APRIL 7 -- The governor is optimistic that social distancing measures and widespread shutdowns in public life are blunting the spread of the coronavirus, but he cautioned that everyone must remain diligent and avoid jumping to conclusions as the state prepares for the surge to hit.
As Gov. Charlie Baker and First Lady Lauren Baker announced a new fund Monday afternoon to support communities impacted by the virus, he said data shows widespread drops in social gatherings, park use and other public activities that could create transmission risks.
Cases remain on the rise across the state, up to 13,837 on Monday with 260 fatalities and more expected in the Department of Public Health's daily announcement to come Tuesday afternoon. Baker will speak at 2:30 p.m. to offer his latest updates as well.
The virus hit another high-profile member of the Baker administration: Public Safety and Security Secretary Thomas Turco announced Monday night he tested positive for COVID-19, following Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel's similar March 27 announcement.
Lawmakers continue to work slowly in response to the pandemic, with bills piling up and only a few passed. Despite the coronavirus taking over most attention, House Speaker Robert DeLeo said Monday that he hopes to see action on climate change and transportation financing legislation by the end of formal lawmaking sessions, which he may try to extend beyond the traditional July 31 deadline.
Any progress toward planning for an inevitable financial hit was stunted Tuesday when lawmakers had to call off a high-profile hearing about the state's economic outlook half an hour into its scheduled runtime because they could not get the livestream running. They will try again next Tuesday. - Chris Lisinski
Boston Pride Events Pushed to 2021: All events as part of the 50th anniversary Boston Pride Parade and Festival scheduled for June will be pushed back one year to prevent coronavirus transmission risks, organizers announced Tuesday. Boston Pride and city officials agreed on a new date of June 12, 2021 for the parade and festival. "Our foremost concern is for the health, safety, and wellbeing of the LGBTQ community and allies," said Boston Pride President Linda DeMarco in a press release. "We cannot afford to put anyone at risk. There will be time to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Boston Pride and recognize not only the struggles that our community has faced over the years, but also celebrate our strength and resiliency which we all need during this difficult time." All registrations for participants and booths in the 2020 event will be valid for the new date. - Chris Lisinski 11:38 AM
NiSource Donates $255,000 for Relief Efforts: The NiSource Charitable Foundation announced Tuesday it will donate $255,000 to Massachusetts nonprofits, including organizations serving Brockton, Lawrence and Springfield, for COVID-19 relief efforts. NiSource is the parent company of Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, which has customers in southeastern Massachusetts, the greater Springfield area, and the Merrimack Valley. The foundation's largest donation, $75,000, will go to the American Red Cross of Massachusetts. Funds will also be distributed to Father Bill's and MainSpring in Brockton, to hire additional staff and purchase shelter supplies; the Brockton VA hospital, for technology that will help resident veterans connect with their families while isolated; the Old Colony YMCA for a variety of services; the Lazarus House in Lawrence, to help provide grab-and-go meals and groceries; the Lawrence Council on Aging for meal delivery and information translation efforts; the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence, to provide dinners and online programs for children who typically visit; the Methuen Arlington Neighborhood Community Center for meals and school supplies; Friends of the Homeless in Springfield, to help keep the Worthington Street Homeless Shelter open; and the Boys & Girls Club of Springfield, to help stock drive-through meal sites. - Katie Lannan 10:20 AM
Lawmakers Call for Ride-Hailing Driver Protections: U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and state Rep. Mike Connolly joined ride-hailing drivers Monday in a call for companies such as Uber and Lyft to classify workers as full-time employees with greater protections during the coronavirus crisis. Warren told drivers that the companies are "denying you basic job protections by misclassifying you as independent contractors" and reiterated demands she made last week that all ride-hailing workers be granted employee status, hazard pay and 14 days of guaranteed sick leave accessible without a doctor's note. "I want to be loud and clear on this one: you are employees and you should have all of the rights and protections that come with that," Warren said. "These companies are boosting their profits by denying you basic protection, and it is putting your health and your economic safety at risk, and it is putting the health and economic safety of your families at risk. It is just wrong." Connolly echoed her remarks, telling workers they are "on the front lines of a war against this virus" and deserve protection. The virtual event was organized by the Boston Independent Drivers Guild and concluded with a "rolling rally" around the Boston area. In a statement, Lyft spokeswoman Campbell Matthews said, "Attempting to force TNCs to adopt an employment model in the midst of this crisis would result in the widespread elimination of work for thousands and the immediate interruption of essential services for vulnerable populations. It will hurt drivers and at-risk communities at a time when they need our services most." Uber spokesman Alix Anfang said the company backs legislation that would grant more protections for independent workers and that current laws "present a forced choice between flexibility and protection." - Chris Lisinski 10:03 AM
April Vacation During School Closures: What schools do with April vacation week while their physical buildings remain closed until May 4 is a local decision, according to guidance from Education Commissioner Jeff Riley. Riley said that schools that continue providing their remote learning program over the vacation days -- April 21 to 24 -- will not be required to go beyond their previously scheduled 181st day. Schools that do break for April vacation "will be expected to resume their remote learning program on Monday, April 27 and conclude the school year no earlier than the previously scheduled 185th day," the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said in a weekly newsletter. - Katie Lannan 10:03 AM
Lowell Drive-Through Can Test 1,000 Per Day: A new drive-through testing site in Lowell the Baker administration formally announced Tuesday will have the capacity to test up to 1,000 patients per day for COVID-19 and provide results on location. The facility, a partnership between the administration and CVS that Gov. Charlie Baker first revealed Monday, is online in the parking lot of the Showcase Cinemas at 32 Reiss Ave. Officials said the effort using the Abbott ID NOW test makes Massachusetts the third state after Georgia and Rhode Island to deploy rapid testing sites. CVS will shutter its Shrewsbury testing site that had been launched as a pilot. Patients must pre-register online at CVS.com to schedule a same-day testing appointment. - Chris Lisinski 9:56 AM
Baker Administration Plans Tuesday Afternoon Update: Gov. Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders will hold a press conference at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday to provide the latest updates in the state's response to the coronavirus pandemic. The daily press conference, which will take place in the State House's Gardner Auditorium, will be livestreamed online. Boston Mayor Martin Walsh plans a 1 p.m. update outside Boston City Hall. - Chris Lisinski 9:24 AM
Public Safety Secretary Turco Positive for COVID-19: The state's public safety secretary has tested positive for COVID-19, he announced Monday night, and is working from home. "This weekend, after experiencing mild symptoms, I was screened for COVID-19 and was notified late yesterday that I had tested positive," Secretary Thomas Turco said in a statement. "I have notified my close contact colleagues and am working from home, where I remain in frequent contact by phone and email with public safety agency heads and my senior staff." Turco oversees the Department of Correction, which has been guarding against a COVID-19 outbreak within the prison system. Turco said his team "has been diligent in working remotely and following Governor Baker’s social distancing advisory. When it has been essential to meet in person, we have been careful to adhere to DPH and CDC health and safety guidance. I am deeply grateful to my colleagues in the office and the public safety community for stepping so seamlessly into new and important roles to protect the Commonwealth’s residents and communities. That work will continue without interruption." - Michael P. Norton 8:26 PM