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COVID Updates In Mass.

Families Of Prisoners Hospitalized With COVID Often Cannot Get Critical Details

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MCI-Norfolk. (Michael Norton/SHNS)
MCI-Norfolk. (Michael Norton/SHNS)

Last month, Carmen Berry heard her 57-year-old son, Nelson Rodriquez, was taken from MCI-Norfolk, where he's been incarcerated, and hospitalized with COVID-19. Another prisoner called to tell the family.

"He has health issues, so we were really worried," Berry explains. "My heart fell to my stomach."

When she called the Massachusetts Department of Correction to find out more, Berry says she was told the DOC could not provide protected health information about a prisoner.

"I wasn't asking for a diagnosis or a prognosis, I just wanted to know where he was," Berry says.

Berry says DOC staff told her that for security reasons they couldn't reveal to her, or her son's health care proxy, where her son was. She says she was also told that no one really knew.

"I said, 'If you are the superintendent, or you're the DOC, and you don't know where he is, we're in trouble,' " Berry recalls. "I just felt so powerless."

Gillette Stadium Is Usually Busy In January. This Year, It's Because Of Vaccines

Buttons and wrist bands were handed out to vaccine recipients at the Gillette Stadium Covid-19 Vaccination Site. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Buttons and wrist bands were handed out to vaccine recipients at the Gillette Stadium Covid-19 Vaccination Site. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots, is the latest U.S. sports venue to become a mass vaccination site during the coronavirus pandemic. On Friday, about 100 police officers, firefighters and EMTs received their first dose of the Moderna vaccine in a clubhouse overlooking the nearly 66,000 seat stadium.

“It's surreal,” said Foxborough police officer Brendan Fayles, “but we got to do it, there’s no choice in the matter.”

Organizers plan to vaccinate 5,000 people a day as priority groups expand, and will eventually offer injections around the clock.

“It’s what is going to get us out of this,” said Vinay Gidwaney, who oversees technology at Gillette for CIC Health, a Cambridge-based firm hired to run this site. "The light at the end of the tunnel."

Mass. Unemployment Claims Climb To Nearly 36,000, U.S. Claims Jump To 965,000

A sign advertising job openings at a JOANN fabric and craft store is displayed near the entrance, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, in Orlando, Fla.  (John Raoux/AP)
A sign advertising job openings at a JOANN fabric and craft store is displayed near the entrance, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. (John Raoux/AP)

Close to 36,000 Massachusetts residents filed for first-time unemployment last week, an increase of nearly 5,200 from the week prior, according to the latest federal data.

That includes traditional unemployment and claims filed under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for so-called gig workers and the self-employed.

Nationally, the number of people seeking unemployment aid soared last week to 965,000, the most since late August and evidence that the resurgent virus has caused a spike in layoffs.

First Responder Vaccine Clinics Provide Glimpse Of Mass. Plan To Vaccinate Larger Public

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A first responder from Needham Fire Department receives the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at Rosemary Recreational Center in Needham. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
A first responder from Needham Fire Department receives the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at Rosemary Recreational Center in Needham. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Massachusetts offers a first glimpse of community-wide coronavirus vaccination Monday as clinics for first responders open in schools, churches, parking garages, recreation centers and the Topsfield fairgrounds. The Moderna vaccine will also be available to many police officers, firefighters and EMTs inside their stations, local health departments or at nearby hospitals.

“We want to make it as easy as possible and as accessible as possible,” said Sigalle Reiss, president of the Massachusetts Health Officers Association. “We know the more accessible and easier it is, the more likely people will do it, and we want to get as many people vaccinated as possible.”

Legislature Agrees To $626 Million Economic Development Bill

The Massachusetts State House. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
The Massachusetts State House. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

With many businesses on the brink after months of scraping by through the pandemic, the Legislature struck a late-night deal Wednesday to inject hundreds of millions of dollars into the economy in an effort to spur job growth and keep businesses afloat.

The $626.5 million economic development bill came together in the closing hours of the two-year legislative session after more than five months of private negotiations between House and Senate leaders.

While the compromise bill scrapped a House-backed plan to have Massachusetts join other New England states in legalizing sports betting, it did include a version of Gov. Charlie Baker's long-stalled housing production proposal to lower the threshold for local boards to approve zoning bylaw changes to a simple majority.

Fauci: U.S. Could Soon Give 1 Million Vaccinations A Day

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, prepares to receive his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.(Patrick Semansky/AP)
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, prepares to receive his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.(Patrick Semansky/AP)

The U.S. could soon be giving at least a million COVID-19 vaccinations a day despite the sluggish start, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday, even as he warned of a dangerous next few weeks as the coronavirus surges.

The slow pace is frustrating health officials and a desperate public alike, with only about a third of the first supplies shipped to states used as of Tuesday morning, just over three weeks into the vaccination campaign.

“Any time you start a big program, there’s always glitches. I think the glitches have been worked out,” the nation's top infectious disease expert told The Associated Press.

High School Seniors Will Not Have To Take MCAS To Graduate, Under Proposal

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in Malden. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in Malden. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

High school seniors will not need to pass English and math MCAS exams to graduate this year, under a proposal by the state education commissioner.

In a memo to superintendents, state education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley wrote about the importance of the standardized tests in assessing learning loss during the pandemic, but acknowledged that some districts want flexibility.

Most years, the state requires students earn a passing score on the math and English portions of the MCAS in order to graduate. Typically, those tests are taken in 10th grade. Any student whose scores are too low can retake the tests or complete an alternative educational proficiency plan to graduate.

If approved by the board later this month, roughly 5,000 seniors across the state who had hoped to retake the MCAS tests next week would be able to pass "an approved course and demonstrate competency in that subject" to meet the graduation requirement.

Life In The Time Of Coronavirus