Regional News

News from the region from New England Public Radio, NPR, and other NPR stations.

This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses.
Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAM / CDC

Calling the spike "alarming and scary," Mayor Domenic Sarno said there were more then 250 new cases of COVID-19 in Springfield, Massachusetts, on Tuesday and Wednesday combined.

Kate Messner's novel "Chirp" is set on a cricket farm. Messner said she visited cricket farms in Vermont and Texas for research.

“Chirp” by Kate Messner is a story about friendship, the joys of summer — and how to make yourself heard if an adult acts in a way that makes you uncomfortable. 

The seven candidates for mayor of Holyoke, Massachusetts, meet for a debate on September 9, 2021.
Screen Shot / Holyoke Media

Holyoke, Massachusetts, will hold its preliminary election for mayor on Tuesday. Voters will have a crowded field of seven to choose from, with the top two finishers advancing to November’s general election.

Do You Need To Walk 10,000 Steps Per Day? 7,000 Is Perfectly Fine.

Sep 16, 2021
Lead author Amanda Paluch is an assistant professor of kinesiology at the UMass Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences.
Submitted / UMass Amherst

Research from UMass Amherst bolsters claims that fitness can be tied to the number of steps you walk per day. 

Connecticut is likely to have digital credentials for COVID-19 vaccines available by the end of the month. Officials said it would make it easy to scan and verify vaccination status.

Connecticut Losing Ground On Building Emissions Despite Efficiency Programs

Sep 16, 2021

Greenhouse gas emissions from heating and cooling buildings continue to rise in Connecticut despite the state’s efforts to improve energy efficiency.

An annual greenhouse gas inventory released last week for 2018 — the latest available data — showed vehicle exhaust remains the state’s largest problem, but the sharpest year-over-year increase came in the residential sector. Commercial building emissions were also higher.

In the big scheme of things, the Bobryk forest is pretty small potatoes. It’s about 300 acres of birch, hemlock and other hardwood trees, sandwiched between two larger state forests in western Massachusetts.

“It feels weird to say this forest isn’t special because that’s not what I mean,” says Laura Marx, a forest ecologist at The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts. Rather, says Marx, Bobryk forest is “a really cool example” of things gone right, and an illustration of exactly how preserving forests might help slow climate change.

An Afghanistan evacuee deplanes in Italy on August 22, 2021, assisted by U.S. military.
Sgt. William Chockey / U.S. Marine Corps

Refugee resettlement agencies are preparing for hundreds of evacuees from Afghanistan coming to western Massachusetts.

South Hadley High School in South Hadley, Massachusetts.
Courtesy / South Hadley Schools

Students at South Hadley High School begin the semester Thursday — online and two weeks late.

National Guard troops are used to being activated during times of natural disaster or civil unrest — but in Massachusetts, they're being called out to drive students to school.

The office of Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday that as many as 250 Guard members would be made available "to address staffing shortages in certain districts," according to a news release. It said that 90 would be training immediately for service in Chelsea, Lawrence, Lowell and Lynn.

Signs in Lee, Massachusetts, call for no PCB dumps in the area.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPM

A legal challenge against an agreement to dispose toxic waste in Lee, Massachusetts, has been dismissed. That's the ruling of Berkshire Superior Court judge Michael K. Callan.

At 9:30 in the morning on one of the hottest days in August, it was still cool at Maple Hill Cemetery in the town of Dorset. That is the time of day when Caitlin Abrams likes to come here. She wore rubber boots in the dewy grass that soon, a man would start to mow. She walked over to a marble stone, whiter than the rest.

It reads, “Joseph Porter Baldwin, son of Silas and Sarah Baldwin, who died April 26 1811, in the sixth year of his age. His death was occasioned by accidentally falling under the pitman of a sawmill, which instantly terminated his existence.”

Connecticut expects to welcome hundreds of Afghan refugees in the next couple of months as resettlement agencies and groups across the state are assigned families already on military bases.

But as advocates ramp up efforts to receive as many families as possible, they’re also calling on the U.S. State Department to focus on those who haven’t been able to leave the Taliban-controlled country despite their ties to the U.S.

