Boston’s mask mandate and low number license plates
Today | Anyone hoping to score a new, low number license plate from the Registry of Motor Vehicles has until the end of the day Friday to enter the RMV’s lottery.
8 a.m. | A new mask mandate takes effect for virtually all indoor public settings Boston. All individuals older than 2 years old must cover their faces indoors in retail stores, restaurants, bars, performance venues, social clubs, event spaces and municipal buildings. Masks can be removed when actively eating or drinking, and the public health order does not apply to gatherings in private residences, private buildings inaccessible to the public, places of worship, or performers who maintain six feet of distance from their audience.
The larger question
Summer is ending, college and grade school students are heading back to the classrooms, and COVID is still casting a long shadow on daily life.
That’s where Massachusetts finds itself as the final full week of August comes to an end and parents are looking at the beginning of another pandemic-era school year. It’s a very different situation than the start of last fall when vaccines were not yet available and the state of emergency was still in effect.
At the start of the month, the state was well into a resurgence of COVID-19 cases that started in July thanks to the dangerous Delta variant. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quickly labeled many of the state’s counties at “high” or “substantial” risk for transmission of the virus.
This prompted outcries for new mask mandates, especially as teachers and students were staring down the return to indoor classrooms. It would take nearly the entire month before pressure on the Baker administration was high enough that Education Commissioner Jeff Riley sought and received the authority to issue a mask mandate for K-12 public schools.
This time last year, health officials were looking at around a 1 percent seven-day positive test rate and a seven-day average of roughly 300 new cases. That case average quickly spiked to a seven-day average of about 4,700 cases at the start of December.
The state is certainly experiencing an upward swing in new cases again: the seven-day average clocked in at 946 as of Aug. 24 and health officials reported 1,793 cases, 2.68 percent positivity, and 13 deaths yesterday. But there is a difference, deaths counts are lower than they were at this time last year thanks to vaccinations.
At the collegiate level, many universities are requiring students and staff to get vaccinated before they return to campus. And it seems like a smart move considering people aged 20-29 make up a majority of the new COVID cases in the last two weeks, according to state data.
But there’s a larger question here both for K-12 and college students. When the pandemic first hit, both groups of students were faced with taking virtual classes from home. When they came back last fall many entered a hybrid learning model — half in-person, half virtual.
And while public schools and most colleges are returning to in-person learning, what happens if the surge in cases continues? Should education officials revert back to hybrid models, take it a step further and go completely online, or take a gamble and continue in-person learning?
Only time will tell.
Downtown Boston harbor plan set to be withdrawn
Plans for a proposed, controversial 600-foot tower next to the New England Aquarium were set in limbo Thursday after news broke of Boston Acting Mayor Kim Janey’s intent to withdraw a plan for downtown Boston harbor from a state review process, reports Boston Globe’s Jon Chesto. Janey has been facing pressure from mayoral rivals to scrap the plan.
More from Chesto: “In a press conference at City Hall on Thursday afternoon, she said the issues of equity and resilience were not adequately addressed in the city’s original plan, which was approved in 2017. In particular, she focused on climate change and the threats it poses. She said she also wants to ensure the waterfront is more welcoming to all city residents.”
Leader of the pack: Latest poll says Wu leads as preliminary approaches
City Councilor Michelle Wu is the top choice of Boston voters to be the city’s next mayor as the campaign enters the final two weeks before the preliminary election, a new Emerson College/7News poll found. The Globe’s Danny McDonald reports Wu was top choice of 24 percent of voters, followed by Councilor Annissa Essaibi George with 16 percent, Acting Mayor Kim Janey, with 16 percent, Councilor Andrea Campbell at 14 percent, and John Barros trailing the pack at 2 percent support.
Special election scheduled for 4th Essex seat
It’s on the books. A special election for the 4th Essex District seat is scheduled for Nov. 30, reports State House News Service’s Chris Van Buskirk, as Rep. Brad Hill prepares to depart for a post at the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. The district covers the towns of Ipswich, Hamilton, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Rowley, Topsfield, and Wenham.
Fears of ‘another Seaport’
A group of elected officials from Allston-Brighton are asking city government to halt construction of a redevelopment effort in Allston led by Harvard, reports Boston Herald’s Sean Philip Cotter. The officials want construction stopped before the upcoming mayoral election and say the university needs to work more with locals. City Councilor Liz Breadon, Sen. Sal DiDomenico and Reps. Mike Moran and Kevin Honan signed onto the letter which expresses fears of the area turning into “another Seaport.”
