Today | Members of the Massachusetts National Guard begin to be deployed to hospitals and ambulance services to help with a staffing shortage that has left the state’s health care system strained amid a COVID-19 surge.
12:01 a.m. | Hospitals with less than 15 percent of their staffed medical-surgical and intensive care unit bed capacity available must postpone or cancel non-essential, non-urgent scheduled procedures likely to result in inpatient admission to comply with a new Department of Public Health order.
11 a.m. | House meets in an informal session and Senate meets without a calendar.
Memorable moments and other musings from the past year
This year is drawing to a close and with only days left until 2022, now is as good a time as any to share a few lingering thoughts and memorable moments from the past 12 months.
‘I just got here’ — Those four words may go down as some of the more memorable of the year.
They were uttered by House Speaker Ronald Mariano in January when a WCVB reporter asked if he was looking into the state’s vaccine rollout. They were preceded by another incredible line — “I have no idea” — when the reporter asked him how he felt about the state’s vaccine rollout.
At least Mariano wasn’t lying. He had, in fact, just taken over the speaker’s office that same day. But progressives in Massachusetts didn’t give him any slack, instead laying into the newly minted House speaker for what at least one communications strategist described as a “ridiculous” statement.
We can imagine this all caused quite a headache for his communications team.
It never stops — What is there to say about the COVID pandemic that hasn’t been said already?
It seems like every single moment of our lives these days are filled with some sort of dire news about the virus mutating, infecting thousands here in Massachusetts, and overwhelming hospitals.
While there are hundreds of stark quotes we could show you, there’s more to be said about the sinking feeling that COVID-19 will never leave us alone. The world has changed. Whether for the worse or the better, we still don’t know.
‘Seriously considering a run’ — After eight years in office, Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito decided to nix any thoughts that they were going to run for a third term.
The real impact of their decision was blowing the 2022 gubernatorial race wide-open, which led to a few days where literally everyone was “seriously considering a run.” It’s a line that has been used a lot recently but really serves as a way for potential candidates to test the political waters and see if any major players reach out.
We’re also still waiting to see if Attorney General Maura Healey joins the Democratic field, which would realistically upend the campaigns of the other three declared Democratic candidates. Meanwhile, former state Rep. Geoff Diehl stands alone on the Republican side.
(Find additional 2021 thoughts from the MASSterList team at the end of today’s edition. What do you think? Did we miss something in our list? Let us know: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Where ARPA dollars are heading in Massachusetts
Remember the $4 billion ARPA spending package Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law this month? Funds from that are heading to projects all across the state, including electric school buses in Lexington and park improvements in Lowell. Boston Globe’s John Hilliard reports that most of the money is dedicated to housing, healthcare, education, and workforce development in an effort to help the state recover from the pandemic.
More from Hilliard: “There’s money for schools and youth centers, museums and memorials, bike trails and beaches, broadband and sewers. In addition to much-needed funding for infrastructure, the bill includes small but visible projects such as $50,000 to renovate Townsend’s gazebo.”
Did you fly home Sunday? We’d bet your flight was canceled or delayed
Sunday was a crapshoot if you were trying to fly home. This MASSterList writer knows from firsthand experience — got to love being stuck on the plane at the gate for an hour before the airline tells you a maintenance issue is going to push back your travel plans by four hours.
Other people were far more unlucky. MassLive’s Benjamin Kail reports that major airline operators canceled more than 2,600 flights yesterday, closing off a weekend where at least 6,000 flights were also scrapped. That comes as airlines face staffing challenges amid a surge of COVID-19 cases.
Kids go missing from state DCF every year, according to records
Hundreds of kids go missing every year from the custody of the Department of Children and Families, reports Boston Herald’s Marie Szaniszlo, who obtained new records from the department through a public records request. That includes 578 children in the first 10 months of 2021. A missing child from foster care is defined as a person whose whereabouts are unknown by the department.
More from Szaniszlo: “They are ‘absent’ if their whereabouts are known but they refuse to return to their DCF placement, she said. The highest number of missing children in the last five years — 858 — was in 2019. The year afterward, the number dropped to 652.”
Bowl games canceled for Boston College, Fenway Park
COVID is ravaging everything these days. Boston College’s football team is now feeling the virus’ effects. WBUR’s Walter Wuthmann reports that the team dropped out of its end-of-season bowl games “because too many of its players are contending with COVID-related safety protocols.” Fenway Park also scrapped its first-ever bowl game between the University of Virginia and Southern Methodist University because UVA is experiencing too many cases of COVID on its team.
