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Laura's Law in action: The new rules for hospital signage, borne from a Somerville woman's death

People walk near the entrance of Massachusetts General Hospital, pictured in 2018. (Bill Sikes/AP Photo)
People walk near the entrance of Massachusetts General Hospital, pictured in 2018. (Bill Sikes/AP Photo)

Editor's Note: This is an excerpt from WBUR's daily morning newsletter, WBUR Today. If you like what you read and want it in your inbox, sign up here

The sun is back, it’s Friday and the Celtics are headed to the second round of the playoffs for a classic rivalry matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers. That series tips off Monday at the TD Garden.

But first, the news:

Hospitals across Massachusetts will soon be required to make their entrances easier to find, thanks to a campaign by journalist Peter DeMarco after his wife, Laura Beth Levis, died from an asthma attack outside a locked hospital door in Somerville. And under new, first-in-the-nation regulations, patients should begin noticing the differences in the coming months.

  • DeMarco first wrote about his wife’s 2016 death in a viral Boston Globe piece titled “Losing Laura.” “Of all the mistakes that contributed to Laura’s death, perhaps most glaring was how the hospital lacked a simple, emergency-room sign above any door,” DeMarco later wrote for WBUR’s Cognoscenti section. With the help of his local legislators, DeMarco went on to push the passing of the new state law in 2021, which is now being implemented.
  • How it works: Hospitals have until the end of the year to comply with the new guidelines, according to a Department of Public Health memo this month:
  • All hospital doors must be well-lit.
  • ER entrances should have brighter lighting than other doors.
  • Hospitals must have directional signs outside leading to the ER at virtually every turn.
  • In total, DeMaraco told WBUR’s All Things Considered there are a dozen new regulations that “are going to make an incredible difference.” Listen to the full interview here.

Tunnel troubles: State officials expect normal Sumner Tunnel commuters will be split roughly 50-50 between the two major detours — the Ted Williams Tunnel and the Tobin Bridge — when the 88-year-old tunnel closes for nearly all of July and August this summer. But they’re hoping to entice drivers to pick a third option: yes, the MBTA. “We want to make sure that drivers get out of their cars,” Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver said yesterday, as he outlined plans to make the T — however slow it may be right now — more attractive than sitting in traffic. Here’s a list of things the state is doing:

  • Sending free monthly T passes for July and August to East Boston residents enrolled in the Sumner toll discount program, as well as certain Revere and Winthrop residents. (The T is also focusing on lifting most Blue Line slow zones before the closure starts.)
  • Allowing people to take the East Boston ferry for free.
  • Lowering fares at the Salem and Swampscott commuter rail stations from $8 each way to $2.40, and letting riders board by flashing their CharlieCards.
  • Offering reduced $2-a-day parking at the Blue Line’s Wonderland station, plus additional parking near the Wood Island station.
  • Reopening an I-90 ramp in the Seaport for Silver Line buses.

For your weekend planning purposes: There’s another downtown Red Line diversion on our hands. Train service between Kendall/MIT and JFK/UMass will be closed Saturday and Sunday so crews can work on the tracks. Replacement shuttles will hit most stops in between:

Save the date(s): Today is Boston City Councilor Kenzie Bok’s last day at City Hall before she steps down to run the Boston Housing Authority. This week, the Council passed a measure to schedule a special election to fill Bok’s District 8 seat through the end of the year. (Normal elections for all 13 Council seats will be held this fall.)

Meanwhile, we have a mayoral race in Medford: Mayor Breanna Lungo-Koehn announced she is running for a third term yesterday. But she has competition from longtime Medford City Councilor Rick Caraviello, who announced his own mayoral bid earlier this week.

P.S.— Do you know what costs could make the MBTA “insolvent” by 2038? Test your knowledge of the local stories we covered this week with our Boston News Quiz.


Nik DeCosta-Klipa Newsletter Editor
Nik DeCosta-Klipa is the newsletter editor for WBUR.



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