The good news, if you can call it that, is that using models based on what happened in Wuhan, China, Gov. Charlie Baker said the state’s current fatality rate of 1.5% is on track to remain lower than some other states and parts of the world.
After the weekend, Massachusetts will enter its fifth straight week under a state of emergency declared due to the coronavirus outbreak and will begin a harrowing period of time during which official models predict the long-awaited surge in cases could begin to hit hospitals.
Eyes will again be on the state Legislature, which has been working — albeit mostly through back-channels and not at a rapid pace — to soften the economic blow and to direct additional resources to the front lines of the fight.
The House and Senate agreed Thursday on a bill that would give municipalities more leeway to postpone deadlines and would allow restaurants to sell beer and wine with to-go orders, but they still need to find consensus on final proposals pausing evictions and foreclosures, relaxing MCAS requirements in the COVID-19 era and expanding access to unemployment benefits.
Here comes the surge
A day after visiting the DCU Center in Worcester as it was being set up as a field hospital to accept COVID-19 patients, Gov. Charlie Baker was back at the State House on Thursday and finally ready to share his public health team’s best estimates for when the virus will peak in Massachusetts.
Baker said the surge was now projected to arrive between April 10 and April 20, and as many as 172,000 people could ultimately become infected. Of course, that was the high end of what turned out to be an extremely broad range that could be as low as 47,000 infections if social distancing goes well over the next few weeks.
That was the bad news.
The good news, if you can call it that, is that using models based on what happened in Wuhan, China, Baker said that the state’s current fatality rate of 1.5% is on track to remain lower than some other states and parts of the world, in part because of lower population density and smoking rates and earlier action to keep people home.
“We know all models are not perfect, but obviously you need to plan for the worst and at the end of the day hope you do not need to go that far,” the governor said.
Kraft is that mask man
On a more uplifting note, The Wall Street Journal on Thursday morning detailed the who, what and when of a complex, back-channel humanitarian mission that involved the governor, Robert Kraft, the Boeing 767 that doubles as the New England Patriots’ team plane, and a tight three-hour window on a tarmac in China to bring over a million medical masks back to Boston.
The successful delivery of personal protective equipment came after an order of 3 million masks from BJs got confiscated in the port of New York. Instead of trying traditional channels again, Baker found a partner in the Krafts to help transport masks directly from China, getting help from the Chinese embassy, the State Department and the governor of Alaska along the way.
The Patriots were back in the picture a day later when it was announced that Gillette Stadium would become the site of a drive-thru testing center for first responders — another positive story for the team that didn’t involve Tom Brady moving into Derek Jeter’s Tampa manse.
Business moves online
Baker has for weeks been in a pattern of holding near-daily press briefings to outline the state’s latest steps.
Few public events are scheduled for the week — after all, non-essential businesses remain closed — but several public bodies will conduct business online to meet their duties while preventing transmission risks, and additional legislative sessions are planned.
Lawmakers and the Baker administration will meet Tuesday for a hearing on the state’s revenue outlook, which projections have indicated is grim with tax revenues set to plummet.
Spilka gets technical
As for House and Senate leadership, Speaker Robert DeLeo and President Karen Spilka are taking advantage of virtual meeting programs and opportunities to work from home.
Spilka, D-Ashland, has perfected her use of meeting programs like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, a spokesman said. These days she is working from home, and her staff says she’s spending about 14-16 hours per day on conference calls. She was last in the State House for a leadership meeting on March 23, the spokesman said.
DeLeo’s schedule for the past two weeks has been a combination of working remotely from home and utilizing his office at the State House, a spokeswoman said.
Kennedy widens funding lead
Despite suspending traditional campaign activities earlier this month, U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III raised $1.95 million in the first quarter for his Senate campaign, again topping incumbent U.S. Sen. Ed Markey who reported raising $1.2 million toward his re-election effort.
Kennedy starts the second quarter of the 2020 election year with $6.2 million in cash on hand, according to a memo from his campaign manager Nick Clemons, who said the campaign will soon begin to think about how restart fundraising efforts.
Markey’s campaign manager, John Walsh, said the senator will begin the second quarter trailing Kennedy in available funds by close to $2 million, with $4.4 million in the bank.
Markey, however, scored a win when the Democratic Party decided to cancel its May 30 nominating convention in Lowell, with the blessing of both Markey and Kennedy’s campaigns.
As part of that decision, Kennedy conceded the party endorsement to Markey, who all agreed was likely to prevail based on the delegates elected so far.
They said it…
“The last thing that I want to see anyone in the Milford Public Schools doing in the midst of a pandemic … is to sit and try to track down 200 Chromebooks, the way I don’t want to see people tracking down 200 pencils or 200 textbooks.” — Milford School Committeewoman Jennifer Parson, reacting to Board of Selectmen Chairman William Buckley’s comments the previous week hinting at criminal activity being possible after it was learned that 253 Chromebooks were unaccounted for after an audit was conducted.
“Every day, I spend my waking hours on trying to look at ways to learn more about this virus and combat this virus in order to keep Framingham safe. As I talk to town managers and mayors across the commonwealth and across this nation, there is no playbook for this coronavirus.” — Framingham Mayor Yvonne Spicer, in a report she presented to the City Council this past week.
Contributors to the Political Notebook this week include multimedia journalists Alison Bosma and Jeannette Hinkle, and the State House News Service.