Hot topic: Comerford sees vote on medical aid-in-dying bills in ‘22
File under: Evenly divided. State Sen. Jo Comerford tells Claudia Chiappa of the Daily Hampshire Gazette that two bills pending in the Legislature that would clear the way for doctors to help terminally ill patients end their lives could come up for a vote next year, though the tense history of debate on the issue – stretching back to the narrow defeat of a statewide ballot question in 2012 – suggests passing the legislation will be no easy task.
Mixed results: Healey’s track record on public corruption in the spotlight
As the Bay State political world awaits her decision on a possible gubernatorial run, Matt Stout of the Globe takes a look at Attorney General Maura Healey’s track record on prosecuting public corruption cases and finds mixed results, including some high-profile convictions but nearly as many cases that ended with acquittals or dismissals.
This day in history: Betting on a Foxboro casino
What might have been. On this day in 2011, State House News Service reported New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn were teaming up to build local support for their plan to build a $1 billion resort casino on land near Gillette Stadium.
Just after Christmas, Kraft and Wynn stepped up efforts to lobby town leadership in the hopes of eventually putting the proposal before voters. What happened next won’t surprise you: Within a few months, pro-casino pols were swept out of office in Foxboro, Wynn had turned his casino-building attention to the banks of Mystic River, and the Kraft family went back to developing a more town-friendly Patriot Place.
An in-depth look at Boston Herald’s Inside Track
Do you remember Boston Herald’s Inside Track? Well, in case you missed this, here’s an in-depth history of the column that mused on Boston’s most prominent and notorious figures. Boston Magazine’s Gretchen Voss gives an oral history of the rise and fall of Inside Track, which ran from 1992 until 2020.
Baker pleased with Northeastern’s decision to return to in person learning
Gov. Charlie Baker likes what Northeastern is doing. He took to Twitter on Friday to praise the university for returning to full in person learning next semester. Boston Herald’s Amy Sokolow reports that the institution is requiring booster shoots for students and staff by mid-January as it prepares for the spring semester.
“We know COVID is a very low risk for them. That said, we also now know that prolonged isolation is a very real risk to their growth and mental health,” Baker said in his tweet.
Back on: Mask mandate returns to Hopkinton High
Students at Hopkinton High School will be required to don masks when they return in January after the town’s school board voted to reinstate the mandate dropped earlier in the fall after the school became the first in the state to earn the right to go mask-free due to sky-high local vaccination rates. Zane Razzaq of the MetroWest Daily News reports the decision came amid a surge in local cases.
ARPA dollars at work in Groton
If you live in Groton and like to head to the Groton Hill Music Center, here’s some good news. The town is looking to turn it into a walkable destination thanks to funds from the state’s $4 billion American Rescue Plan Act spending bill. Lowell Sun’s Jacob Vitali reports that Groton received $150,000 for the project through the bill.
More 2021 thoughts and moments
Beacon Hill Bubble — The State House remains closed to the public even as more legislative and Baker administration staff make their way back to the building.
Residents of the commonwealth haven’t been able to step inside the people’s house for close to two years at this point. To be exact, it’s been over 650 days since legislative leaders decided to close the doors.
While the House and Senate have released a plan to incrementally reopen the building, a timeline for when the State House will swing its doors open to anyone who wants to enter remains murky. It’s a point of contention that’s been brought up to lawmakers and Gov. Charlie Baker many times this year.
Their argument? The State House serves a multi-functional building making it complicated to protect employees’ health. The counterpoint? Taxpayers in Massachusetts who pay elected officials to work out of the building deserve to enter.
‘I was distraught yesterday’ — Something we think back to every so often is the feeling of walking into the State House after the Jan. 6 insurrection in Washington.
It was tense, to say the least. Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz told the State House News Service the day after that she thought about what pieces of furniture she could use to barricade her office door in the event of an emergency.
“Our first floor window would not be hard for someone to scale into that, just thinking about all of the vulnerabilities in particular, I mean I was distraught yesterday,” she said.
Luckily, nothing happened here in Boston. But you could certainly sense apprehension on Beacon Hill in the weeks that followed as national reports said State Houses across the country were increasing security.
What we won’t miss — Pretty much this entire year.
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