Happening Today

9 a.m. | Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meets with an agenda that includes updates on early literacy, action steps to support in-person learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, student enrollment figures, and educator workforce diversity efforts.

10 a.m. | Executive Office of Health and Human Services holds hearing on proposed regulatory amendments updating rates to be paid by MassHealth to providers of continuous skilled nursing services under the MassHealth program.

1 p.m. | The Legislature’s Future of Work Commission holds a virtual hearing soliciting public testimony on “issues affecting the future of work and the workplace.”

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Today’s Stories

Baker: Universal statewide mask mandate not in play right now

Gov. Charlie Baker isn’t budging on a statewide mask mandate.

It’s important to be clear on exactly what people have been asking the governor to do this week — top doctors, and multiple legislators, in Massachusetts have recommended the Baker administration reintroduce a statewide universal mask mandate for indoor public spaces. That’s because there are already several mandates the governor signed off on including requiring masks at congregate care facilities, public schools, and on public transportation.

Those are some of the examples Baker pointed to Thursday afternoon when reporters pressed the governor on whether he would consider reinstituting the statewide mask mandate that expired at the end of May. In response, the Republican also highlighted that municipalities — like Boston, for example — can go further than the current indoor mask advisory.

“We have state mandates in a number of locations across the commonwealth where we believe they’re appropriate to have statewide standards in place,” Baker said. “We have an advisory at a statewide level in place for people when they go to indoor spaces in public. And there are communities that have taken that advisory and turned it into a mandate.”

Baker was speaking shortly after state lawmakers wrapped up a COVID-19 oversight hearing where they discussed the status of the virus in Massachusetts with local doctors, hospital executives, and public health academics.

Some, like Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association CEO Steve Walsh, painted a really grim picture of the current status of the state’s health care system. MassLive’s Alison Kuznitz reports that Walsh said the delta variant is putting an enormous strain on hospitals as they also face staffing shortages.

It’s not a pretty thought, we know.

So where does this leave us? Baker will either change course if public pressure continues to mount or hold steady. As the governor repeatedly likes to tell us in the press, his administration is all about following the data.

We understand there’s a balance that needs to be struck, and Baker is not alone. The small business community opposes a new mandate and says owners should be able to decide for themselves.

Depending on which data you look at, you might have a different view of the current state of the pandemic and whether a statewide mask mandate should come into play.

Look at only vaccinations per week, and things look pretty good. Stick to just the number of COVID cases and hospitalizations, well, not so great. Things aren’t that cut and dry, obviously. So when you take the two together, it’s really just a mixed bag of hope and fear.

(P.S. If you read to the end of the newsletter there’s a roundup of the best and worst egg puns from this week. Enjoy.)

Chang-Diaz proposes fare free MBTA bus rides

Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu have something in common. State House News Service’s Katie Lannan reports that Chang-Diaz, if elected governor, wants to include money in her first annual budget proposal to get rid of bus fares at the MBTA and regional transit authorities. The Jamaica Plain Democrat included the idea as one part of her climate and energy plan she released yesterday.

State House News Service

Baystate Health prepares to ‘ration care’

Prepare for ration care. Staffing shortages, an upwards trend in COVID cases, and other medical care is forcing Baystate Health to prepare to ration care, reports Boston Business Journal’s Jessica Bartlett. CEO Mark Keroak announced the news on Thursday, saying the health system was expecting an onslaught of patients in the next few weeks that could stetch staff and space thin.

More from Bartlett: “While the system hadn’t yet begun rationing care, it would begin with the highest intensity services, such as heart-lung bypass called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, and could extend to rationing of ICU beds.”

Boston Business Journal

Three middle schools in Boston slated for closure

Close them down. The Boston School Committee voted Wednesday to shut down three middle schools in Roslindale, Roxbury, and Allston as part of a restructuring effort. Boston Globe’s Colleen Cronin and Jenna Russell report that BPS officials said the aim is to cut down on the number times students need to transition to new schools between kindergarten and high school. The three schools: Washington Irving Middle School in Roslindale, James P. Timilty Middle School in Roxbury, and Jackson Mann K-8 School in Allston.

Boston Globe

Health officials report nearly 6,000 new COVID cases

It’s the highest COVID-19 case count in a while. State health officials reported 5,883 cases on Thursday, reports Boston Herald’s Rick Sobey. That’s closing in on the highest count in the past 11 months — 7,110 on Jan. 9 — and marks the seventh day of 5,000-plus daily cases this month.

Boston Herald

Alleged shooting threat leads to two ninth graders in custody

In case you missed it: Telegram & Gazette’s Marco Cartolano reports that two ninth graders are facing charges after a report of an Instagram post containing a threat of committing a shooting at Worcester Technical High School. The piece was updated with more details just after noon yesterday.

More from Cartolano: “Robert Pezzella, school safety director for the Worcester School Department, said that one ninth-grade student at Worcester Tech sent another student a message Tuesday that they were displeased with a Worcester Tech employee and threatened to commit a shooting unless something went their way.”

Telegram & Gazette

Ready for their close-up: State troopers finally get body cameras mandated after OT scandal

The Mass. State Police says all troopers now have functional body cameras and training in how to use them, finally completing a reform ordered three years ago by Gov. Charlie Baker in the wake of a massive overtime fraud scandal in the agency, the Associated Press reports.

Associated Press

Weighing options: Heroux heads to D.C., says run for higher office on the table

Attleboro Mayor Paul Heroux says he is actively weighing whether to run for higher office, but is being coy about what position he might be targeting, Stephen Peterson of the Sun Chronicle reports. Heroux, a former state rep who is in his third and final term as mayor, heads to Washington, D.C. today to meet with groups who have lobbied him to run — and speculation is that he may have a challenge to Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson in his sights.

