Keller at Large

Keller: The Year In Preview

On this week’s Keller At Large, Jon Keller dives into the totally (not) real scenarios that could play out in 2022. Keller’s take for January: “The year kicks off with Boston Mayor Michelle Wu’s inaugural address. It is, refreshingly, only nine words long, according to an advance text obtained exclusively by MASSterList: ‘Yes, we can! The bar is open, let’s party!'”


Happening Today

9 a.m. | Gov. Charlie Baker and Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders hold a press conference to provide “a COVID-19 update to discuss measures to support the healthcare system.”

9:30 a.m. | Law Enforcement Body Camera Task Force meets.

10:45 a.m. | Secretary of State William Galvin hosts a holiday concert outside the State House featuring Maynard High School Chorus.

11 a.m. | Administration and Finance Secretary Michael Heffernan, House Ways and Means Chair Aaron Michlewitz and Senate Ways and Means Chair Michael Rodrigues invite economists and budget experts to testify on what they expect to see in fiscal 2023 from state tax collections.

Today’s Stories

Boston looks to proof of vax requirement to curb cases

There’s another fight brewing over COVID policies and mandates.

This time it’s centered around Boston Mayor Michelle Wu’s new order requiring proof of vaccination to enter restaurants, theatres, sports venues, and gyms that kicks in next month. The mandate extends to city workers, who will need to have at least one jab by Jan. 15 and two doses by Feb. 15.

The requirement will likely draw legal challenges, with Boston Herald’s Erin Tiernan reporting that unions for city employees are in talks with attorneys and reviewing legal options. An organizer for Boston First Responders was blunter, saying the organization is ready to “take this to court if we have to.”

The legal question is interesting and we’ll be watching closely for any action in court. It is important to note here that there is an already ongoing legal battle at the federal level with President Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for businesses with 100 employees or more.

A ruling in November had blocked the mandate but a federal appeals court in Cincinnati reinstated the measure last week. There are already calls from Republicans and businesses across the nation asking the United States Supreme Court to halt the order.

Even here in Massachusetts, a challenge from a State Police union to Gov. Charlie Baker’s vaccine mandate for executive employees was dismissed by the Department of Labor Relations earlier this month.

As to how much precedent all of that sets for any potential legal challenges here in Massachusetts, we’ll have to wait and see. But what we do know is that requiring proof of vaccination to enter establishments isn’t a new tactic.

New York City put one in place months ago and released a proof-of-vaccination app where residents could virtually store their vaccination card and ID. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker even teased a digital COVID-19 vaccine passport his administration is developing in conjunction with a dozen states.

Digital infrastructure is crucial when pushing out a policy like this. Will there be a Boston app like the one in New York? If so, will the city have the capacity to develop one in a timely manner that lines up with the start of the mandate? And will that app have the bandwidth to support at least a good majority of the city?

State House News Service’s Katie Lannan reports that the Wu administration plans to develop a proof-of-vaccination app like the one in New York. Officials from Boston have been in touch with counterparts in New York to help move the process along.

As we wait for more details, we’re reminded of the orange octopus that plagued so many peoples’ computers as the state rolled out their VaxFinder website.

Spilka reveals she had a ‘mild stroke’ in November

After five weeks of absence from the State House, Senate President Karen Spilka took to the chamber Monday morning. The reason for her leave? In an interview with NBC10 Boston, Spilka said she experienced a “mild stroke” on Nov. 15, the same day she was scheduled to travel to the White House for the signing of a $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure bill. The trip was called off that Monday and the Senate president was not seen in the building in for weeks.

“I had what my doctors diagnosed as a mild stroke. I’m fine. In fact, I’m feeling great now. But I wanted to speak out because I think it’s really important for people to hear about what happened to me from me,” Spilka said in the interview. “I was very tired. I was very fatigued afterwards. And my doctor said to rest, that was his prescription to me.”

Good news

We have some good news for the MASSterList community! Two weeks ago we told you about a shortage of toys for ABCD’s annual winter holiday toy drive. Well, because of you and many others, the organization managed to reach their toy drive goal of 6,000 toys.

“With the pandemic still impacting the families we serve in Boston and the Mystic Valley region – with jobs lost and soaring prices – many parents had very limited resources for buying gifts for their children this year,” said ABCD President and CEO John Drew. “We knew we had to help them put smiles on their children’s faces after this difficult year, as the ABCD Toy Drive has done for more than 50 years.”

‘Exponential rise of omicron’

Omicron is starting to create a deluge of cases in New England. Specialists with the Massachusetts Consortium on Pathogen Readiness warned that the new variant is leading to a surge in cases all around the region. Boston Globe’s Travis Andersen reports that the consortium is led by Harvard Medical School and officials there are cautioning of an “exponential rise of omicron everywhere” in New England.

