10 a.m. | .Joint Committee on COVID-19 and Emergency Preparedness and Management convenes virtual oversight hearing to discuss the current status of the highly infectious virus in Massachusetts.
10 a.m. | Gaming Commission meets and votes to adopt a flex and remote hybrid work model policy and gets an update from the Gaming Policy Advisory Committee, among other agenda items.
10 a.m. | Special Legislative Commission on Structural Racism in Correctional Facilities of the Commonwealth meets, with plans to hear from speakers “with expertise on structural racism in correctional facilities,” according to an agenda.
11 a.m. | House holds an informal session and Senate meets without a calendar.
1 p.m. | Gov. Charlie Baker and First Lady Lauren Baker attend the 10th annual Massachusetts Gold Star Families Tree Dedication at the State House hosted by the Military Friends Foundation.
Fenway Park’s return to the vaccination circuit
It’s here, and it’s here to stay.
That’s our view on COVID-19 and its various variants. We know it’s not a hot take, but we think it’s worth saying out loud. That idea was accentuated yesterday after it was reported that the Baker administration is preparing to reopen a booster vaccine site at Fenway Park and omicron was detected in Boston.
Of course, the main catalyst here is the surging number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations this month. State health officials reported more than 11,000 fully vaccinated people tested positive for the virus last week, Boston Herald’s Rick Sobey writes.
With that in mind, the home of the Red Sox will open for booster shots in January, Boston Globe’s Travis Andersen and John R. Ellement report. This isn’t the first time the state has turned to the ballpark for vaccinations — last winter it was one of seven used for initial vaccinations.
The idea here, officials in the administration said, is to increase access to boosters as cases trend upwards. State House News Service’s Matt Murphy reports that Gov. Charlie Baker also asked all cities and towns to consider setting up local vaccination clinics.
Though the news might seem anxiety-inducing so far, it’s best to remember that top doctors in the state have said the vaccine is our best defense against COVID-19 and its pesky variants. We’re interested to see what else the Baker administration does to attempt to curb the newest uptick in cases.
A renewed call for mask mandates has swelled over the past few weeks, including from the head of the Massachusetts Medical Society. Baker said on Monday that he has no plans to reinstitute a mask mandate but maybe he will be swayed after three young adults over the age of 18 in Boston were found to have contracted omicron.
The Boston Public Health Commission announced the news Wednesday, reports MassLive’s Heather Morrison, who notes that none of the three were fully vaccinated.
As we enter the depths of winter, all eyes will be on elected and public health officials to see how they address omicron and rising case rates, starting with a legislative oversight hearing this morning at 10 a.m.
Wu orders Mass and Cass tents cleared by Jan. 12
People living in ten encampments at the intersection of Mass and Cass will have to clear out by Jan. 12, 2022. Boston Mayor Michelle Wu announced the decision Wednesday, adding that people will be connected with housing services by that date. Boston Globe’s Sahar Fatima reports that city officials highlighted available (or soon to be available) low-threshold supportive housing placements at EnVision Hotel, Shattuck Hospital, and Roundhouse Hotel.
More from Fatima: “In addition to these sites, the city will aim to lower barriers to beds at existing city-owned shelters and explore additional low-threshold options across the city. Wu has previously announced that her administration would aim to open at least 200 low-threshold beds across the city, the statement said.”
Case in point: Hub hospitals show disparities in health care costs
The Wall Street Journal has found the perfect case study to demonstrate how patients with the same health issues and insurance can pay wildly different prices for the same care — and it’s right here in Boston. The paper reports that a single emergency room visit would cost a hypothetical patient $946 at Mass. General Hospital and $577 at Boston Medical Center, which is located just three miles away.
Elugardo on why she decided to run for Senate
Why did Rep. Nika Elugardo decide to jump into the race for the Second Suffolk Senate seat? Dorchester Reporter’s Gintautas Dumcius spoke to the Jamaica Plain Democrat about her choice to run for Senate and what opportunities she is looking forward to should she win.
More from Dumcius: “With her strong relationships with her Beacon Hill colleagues, and with billions of federal dollars flowing from Washington, and the Legislature shedding a reputation for handling one or two big bills per session, Elugardo sees an opportunity to widen her gaze, she told the Reporter in an interview.”
“Senator Karen” and “angry Mom.” Those are the characterizations Elon Musk used to describe Sen. Elizabeth Warren after she said the top executive at Tesla should pay more in taxes. Boston Herald’s Erin Tiernan reports that Warren took aim at Musk, saying “let’s change the rigged tax code so The Person of the Year will actually pay taxes and stop freeloading off everyone else.”
Paused but not forgotten: Tribe still engaging Taunton on long-stalled casino plan
All eyes on D.C. Officials in Taunton say the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and its financial backers remain committed to finishing the $1 billion First Light casino project that has been stalled since 2016 and say a pending ruling from Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland on the tribe’s status could help restart work on the controversial project. Chris Helms of the Taunton Gazette has the details.
Meanwhile, the state’s three casinos reported mixed results for November. Peter Goonan of MassLive reports revenues were up modestly as MGM Springfield – which saw poker return last month – and down slightly at Encore Boston Harbor and Plainridge Park.
Conventions are coming back. Will attendance?
They’re making a comeback, sort of. WBUR’s Callum Borchers reports that convention halls in Boston are starting to fill up their calendars, though the events are expected to be smaller than those held pre-pandemic. Boston Convention & Exhibition Center and the Hynes Convention Center expects attendance to hover at 50 to 60 percent of what it was in 2019.
Undeterred: Comerford will seek third Senate term in new-look district
The district is changing, but maybe not who represents it. State Sen. Jo Comerford has announced she’ll seek a third term even though the western Mass. district that has sent her to Beacon Hill twice will be revamped post-redistricting. Brian Steele of The Recorder reports the Democrat – first elected after winning the primary as a write-in candidate – has yet to draw a challenge.
Bonus brouhaha: Methuen Mayor defends Covid payouts state is demanding back
Methuen Mayor Neil Perry is defending his decision to deliver pandemic bonuses to municipal employees without ever consulting the city council, whose members are now saying they would have at least pared back the payouts that state officials are now demanding Methuen return, Allison Corneau of the Eagle-Tribune reports.
‘Nonsensical’ variations in meat prices
Meat prices are all over the board. Some are shooting up while others are staying put. MassLive’s Will Katcher reports that the “nonsensical” price patterns are a result of supply chain issues and the COVID-19 pandemic. Here in Massachusetts, butcher shops and restaurants are running into problems trying to secure their normal load of meat.
More from Katcher: “Prices are not necessarily up across the board, [Larry Katz, owner of Arnold’s Meats] said. Some types of meat have risen worryingly in cost; others haven’t been touched. For example, the price of lamb is way up, Katz said, but he can’t figure out exactly why. Last year lamb was $4.95 a pound. Now it’s $2 higher, he said.”
Boston nonprofit gets $2M to help farmers in Africa
A nonprofit in Boston just landed a heap of cash to help farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa prepare for weather events. Boston Business Journal’s Grant Welker reports that TommorrowNow.org pulled in $2 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The nonprofit helps vulnerable communities adapt to climate change.
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