city, far stricter than state and federal reopening directives. Of course, there’s a remedy to this: A constitutional challenge. It’s what partly prompted Gov. Baker to allow the partial reopening of churches. But do religious leaders really want to be seen as risking public safety?
Intersecting crises: Coronavirus exacerbates housing market imbalance
Advantage: Sellers. Home-sales data from April, when sales plunged and prices rose, show that the coronavirus is not helping the state’s housing market — unless you’re a seller. Tim Logan at the Globe reports sales in Greater Boston were down 11 percent while prices rose to a record-high level for April. Christine Legereat the Cape Cod Times reports Cape and Islands real estate brokers are hopeful record-low interest rates can help rebalance the market as the recovery takes hold.
Light’s out for GE’s Thomas Edison-era lighting business
The BBJ’s Greg Ryan reports that Boston-based General Electric is selling off its lighting business to a small company on the Cape – and thus “parting ways with a division whose roots extend back more than a century to Thomas Edison.” Universal Hub has more, including an old Mr. Magoo television commercial touting GE light bulbs.
Despite best efforts of ospreys, state’s bald eagle population thrives
The state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife reports “a dramatic uptick” in new bald-eagle nests in Massachusetts, including new nests in Medford and Concord. And Universal Hub reports the number could have been higher if not for a pair of angry ospreys and intra-species civil war among eagles.
Curious timing: Dracut police chief claims injury after selectmen delay renewing contract
Just a coincidence? Dracut Police Chief Peter Bartlett put himself on injured reserve Tuesday, shortly after selectmen delayed a vote on renewing his contract, Christopher Scott reports at the Lowell Sun. The move allows Bartlett, who was the subject of a no-confidence vote from local police unions, to continue to collect his $170,000 salary tax-free.
Reopening and Your Rights: A bilingual virtual Town Hall
Join the Massachusetts Coalition For Occupational Safety And Health (MassCOSH) for a bilingual virtual town hall on Thursday, May 28th at 5pm regarding workers’ rights as we begin to reopen Massachusetts.
What’s Next? with 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.
US Foreign Policy and China
Lucy Hornby, a fellow at the Nieman Center for Journalism and former Beijing deputy bureau chief for the Financial Times, and Yasheng Huang, MIT professor of international management, discuss US foreign policy challenges and opportunities with Anthony Saich, Harvard professor of international affairs and director of the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation.
Virtual Coffee with Governor Baker
Join ABLE’s CEO, Marian Walsh, and our Board Chairperson, Lydia Greene, as they salute Governor Charlie Baker for his leadership, voice of calm, and clear guidance throughout the COVID-19 crisis.
A Virtual Conversation with Michael Douglas & Senator Ed Markey
Join Senator Ed Markey for a virtual conversation with Michael Douglas.
MassHire Central Region Career Center Virtual Job Fair
It’s Central Massachusetts “Back to Work” Day! More than two dozen employers from diverse industries will participate in the Central Region Career Center’s Virtual Job Fair on June 4th from noon – 4:30PM. The Virtual Job Fair is FREE for all job seekers and employers; no pre-registration required for job seekers.
Virtual Author Talk with Honor Moore
Virtual Author Talk with Honor Moore, Moderated by Claire Messud
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