New VACCINE BUDDY SYSTEM — LELLING on his WAY OUT — ‘TWINDEMIC’ fears fade — POLICE REFORM sets election tone


THE TWO VACCINE LINES — The move into phase two of the vaccine rollout this month has opened up a fight over who gets the shots first — and who still has to wait.

First there’s the literal line, which has sparked news coverage over the last several weeks. Officials came under fire for long lines in the snow at a mass vaccination site in Springfield, a visual reminder of how many people are desperate for the shot. Gov. Charlie Baker said the lines were due to early birds, and urged vaccine goers to show up at their scheduled appointment time.

At another vaccination site in Danvers, hundreds lined up in the cold last night after a rumor spread about leftover doses.

And then there’s the figurative line. As Massachusetts adjusts its vaccination rollout, different groups are pushing for earlier slots in the vaccination line. Right now, people over the age of 75 are eligible to book vaccinations.

One way to get an early vaccine is for a caretaker to escort someone over the age of 75 to their appointment at a mass vaccination site, and book their own shot at the same time. It’s a new initiative Baker rolled out Wednesday, in hopes that it will encourage more seniors to visit vaccination sites. Still, some have expressed frustration that people over the age of 65 remain on the waiting list.

One group that could be moved up on the vaccination list is people with asthma. Officials including Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Attorney General Maura Healey are calling on Baker to prioritize people with the medical condition.

Another vaccine battleground is schools. Some teachers unions want school staff to get the jab quickly in an effort to return to in-person instructors. Others say shots should be prioritized for high school seniors, who have limited learning time left. And childcare workers are another group that have been working in person throughout the pandemic and have asked for priority.

Also vying for vaccine priority are restaurant workers, essential workers at places like grocery stores, and funeral directors, who have a unique understanding of the pandemic’s death toll.

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TODAY — Former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial continues. Rep. Ayanna Pressley attends the Mass Renews Alliance legislative kickoff. Candidates vying to replace former House Speaker Robert DeLeo speak at an environmental forum.

– “Massachusetts COVID cases drop for 4 straight weeks as state reports 1,920 new cases, 82 deaths on Wednesday,” by Tanner Stening, “State health officials reported another 1,920 COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, which is based on just over 100,000 molecular tests, according to the Department of Public Health. Health officials also announced another 82 COVID-related fatalities on Wednesday.”

– “Massachusetts regulator subpoenas GameStop bull ‘Roaring Kitty,’” by Nate Raymond, Reuters: “Massachusetts securities regulators have issued a subpoena seeking the testimony of a YouTube streamer who helped drive a surge of interest in GameStop Corp as part of a review of his registration, including his ‘outside business activities,’ an official said on Wednesday.”

– “Pioneer Institute report helps build case against the Massachusetts top-earners’ tax,” by Jon Chesto, Boston Globe: “The Pioneer Institute’s latest report warns of the economic threat to high-cost regions posed by the rise of telecommuting. The implication of the report, released on Wednesday, is clear: Businesses may be less tied to big-city employment hubs in a post-pandemic world where remote work is more acceptable, and policy-makers should think carefully about decisions that could spur any sort of exodus.”

– “Massachusetts $460 million shellfishing industry under threat from rapidly acidifying oceans,” by Erin Tiernan, Boston Herald: “Lawmakers are sounding an alarm that rapidly acidifying ocean waters around Massachusetts are threatening to decimate the scallop, clam, lobster and mollusk populations that support thousands of fishing jobs and rake in tens of millions for the Bay State’s economy every year.”

– “Auto insurers face pressure to reduce rates,” by Christian M. Wade, CNHI News: “Lawmakers and consumer advocates are renewing a call to require auto insurance companies to reduce monthly premiums, arguing that the industry has reaped big profits during the pandemic and drivers can use a break on their bills.”

– “Five Ways Massachusetts Ditched the Nanny State during the Pandemic,” by Spencer Buell, Boston Magazine: “On the one hand, city and state government decisions have never played a more jarringly intrusive role in our day-to-day activities, with sweeping curfews, strictly enforced distancing regulations, and constantly rejiggered capacity limits and outright shutdowns to curb the spread of the coronavirus. But on the other, this past year saw a long-overdue reckoning when it comes to our state’s regulations.

– “Stiffer penalties urged for timecard fraud,” by Christian M. Wade, Eagle-Tribune: “Public workers who claim hours they didn’t work could be sued in civil court under a new proposal from the state’s inspector general. A bill sent to the Legislature by Inspector General Glenn Cunha would allow state, county, city or town governments to sue employees who falsify payroll records and seek restitution for up to three times the amount of fraudulent wages.”

– “Baker offers vaccines to ‘companions’ of those over 75,” by Sarah Betancourt, CommonWealth Magazine: “Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday said anyone bringing someone 75 and over to one of the state’s mass vaccination sites can also get inoculated even if it’s not their appointed time in the vaccine pecking order. Baker said he believed the new policy, which takes effect Thursday, will encourage more people 75 and over to get inoculated and possibly speed up the transition to the next priority group – those 65 and older.”