COVID Numbers: 1,793 new cases
Massachusetts state health officials reported 1,793 new cases, 13 deaths, and a 2.68 percent positivity test rate.
How do today’s numbers stack up against neighboring states?
– Vermont reported 141 new cases and a 3.1 percent positivity rate, according to their health department.
– New Hampshire’s Department of Health and Human Services reported 357 new cases and a 5.9 percent positivity rate. Here’s their daily dashboard.
– Maine reported 258 new cases, according to their division of disease surveillance.
– Connecticut logged 788 new cases and a 3.64 percent positivity rate, according to health officials.
– Rhode Island reported 316 new cases and a 2.4 percent positivity rate. Here’s their daily dashboard.
Gaming Commission requiring employees to get vaccine
Another one. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is the latest entity to require employees to be fully vaccinated, reports State House News Service’s Matt Murphy. The policy was adopted Thursday, workers have until Oct. 27 to get jabbed, and must either show proof of vaccination, schedule an appointment, or request an exemption by Sept. 9.
No racial motive: Investigation clears young Martha’s Vineyard campers
Investigators in Chilmark say they could find no ‘overt racial motivation’ for an incident at a local summer camp in which two white youths wrapped a tent strap around the neck of a Black child, sparking national headlines, Rich Saltzberg of the Martha’s Vineyard Times reports. The local chapter of the NAACP says it continues to look into the incident as well.
Tear it down: Lawmakers say evacuations prove need for new Springfield courthouse
It’s beyond saving. Western Mass. lawmakers say they’ll ask Gov. Charlie Baker for an emergency order clearing the way for the razing of the Roderick Ireland courthouse in Springfield after the DA and register of deeds both ordered staff to leave the building and jurors were also sent home after mold was discovered in several offices. Jeanette DeForge of MassLive has the details.
Too many checks? Lynn candidate says his campaign finance issues all resolved
Lynn mayoral candidate Darren Cyr says he has successfully resolved some 30 issues with his fundraising raised by the Office of Political and Campaign Finance since 2017, including several issues that arose during the current campaign. Cyr suggested his volunteer, part-time staff sometimes has to collect additional information about the source of donations after the fact but said all issues raised by the agency have been addressed by the proscribed deadlines, Alyssa Dunnigan of the Lynn Item reports.
Really cool stuff happening in Worcester
Walking around downtown Worcester last night must have been a blast … crews were filming a chase scene for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” reports Telegram & Gazette’s Craig S. Semon. It’s one the largest productions to come to the city and shows just how much the area is turning into a hit with Hollywood producers. Check out the article for some awesome pictures from T&G’s Christine Peterson.
The Final Winners
The final winners of the VaxMillions lottery are in. MassLive’s Benjamin Kail reports Leominster’s Cynthia Thirath took home the $1 million prize while Conway’s Gretchen Selva secured the $300,000 scholarship. The lottery was available to people who were vaccinated and was created as an incentive to boost vaccination numbers.
Sunday public affairs TV: Gov. Charlie Baker, Boston mayoral candidates, and more
Keller at Large, WBZ-TV Ch. 4, 8:30 a.m. Guest is Gov. Charlie Baker in part one of a two-part interview, discussing his policy switch on masking in schools, chances of a return to remote learning, and his message to the unvaccinated.
This Week in Business, NECN, Sunday, 10 a.m. This week’s topic: Evolving workplace expectations, the future of work, and business issues in Boston Mayor’s race, with Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce CEO Jim Rooney; the impact of COVID on the fan experience and the business of baseball; and COVID works trends you may never have predicted including working two remote jobs and quitting in groups.
On The Record, WCVB-TV Ch. 5, Sunday, 11 a.m. Because coverage of Hurricane Henri interrupted regular programming last week, On the Record will run back-to-back episodes. At 11 a.m., guest is Andrea Campbell, Boston city councilor and mayoral candidate. A roundtable discussion follows with Democratic Political Analyst Mary Anne Marsh and Republican Political Analyst Rob Gray. At 11:30 a.m., guest is Annissa Essaibi George, Boston City Councilor and mayoral candidate. A roundtable discussion follows with Democratic Political Analyst Mary Anne Marsh and Republican Political Analyst Andrew Goodrich.
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