Window Into The State House

  After 11 deaths at Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, superintendent ousted   Eleven deaths in one facility, five of them confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 56 confirmed coronavirus deaths statewide – and so, yes, the state acted swiftly yesterday to put the superintendent of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home on paid administrative leave, i.e. he was stripped of his duties. MassLive’s Jeanette DeForge, the Gazette’s Dan Crowley and the Globe’s Brian MacQuarrie have more on the tragedy unfolding in Holyoke, where an additional 25 residents at the center are believed to have contracted the coronavirus. Remember: These are veterans. And they didn’t deserve this.  
  Berkshire County rattled by COVID-19 deaths and ‘hotspot’ designation   In nearby Berkshire County, Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyler says her western Mass. city has been rattled by a NYT article that has designated the area as a national hotspot of per capita coronavirus cases and deaths, reports CommonWealth’s Bruce Mohl, who notes the hotspot is actually all of Berkshire County at this point. We addressed the Pittsfield issue in yesterday’s MassterList. This story at the Berkshire Eagle on the first COVID-19 death/funeral in the area is pretty jaw-dropping. And from MassLive: “James Taylor and wife donate $350,000 to Berkshire Medical Center.” Bottom line: Western Massachusetts is more vulnerable to the coronavirus outbreak than many people may think.  
  The Surge: Baker estimates big wave of COVID-19 cases could hit starting next week   Here it comes. From SHNS’s Chris Lisinski (pay wall): “The surge in coronavirus cases long expected by public health officials could start to hit Massachusetts between April 7 and April 17, Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday, stressing the importance of taking steps to prepare additional health care capacity.”   The Herald’s Mary Markos and Todd Prussman and NBC Boston have more on anticipated surge and the all-out effort to prepare for it in Massachusetts.  
  More ventilators: They’re coming   It’s not enough, but it’s welcome. From the AP at Boston 25 News: “Federal officials have approved the state’s request for at least 1,000 ventilators to help care for those with severe respiratory COVID-19 symptoms, Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday. The state should begin receiving those ventilators soon, he said.”   Also this from Boston 25: “The state also received a delivery of personal protective equipment like masks and gloves for health care workers from the strategic national stockpile, Baker said.” Again, it’s not enough, but it’s welcome.  
  Health care updates: Possible BI vaccine gets huge investment, number of hospital workers testing positive soars, state eyes 1,000 nursing-home bed conversions   We now have a number for the amount of nursing home beds that the state hopes to convert to emergency coronavirus care facilities: 1,000 and in a “bunch of different places,” as Gov. Charlie Baker put it (SHNS). … In other health-care-related news, from the Boston Herald: “Number of health care workers with coronavirus soars at Boston hospitals.” … Some potential good news via the Globe: “US and J&J commit $1b to coronavirus vaccine codeveloped by Beth Israel.” It’s a big bet. But a welcome bet. … Also from the Globe: “Chief executive at Beth Israel Lahey Health taking 50 percent pay cut for three months.” … From SHNS: “Research Suggests Sterilized Masks Remain Effective.”  
  Democratic Party calls off 2020 state nominating convention   From MassLive’s Noah Bombard: “The Massachusetts Democratic Party has called off the 2020 Nominating Convention, which had been scheduled for May 30 at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell. Both campaigns for U.S. Congressman Joe Kennedy III and Sen. Edward Markey announced Monday night that the convention had been called off. Concerns over public safety with the coronavirus pandemic drove the decision.”  
  ‘Dramatic collapse’: Tufts center warns state budget shortfall could hit $1.8B to $3B   More cheerful news. From SHNS’s Katie Lannan: “A policy research group is warning state lawmakers to prepare for a ‘dramatic collapse’ in state revenue, estimating a tax revenue shortfall of $1.8 billion to $3 billion over the next 15 months.” Meanwhile, WGBH’s Mike Deehan reports that the tentative plan to delay the state’s tax-filing deadline until July 15 could blow a temporary $3 billion hole in the state’s budget – a hole Gov. Charlie Baker hopes to fill by short-term borrowing. Lawmakers may have other ideas, as Deehan notes.  
  Labor unrest: GE workers walk off jobs, protests at Instacart and Amazon   Look for more labor-related protests and tensions as the coronavirus crisis deepens in coming weeks. The BBJ’s Greg Ryan and MassLive’s Jackson Cote report that some General Electric workers in Lynn and elsewhere walked off the jobs yesterday to protest coronavirus-related layoffs and to urge GE to start building badly needed ventilators at facilities. And the Globe’s Katie Johnston reports GE’s Lynn workers are also concerned in general about work-place safety conditions. Meanwhile, WGBH’s Phillip Martin and the Washington Post report on labor unrest at InstaCart, Amazon and Whole Foods stores, here and elsewhere, as employees demand safer work environments and hazardous-pay boosts, among other things.  
  Those extra federal funds for unemployment insurance? Workers may have to wait a bit   Speaking of labor-related issues, SHNS’s Chris Lisinki (pay wall) reports that the federal government’s economic-stimulus bill includes gobs of extra funds for expanded unemployment-insurance benefits. But Gov. Charlie Baker is warning that “the not-so-good news” is states have not yet received implementation instructions from the feds – and so “these benefits are not available to be applied for today.”  
  Government updates: More MBTA workers and cops test positive, Walsh bans evictions, SJC delays bar exam   CBS Boston reports that Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced yesterday the city is temporarily banning evictions, delaying property tax payments till June and providing rental vouchers to 1,000 families with school students. … In other government-related news, from WBUR: “18 MBTA Workers Have Now Tested Positive For COVID-19.” … From the Globe: “MBTA, unions looking for more ways to slow the spread of coronavirus.” … Also from WBUR: “19 Boston Police Officers, 3 Civilians Test Positive For Coronavirus.” … From Universal Hub: “Boston to remove street-hockey and tennis nets from city parks, in addition to zip-tying basketball hoops.” Ditto in Worcester (MassLive). … From a Boston Globe editorial: “The Legislature should find a way to meet online.” … From WBUR: “Pressley And Warren Call For Racial Data In Coronavirus Testing.” … And from Universal Hub: “Would-be Massachusetts lawyers will have to wait a bit longer for the bar exam.” And, finally, from the Globe: “Mass. marijuana regulator joins fight to allow recreational pot stores to reopen.”  
  Mayor to fanatical golfers: ‘What is wrong with you people?’   Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno yesterday angrily uncorked on scores of golfers who have apparently sneaked onto city-owned golf courses during these stay-at-home and social-distancing times. “What is wrong with you people?” a dumbfounded Sarno asked yesterday. MassLive’s Peter Goonan has the details.