Sun Chronicle

Overturned: In victory for Healey, judge tosses Purdue Pharma’s opioid settlement

A federal judge has overturned a sweeping settlement with Purdue Pharmaceuticals meant to deliver billions to cities and states ravaged by the the opioid crisis, delivering a victory for Attorney General Maura Healey and fellow AGs who have argued against the deal because they say it improperly shielded the Sackler family from liability, Jan Hoffman of the New York Times reports.

The New York Times via The Boston Globe

Collegium Pharmaceutical agrees to halt in-person marketing visits

Pay up and no more in-person marketing visits. That’s what a Massachusetts-based pharmaceutical company agreed to in a settlement with Attorney General Maura Healey’s office. Associated Press’ Boston Bureau reports that Collegium Pharmaceutical is accused of misleading doctors about the risk of one its opioid products, with allegations saying the product was marketed as a safer alternative to other opioids despite having some of the same active ingredients.

Associated Press

‘Really good season’ for Dorchester shops and restaurants

Retailers and restaurants in one Boston neighborhood of Boston are saying the holiday season is off to a great start as residents stay close to home. Seth Daniel for the Dorchester Reporter reports that even with supply chain issues and heightened food prices, business owners in Dorchester are detailing a “really good” start to the winter holidays, a trend they hope will continue.

Dorchester Reporter

Sticker shock: Taunton pushes back on $300M price tag for regional school

Members of the Taunton City Council are questioning both the “astronomical” cost – at $305 million – of a new Taunton-Bristol-Plymouth Regional Technical High School and the timing of a vote to fund the project, which will come in the middle of January – not exactly prime voting season. Michael DeCicco of the Taunton Gazette has the details.

Taunton Daily Gazette

The best (and worst) egg puns from this week

This isn’t a news post. 

Just an opportunity to take in how many egg-related puns there have been over the past few weeks as lawmakers work toward an agreement on a law that would update an animal welfare statute slated to take effect at the start of the new year. If that law takes effect, industry leaders and advocates warn egg prices could skyrocket next year.

So, please enjoy this very incomplete list of egg puns from Twitter and local media outlets. It was painful to put together.

– “Egg-xactly what we feared: Massachusetts could see egg shortage in the new year,” GBH News‘ Greater Boston Staff.

– “So #mapoli should be scrambling and getting cracking so you can still afford to buy a dozen,” WBZ Radio’s Karyn Regal summing up Gov. Charlie Baker’s Twitter comments from earlier this week.

– “No word on whether Baker egging on lawmakers will speed up their deliberations,” Emma Platoff at the Boston Globe.

– “Baker tells lawmakers to scramble on egg legislation,” Politico MA’s Lisa Kashinsky on Baker pushing legislators to come to an agreement on the bill.

– “Some of them will have to cross to the other side of the road to get this passed,” former Seth Moulton communications director Tim Biba replying to Kashinsky. 

– “Gov. Charlie Baker isn’t ready to play chicken with lawmakers, taking to Twitter to rattle cages over a standoff on legislation that would ensure the state’s residents still will be able to buy eggs after the New Year,” Boston Herald’s Marie Szaniszlo.

– “Lawmakers could have egg on their faces if they don’t get cracking on animal welfare law,” WBUR’s Radio Boston rundown.

– “Egg-laying hen law not all it’s cracked up to be, may eat into Newton restaurants’ profits,” Newton-Tab‘s Julie M. Cohen.

– “Sayonara, scramble. Farewell, frittata. The most valuable player in the most important meal of the day will be at risk come Jan. 1, if state lawmakers don’t soon take action to shore up Massachusetts’s egg supply,” another one from Boston Globe’s Emma Platoff.

Sunday Public Affairs: Richard Neal, Marty Meehan, and more

Keller at Large, WBZ-TV Ch. 4, 8:30 a.m. This week’s guest: UMass President Marty Meehan discussing tuition and fee hikes, race relations on campus, UMass handling of COVID outbreaks, and the future of UMass football.

This Week in Business, NECN, Sunday, 10 a.m. This week’s topic: From COVID to politics and supply chains to billionaires in space, Boston Business Journal Editor Doug Banks and The Boston Globe’s Shirley Leung look back at some of the top business stories of 2021.

On The Record, WCVB-TV Ch. 5, Sunday, 11 a.m. Guest: U.S. Rep. Richard Neal talks with hosts Janet Wu and Sharman Sacchetti followed by a roundtable discussion with political analysts Mary Anne Marsh and Rob Gray.

CityLine, WCVB-TV, Ch. 5 Sunday 12 p.m., This week’s topic: Testing in Boston exam schools with Boston Parent Coalition for Academic Excellence member Rachel Miselman and early childhood development Professor Ronald Ferguson of Harvard’s Kennedy School.

Today’s Headlines

Metro

Oak Bluffs Board of Health hears from health experts, considers banning artificial turf fields made with PFAS – WCAI

BPD mechanic gets two months for ordering auto parts he then resold – Universal Hub

Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Parole Board Has a Transparency Problem – DigBoston

Support for North Adams-to-Boston rail service is clear. But, Rep. Barrett asks: Does the study need to take 18 months? – Berkshire Eagle

Nation

Biden concedes Build Back Better bill won’t get passed this year – Politico

Elizabeth Warren asks SEC to investigate compensation at fossil fuel giants – Washington Post

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