– “Natick, Dartmouth Sites Join State’s Vaccination Push,” by Mike Deehan, GBH News: “Massachusetts is ramping up it’s vaccine distribution plan, adding two new mass vaccination sites and over 100,000 new appointments to the system in the coming weeks. Mass vaccination sites in Natick and Dartmouth will open on Feb. 22 and Feb. 23 respectively, with both sites beginning to accept appointments on Feb. 18.”

– “Walsh announces one-day vaccination site for veterans 65 and older as part of city’s effort to expand access to vaccine,” by Travis Andersen, Boston Globe: “Mayor Martin J. Walsh said Wednesday that city officials are working to expand access to the coronavirus vaccine for eligible residents and announced a one-day vaccination site opening Saturday in Dorchester for veterans aged 65 and older who are enrolled in VA healthcare.”

– “Massachusetts needs to simplify the booking process for COVID vaccinations, state Sen. Eric Lesser says after touring Eastfield Mall site,” by Douglas Hook, “Days after the state opened a hotline to offer seniors support in making COVID-19 vaccination appointments, a Massachusetts lawmaker says more is still needed.”

– “When will Massachusetts teachers get the COVID-19 vaccine?” by Felicia Gans, Boston Globe: “Massachusetts educators are eagerly waiting to become eligible for their first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine as the state continues Phase 2 of its coronavirus vaccination process. Educators were initially slated to begin receiving vaccines as early as February, but the state has yet to say exactly when they will become eligible.”

– “After series of changes, Springfield COVID vaccination site now ‘running smoothly’ after seniors left out in the cold,” by Douglas Hook, “When State Sen. Eric P. Lesser toured the Eastfield Mall vaccination site in Springfield on Wednesday, it looked different than just days ago. The vaccination site has been the focus of criticism since it opened due to the number of people – many of whom are 75 years old or older – who were left outside while they waited for their vaccinations.”

– “The Mashpee Wampanoag had long held COVID at bay. Then, tragedy struck,” by Brian MacQuarrie, Boston Globe: “After nearly a year of holding the virus at bay, the tribe is grappling with an outbreak that followed a heart-rending tragedy. More than 10 positive cases were reported last week, the most the tribe has recorded in any week since the pandemic began, following a funeral and gatherings held to grieve a 4-year-old boy who died in a traffic accident.”

– “’Twindemic’ Averted: Not Much Flu In Mass., And Record Low Rates Across The Nation,” by Carey Goldberg, WBUR: “In the fall, public health experts in Boston and beyond were dreading the prospect of such a ‘twindemic.’ Now, it’s increasingly clear that — thankfully — this has been the flu season that wasn’t.”

– “DOC accused of ‘deliberate indifference’ to prisoners,” by Sarah Betancourt, CommonWealth Magazine: “Attorneys for 11 prisoners accused the Massachusetts Department of Correction on Wednesday of deliberate indifference to a provision in the state budget requiring the release of inmates during the pandemic, but state officials said the law isn’t absolute and gives them wide discretion.”

– “Police reform effort to set a new political tone in an election season,” by Milton J. Valencia, Boston Globe: “At the onset of what will be a historic race for mayor of Boston, candidates and police unions could be treading more lightly as they decide whether to form political alliances, setting up a potentially polarizing environment amid movements to reform police systems.”

– “Biden urged to repeal immigration rule,” by Christian M. Wade, Eagle-Tribune: “Immigrant rights groups want the Biden administration to rescind a policy that requires people seeking to live in the U.S. to show they won’t be a burden on taxpayers, saying the regulations hurt families seeking health care, housing and other public assistance.”

– FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: “Labor Backs Capobianco in 19th Suffolk State Representative Race,” from the Capobianco campaign: “Valentino Capobianco’s Campaign for State House has received a considerable boost from organized labor since his official launch in January. This past week, he earned endorsements from Iron Workers Local 7 and Operating Engineers Local 4.”

– “In a slow stretch of the Green Line, four stops will soon become two,” by Adam Vaccaro, Boston Globe: “The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is about to take a major step toward improving the agonizingly slow trolley ride along Commonwealth Avenue, consolidating four stops on the Green Line’s B branch into two. It is rare that a plan to eliminate transit stops is widely celebrated, but the conditions on the B branch warrant it.”

– “Nangle, former Lowell lawmaker, expected to plead guilty in federal fraud cause,” by Matt Stout, Boston Globe: “Former state representative David M. Nangle, who was arrested on more than two dozen federal fraud charges a year ago, is expected to plead guilty later this month, according to court filings. Nangle, 60, is scheduled to appear in federal court on Feb. 24 to change his plea in the case.”

– “Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling to leave at end of February,” by Sean Philip Cotter, Boston Herald: “Massachusetts’ top federal prosecutor, U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling, will resign effective at the end of the month, meaning one of the few conservative forces in the Bay State will make way for a Democratic appointee soon. The highly visible Lelling announced in a news release Wednesday that he’ll be out effective Feb. 28., and has already tendered his resignation.”

