BOSTON — Day 14 of the coronavirus state of emergency starts with a 10 a.m. update press conference from Gov. Charlie Baker followed by a closed press meeting of executive and legislative branch leaders in the Senate Reading Room. The House and Senate meet at 11 a.m. and are scheduled to pass a bill allowing cities and towns to postpone municipal elections.
Public health officials reported the state's first COVID-19 death Friday night, an elderly man from Winthrop, the hometown of Speaker Robert DeLeo. By Sunday, officials said five people had died from the respiratory illness, and data released Sunday showed that people in all age groups have contracted the infection.
Daily increases in infection numbers are accelerating, but so too, Gov. Charlie Baker said, is the state's testing to detect the spread of the coronavirus, and to enact countermeasures.
Shelter-in-Place Calls Continue: The list of state lawmakers and municipal officials calling for Gov. Charlie Baker to issue a shelter-in place order now numbers 55, according to Rep. Mike Connolly, a Cambridge Democrat who has been leading a push for the governor to mandate that Massachusetts residents stay at home except for trips out related to essential jobs, food, health care and medicine, caring for someone in need, or walks outside. Baker has repeatedly said he does not plan to issue such an order. Twenty-three state representatives, three senators, Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui, Boston City Councilors Michelle Wu and Ricardo Arroyo, and local officials from Cambridge, Somerville, Chelsea, Everett, Newton, Medford and Brookline have signed onto the latest version of Connolly's email to Baker. On Friday, the day the state reported its first death from the new coronavirus, Baker said his decision not to impose a stay-at-home order was based on guidance of public health and medical officials. "We have shut down enormous parts of our economy and our communities across the commonwealth, and I'm sure all of you have seen many of the same videos and had the same kind of conversations I have with people who expressed the fact that their once-thriving downtown is now a ghost town," Baker said. "We are very much in social distancing and shutdown mode here in Massachusetts based on what we've already done." -- Katie Lannan 9:14 AM
Fed Announces More Plans to Hold up Economy: The Federal Reserve on Monday morning announced it would address strains in the Treasury securities and agency mortgage-backed securities markets by purchasing such securities "in the amounts needed to support smooth market functioning and effective transmission of monetary policy to broader financial conditions." The 8 a.m. announcement followed overnight reports of disagreements within Congress on a coronavirus aid package. "While great uncertainty remains, it has become clear that our economy will face severe disruptions," the Federal Reserve said. "Aggressive efforts must be taken across the public and private sectors to limit the losses to jobs and incomes and to promote a swift recovery once the disruptions abate." The Fed previously announced it would purchase at least $500 billion of Treasury securities and $200 billion of mortgage-backed securities. Also Monday, the Federal Reserve said it expects to soon announce the establishment of a Main Street Business Lending Program to support small and medium-sized businesses. -- Michael P. Norton 9:06 AM
Teenage Republicans, Dems United in Ballot Access Ask: In a bipartisan appeal, Massachusetts High School Democrats and Massachusetts Teenage Republicans sent a joint letter to legislative leaders Sunday urging lawmakers to decrease the number of signatures required to appear on the ballot or extend the deadline to submit signatures because the signature-gathering process conflicts with public health advice about limiting the spread of the coronavirus. "As of right now, the signature collection process requires thousands of social interactions, and includes the exchange of pens, paper, and clipboards, each of which may be handled by hundreds or even thousands of individuals," the organizations wrote. "In addition to the personal safety of the members in our organization collecting signatures, those collecting signatures (or the signees) may be asymptomatic disease vectors, especially if they are younger like our members." Not only are candidates seeking enough signatures to appear on the ballot, but initiative petitions that the Legislature does not act on itself can go before voters in November after collecting an additional 13,000 signatures by July. "Given that the current pandemic will not likely be resolved by July, it is imperative that these measures be voted on to give the campaigns ample time to collect the necessary signatures, of which we recommend lowering the quantity," the teenagers wrote. On Twitter late Sunday, MassGOP Chairman Jim Lyons, a former legislator, said, "Young Democrats and young Republicans working together to solve a problem... I urge the legislature and Secretary of State to act on their concerns." -- Colin A. Young 9:05 AM
Update from the Emergency Department: Coming off the third of three shifts in the emergency department at Boston Medical Center, Rep. Jon Santiago on Monday morning said he is "feeling quite optimistic" about the progress being made against the coronavirus pandemic. Santiago, an ER doctor who has been posting first-hand accounts on social media, said the situation at one of New England's busiest hospitals is improving as doctors and nurses brace for even more COVID-19 patients. "Let me just say, I'm feeling pretty optimistic because when I compare this weekend's experience to last week, we made some significant strides," he said in a video posted to Twitter on Monday morning. "Last week it was tough. The work environment was difficult, protocols were changing, guidelines were changing -- how we test, how we admit patients, whether we admit them ... things were in flux." Santiago credited the city, hospital leadership and non-profits for helping impose consistent protocols including specific floors of BMC for COVID-19 patients and tents outside for testing. Santiago said the volume of patients in the emergency department is down -- a sign that people are staying home, consulting with their primary care physician and leaving the emergency services for those who are most in need. Despite that, he said that from about 11 p.m. Sunday to 1 a.m. Monday was "some of the busiest [time] I've had in the ED in a long time" due to "a couple of sick COVID patients who required breathing tubes" in addition to treating car crash injuries and a sick child. He said "things are getting a bit more smooth" and testing is increasing, which will "pay some significant dividends." The rep added, "I'm confident that we're moving in the right direction as we prepare for the peak." -- Colin A. Young 8:42 AM