Boston Globe

Virus upends holiday plans

The virus is infecting holiday plans. Associated Press’ Philip Marcelo and Jill Lawless report that organizers of the New Years Eve party in downtown Los Angeles canceled the event while a mask mandate took effect yesterday in Rhode Island. That came at the same time Boston Mayor Michelle Wu announced the indoor proof of vaccination requirement.

Associated Press

Lawmakers crack open deal on egg bill, send it to Baker

A list minute deal helped usher a bill to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk that could stave off a shortage and price increase of eggs in Massachusetts. State House News Service’s Chris Lisinski reports that lawmakers agreed to a compromise that tweaks sections of a 2016 law setting standards for housing hens and regulations around selling pork products sources from cruelly confined animals.

More from Lisinski: “Lawmakers said they believe the bill will help stave off shortages in available eggs and pork products that could stem from the new law, even as senators drew a line in the sand on enforcing cruelty standards to protect pigs.”

State House News Service

‘Near-universal protection’

A new report from the state Department of Public Health finds that even though cases of COVID-19 are climbing among vaccinated people, the effects are not leading to serious illness. MassLive’s Noah R. Bombard reports that DPH says 97 percent of all breakthrough COVID cases have not resulted in hospitalization or death.


Case against Southcoast Health CEO dismissed

Case dismissed. Southcoast Health President and CEO Keith Hovan was facing a charge of assault and battery until a district court judge dismissed it during a minutes-long bench trial Monday morning. New Bedford Light’s Anastasia Lennon reports that Hovan was arrested on Nov. 6 and charged with domestic assault and battery against his wife.

More from Lennon: “Hovan’s wife was present with her own attorney and invoked her spousal privilege (pleaded the Fifth) in declining to testify as a witness against Hovan. As a result, the commonwealth could not prosecute the case, the judge said.”

New Bedford Light

A look inside a New Hampshire hospital grappling with COVID cases

What’s it like at the epicenter of surging COVID-19 cases? WBUR’s Anthony Brooks takes listeners into Monadnock Community Hospital in southwest New Hampshire where doctors are having trouble finding beds for all patients.

More from Brooks: “On a recent day, [Dr. Eric Lasky] treated a 38-year-old woman who was having trouble breathing. He put her on high-flow oxygen and said she was very close to needing intubation. There was no beds free in the rest of the hospital, so Lasky and his team kept her in the ER. They weren’t sure whether she would survive.”


Help is coming: Cape businesses hail plan to boost seasonal worker visas

U.S. Rep. William Keating delivered some much-needed good news to Cape and Island businesses that scrambled to fill job vacancies this year, announcing the Department of Homeland Security will lift the cap on visas awarded to international seasonal workers, Doug Fraser of the Cape Cod Times reports. Keating says as many as 40,000 additional visas will be available in 2022.

Cape Cod Times

Russian national extradited to U.S. to face charges in global scheme

A scheme using IP addresses hosted at a data in center in Boston was worth millions of dollars before law enforcement stepped into the ring. Boston Business Journal’s Lucia Maffei reports that Acting U.S. Attorney Nathaniel Mendell announced the extradition of a Russian national to the United States to face charges in what has been described as a global scheme.

More from Maffei: “Vladislav Klyushin, 41, of Moscow, Russia, was extradited from Switzerland and charged with conspiring to obtain unauthorized access to computers, and to commit wire fraud and securities fraud, and with obtaining unauthorized access to computers, wire fraud and securities fraud, according to prosecutors.”

Boston Business Journal

Under wraps: Danvers says it will stop informing public of “minor” hate speech inciden

Problem “solved.” Officials in Danvers say they will no longer make public announcements every time an incident of hate speech occurs in town, saying they don’t want to encourage copycats who want attention. Paul Leighton of the Salem News reports the new policy applies only to “minor” incidents and not larger controversies such as those that have engulfed the local high school hockey and wrestling teams.

Salem News

Pitching in: State police provide backup after half of Dalton’s department contract Covid

State police from the Cheshire barracks are helping to patrol the streets of Dalton, where half of the town’s police force – including its chief – is on the sidelines after testing positive for COVID, Larry Parnass of the Berkshire Eagle reports.

Berkshire Eagle

Wicked good: Hudson earns national honor for its downtown

Downtown Hudson has been named the best Main Street business district in the country after beating out some 200 other communities for the title in a national contest – results that local businesses say is the result of decades of reinvestment in the area. Lillian Eden of the MetroWest Daily News has the details.

MetroWest Daily News

Today’s Headlines


Here’s the list of indoor spaces where Boston will require proof of COVID-19 vaccination –

Lynn and Salem expected to follow Boston’s lead on Covid – Lynn Item


Judge hears arguments regarding damages in Telegram & Gazette, Worcester police records lawsuit – Telegram & Gazette

Hudson earns title of ‘Best Main Street in America’ beating out more than 200 other locations in nationwide competition – MassLive


Biden to announce 500 million COVID-19 at-home test buy – The Hill

Jan. 6 panel seeks interview, records from Rep. Scott Perry – Associated Press

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