– “Man convicted in Boston officer’s bombing death joins surge of prisoners asking for early release,” by Tonya Alanez, Boston Globe: “For nearly 30 years, Alfred Trenkler has been in prison for building a pipe bomb that exploded and killed a Boston police officer as he tried to defuse it in a Roslindale driveway. Trenkler now wants his life sentence at a federal penitentiary in Tucson cut short. Trenkler, 64, is one of hundreds asking for compassionate release, arguing that his heart condition puts him at high risk for COVID-19.”

– “Sen. Warren’s ‘Pinkie Promises’ to be published this fall,” The Associated Press: “Sen. Elizabeth Warren has not forgotten the many young people she befriended during her 2020 presidential run. The Massachusetts Democrat has a picture book out this fall called ‘Pinkie Promises’ in honor of a favorite campaign ritual.”

– “Charlie Baker’s embattled climate undersecretary targets fishing industry,” by Joe Dwinell and Erin Tiernan, Boston Herald: “The Baker administration’s embattled climate change undersecretary David Ismay is again being called out for his questionable comments — this time against fishermen.”

– “Did state enviro official say anything that outlandish?” by Michael Jonas, CommonWealth Magazine: State environmental affairs undersecretary David Ismay has made outrageously reckless claims, and is in serious hot water. At least if you read the Boston Herald. The paper has been pummeling Ismay — and his ultimate boss, Gov. Charlie Baker — ever since the conservative Mass. Fiscal Alliance shared a video last week of Ismay speaking to the Vermont Climate Council about Massachusetts efforts to reduce carbon emissions.”

Herald: “BLEW IT,” “SENIOR PROJECT,” Globe: “For small businesses, getting aid is just another struggle,” “Vaccine rules eased at big sites.”

– “Holyoke Public Schools Receiver Alberto Vazquez Matos on leave; recently told school committee he contracted COVID,” by Dennis Hohenberger, “The state-appointed leader of the city’s public school district is on leave, officials said Wednesday. The announcement came two days after Receiver Alberto Vazquez Matos told school committee members he recently contracted COVID-19.”

– “West Springfield council narrowly passes racism ‘crisis’ order,” by Michael Ballway, Springfield Republican: “By the slimmest margin, the Town Council this week endorsed Mayor William Reichelt’s executive order declaring racism an ‘emergency and public health crisis.’”

– “Northampton’s vaccination site flooded with calls, inoculating 1,200 people a week,” by Greta Jochem, Daily Hampshire Gazette: “So many people are calling up looking for information on the COVID-19 vaccine that the local health department has hired 10 people in the last week to answer the phones.”

– “Much of America’s seafood comes through this city. Here’s how it controlled COVID-19.” by Julia Sklar, National Geographic: “Whether you’re dining on poached halibut in Milwaukee or pan-seared scallops in Copenhagen, New Bedford almost certainly set the ‘market value’ on the menu. But nearby transportation hubs became the nation’s earliest viral epicenters, bottlenecking the supply chain.”

– “Students begin a socially distanced return to Newton high schools. ‘It’s just so good to be around people,’” by Angela Yang, Boston Globe: “The first cohort of Newton’s high schoolers returned to the school grounds Jan. 28 to find desks spaced 6 feet apart and one-way arrows guiding foot traffic through the hallways. After more than 10 months of logging into school from home, students who opted into the district’s new hybrid format can now engage in side conversations with peers during class or trade jokes with a teacher while sanitizing their desks.”

– “Baker dashes Cape hopes for mass vaccination site; local officials not giving up,” by Cynthia McCormick, Cape Cod Times: “As Gov. Charlie Baker Wednesday announced a new mass COVID-19 vaccination site in Dartmouth, Cape officials voiced their disappointment at the lack of a similar site in Barnstable County.”

– “Did New Bedford get redder in 2020? Support for Trump increased, according to new map,” by Anastasia E. Lennon, Standard-Times: “While most New Bedford precincts held a majority for then-candidate Joe Biden in the 2020 election, a recently published map by the New York Times shows support for Donald Trump grew in some city precincts compared to support in the 2016 election.”

– “UMass Medical School researchers are tracking COVID mutations in Worcester; Here’s what they’re finding,” by Tanner Stening, “With several cases of the highly infectious COVID-19 variant confirmed in Worcester, UMass Medical School researchers have doubled their efforts to track and trace the mutated infections in Central Massachusetts. Their method? Genomic sequencing.”

HAPPY BIRTHDAY – to Governor’s Councilor Terrence Kennedy, Olga Davidson and Cameron Merritt.

NEW EPISODE: UNCHARTERED TERRITORY – On this week’s Horse Race podcast, hosts Jennifer Smith and Stephanie Murray take a deep dive into Boston’s city charter and the upcoming mayoral race with Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards, Jon Hillman of Rivera Consulting and the Dorchester Reporter’s Bill Forry. Subscribe and listen on iTunes and Sound Cloud.

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