Window Into The State House

Baker extends closures till May 18, sets up reopening advisory board   As expected, Gov. Charlie Baker yesterday extended the coronavirus shutdown of huge swaths of the state’s economy by another two weeks, or until May 18, arguing the state simply isn’t ready to reopen the economy by next Monday, when his original coronavirus lockdown was due to expire, report the Eagle Tribune’s Christian Wade and the Globe’s Matt Stout. But Baker did announce the formation of a new reopening advisory board, which will try to come up with procedures and policies for a probable phased-in reopening, perhaps starting in late May. SHNS’s Chris Lisinski (pay wall) has more on both the shutdown extension and new advisory board.  
  The reopening playbook: Starting from virtual scratch   So what’s ahead for Gov. Charlie Baker’s new economic reopening advisory board? First off, they have to develop a reopening playbook virtually from scratch, reports CommonWealth’s Bruce Mohl. A guiding principle: Any reopening will be phased in and subject to changes based on coronavirus-case numbers. The Globe’s Jon Chesto reports the council was already at remote work yesterday – and he notes that the industry-by-industry pleading and lobbying has already begun. The Herald’s Joe Battenfeld is not impressed with the makeup of the 17-member board co-chaired by Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy. “An ‘advisory’ board led by Karyn Polito and a state bureaucrat is not going to cut it,” he writes. The Globe’s Larry Edelman, Jon Chesto and Shirley Leung try to image what a reopening workplace might look like. Hint: “It won’t be business as usual.”  
  Tripadvisor plans to lay off more than 900 employees, reducing staff by 25 percent   Setting aside the medical issues involved with a reopening of the state economy, here’s an example of why so many CEOs (and workers) are pushing to get going again: Needham’s once high-flying Tripadvisor Inc. is laying off additional employees, 900 in all, and plans to shut its satellite office in Boston, reports the BBJ’s Lucia Maffei (pay wall) and the Globe’s Anissa Gardizy. The reductions add up to 25 percent of the company’s workforce. Meanwhile, the media continues to get hammered during the pandemic. From the BBJ (pay wall): “Boston Magazine parent names new CEO, cuts jobs.”  
  Add Randolph and Springfield to the list of new hotspots?   The Globe’s Vernal Coleman reports on how Brockton and Randolph have been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus outbreak. We’ve previously heard about Brockton as a hotspot, but not Randolph, where the number of cases indeed appears high. Meanwhile, the NYT ranks Springfield as the fourth highest metro area in the nation (scroll down to chart) in terms of coronavirus deaths over the past two weeks – and the numbers in Springfield are “still growing.” Boston ranks ninth, with the number of deaths “flattening.” Both the Globe and NYT pieces stress group-home cases can inflate numbers for communities.  
  Odd alliance: GOP and progressive lawmakers unite against DeLeo’s remote voting proposal   You don’t see this too often on Beacon Hill: Republican and progressive lawmakers forming a brief alliance. In this case, they’ve forced House Speaker Robert DeLeo to back off a proposal that would have made it more difficult to call for roll-call votes during a planned remote session of the House this week, as reported by CommonWealth’s Shira Schoenberg and SHNS’s Colin A. Young and Chris Van Buskirk. The Herald’s Howie Carr is blasting the proposed remote-session rules, calling them “Orwellian.”  
  Spilka: Pandemic hasn’t killed off action on transportation   While discussing the likelihood of a “phased in” approach towards reopening the state’s economy, Senate President Karen Spilka also made clear at a virtual chamber of commerce event yesterday that she hasn’t given up hope of tackling transportation and infrastructure issues, specifically transportation borrowing legislation, despite the coronavirus pandemic that’s shoved aside most other issues on Beacon Hill. SHNS’s Matt Murphy has more.  
  Plymouth County to state: It’s our money and we’re keeping it   It seems Plymouth County Commissioners applied for and got $90 million in coronavirus relief funds from the feds – and now it’s refusing Baker administrations requests to turn the money over to the state, which officials say can better spend the money. Plymouth County’s response: No way. The Enterprise’s Marc Larocque has the details.  
  Prison updates: SJC nudges Baker to release more prisoners, state jails rank high in infections, inmates not getting tested upon release   There’s a lot of prison-related news this morning on the coronavirus front, so we’re going with quick summaries and headlines on this post. … From SHNS (pay wall): “Court Urges Baker Admin to Weigh Prisoner Release Options.” But note: The court denied a request stay the sentences of non-violent offenders and other inmates. … From WBUR: “Mass. Prisons And Jails Among Hardest Hit By Coronavirus In U.S.” … Also from WBUR: “Mass. Prisoners Are Not Routinely Tested For The Coronavirus When Released.” … From Wicked Local: “There are more than 50 cases of the coronavirus inside two Department of Correction facilities in Bridgewater.” … And from WBUR again: “Coronavirus Infections Double Among Prisoners At MCI-Shirley.”  
  Get your non-official adjustable Red Sox protective face mask right here   We admit it. We broke down and bought one, i.e. an adjustable Red Sox-labeled protective face mask at Amazon. We’re blaming MassLive’s Nick O’Malley for tempting us in the first place. And we’re also blaming Attorney General Maura Healey, whose office on Monday issued revised guidance on local mandatory face-mask orders that indirectly led to our useless purchase. Jeannette Hinkle at MetroWest Daily News has more on the AG move.  
  Amid pandemic, ailing convenience stores ask for delay in flavored tobacco ban   The BBJ’s Gintautus Dumcius reports that the state’s convenience stores are asking that the state’s upcoming ban on the sale of flavored tobacco be delayed, citing the financial hits they’ve taken during the coronavirus outbreak.  
  Government updates: Kennedy and Healey push voting-by-mail, UMass Medical and Newton furloughs, MBTA board’s future   We’ll go with quick summaries and headlines for this post. … CBS Boston reports that U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy and AG Maura Healey yesterday made a video-conference push for voting by mail. … From MassLive: “MassVOTE gives guidance on how Massachusetts can implement voting by mail.” …From MassLive: “UMass Medical School to furlough 100 employees for up to 6 months.” … From the Globe: “Newton mayor furloughs 91 part-time municipal employees.” … From MassLive: “Ludlow weighs teacher cuts in upcoming school year.” … From SHNS (pay wall): “Memo Outlines COVID-19 Steps at Pharmacies.” And, finally, amid the pandemic rush of events, SHNS’s Chris Lisinski (pay wall) reminds readers that lawmakers have yet to decide the fate of the current MBTA Control Board, whose five-year mission expires on July 1.   
  Green light: Wheaton College says Norton campus will open in fall (with yellow-light caveats)   Unlike the wishy-washy Harvard University, Wheaton College in Norton says it has every intention to open its campus to students in the fall, though the prediction comes with a lengthy list of wish-washy caveats and qualifiers, Stephen Peterson reports at the Sun Chronicle.  Meanwhile, Smith College in Northampton says its tallied up the damage and found coronavirus has blown a $10 million hole in its budget that it will seek to close with salary cuts and by putting capital projects on pause, Jim Russell at MassLive reports.   
  Citing the burden of running a campaign during pandemic, Wu suspends campaign against Lynch   Another casualty of the coronavirus pandemic? Insurgent candidate Brianna Wu, who was expected to give U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch fits in this year’s Dem primary election, has effectively dropped out of the Eighth District race, saying it’s just too hard to take on an incumbent in the middle of a pandemic. SHNS’s Matt Murphy (pay wall) and the Globe’s Jeremy Fox have the details.  
  SJC: Steward Health Care must fork over $10.2m to scientist whose lab was destroyed