Advocates say dozens of Afghan Americans from Connecticut are still stuck in Kabul with no way out.

Health leaders across Connecticut are warning state legislators about the dangers of dirty air. But the head of the state Senate said Monday the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) will not be on the agenda during a special session expected to occur within the next two weeks.

Massachusetts Bill Aims To Stomp Out Biomass Power Subsidies

Sep 14, 2021
Waste wood from a logging operation that's been chopped into "chips" for a biomass facility.
Annie Ropeik / NHPR

With regulations ready to take effect that effectively close about 90% of the state's land area to new wood-burning power generation facilities, Springfield-area lawmakers on Monday pushed for legislation that would more permanently eliminate state clean energy program subsidies for biomass anywhere in Massachusetts.

Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Kevin Gutting / Daily Hampshire Gazette /

Two western Massachusetts hospitals said they are experiencing staffing issues. This comes as they've seen a rise in COVID-19 cases in recent months.

Springfield, Massachusetts, Mayor Domenic Sarno with city and health officials.
Don Treeger / The Republican /

After canceling a statewide mask rule last spring, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has said he wants these decisions made locally. One such local mandate took effect Monday in Springfield. 

They shook hands with business owners in Roxbury, danced with a neighborhood group in Dorchester, and held get-out-the-vote rallies from Grove Hall to Chinatown.

It’s down to the final hours of campaigning for the five major candidates running for mayor of Boston, and over the weekend, acting Mayor Kim Janey, city councilors Michelle Wu, Andrea Campbell and Annissa Essaibi George, as well as the city’s former economic development chief John Barros, criss-crossed the city to try to win over undecided voters.

Unionized staff and supporters picket outside the Paulo Freire Social Justice Charter School in Chicopee, Massachusetts, on June 23, 2021.
Dusty Christensen / Daily Hamsphire Gazette

The Massachusetts Department of Labor Relations will hold a hearing early this week about a complaint lodged by employees of the Paulo Freire Social Justice Charter School in Chicopee.

In 2019, the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Massachusetts, attracted more than a million visitors.
Courtesy of the Big E

The board of health in West Springfield, Massachusetts, is set to vote on an indoor mask mandate this week. The head of the Big E fair, which takes place in the city and starts Friday, said he's in favor of it.

The entrance to the Franklin County Sheriff's Office in Greenfield, Massachusetts.
Jeff Brown / Masslive /

In Berkshire County, at least 13 incarcerated people have tested positive for COVID-19 since late last month.

Six staff members have also tested positive. About half of those who tested positive for COVID in Berkshire County correctional facilities are vaccinated, according to the sheriff's office.

Hampden County Sheriff Nick Cocchi in Springfield, Massachusetts, in a file photo.
Carrie Healy / NEPR

Despite what officials have called extensive mold cleanup and environmental testing at the Roderick Ireland Courthouse in Springfield, Massachusetts, Hampden County Sheriff Nick Cocchi this week said he believes the courthouse still isn't safe. He's refusing to send people in his department's custody there.

Author Crystal Maldonado.

"Fat Chance, Charlie Vega" is the first novel by Crystal Maldonado. It's a young adult rom-com about a smart high school girl named Charlie who struggles with her body image. She's long lived in the shadow of her beautiful best friend — that is, until Charlie gets the chance to be the star of her own love story.

Springfield, Massachusetts, Mayor Domenic Sarno announces a citywide indoor requirement for indoor public spaces, effective September 13, 2021.
Screen shot / City of Springfield Facebook video

Masks will be required next week inside all businesses and other public places in Springfield, Massachusetts. The rule affects people regardless of vaccination status as city and hospital leaders noted COVID-19 cases continue to rise to levels not seen in many months.

"Survivor Tree," a new book from Marcie Colleen and Aaron Becker, tells a story of the 9/11 attacks through the lens of a tree planted at ground zero.

"Survivor Tree" is a children's book written by Marcie Colleen and illustrator Aaron Becker of Amherst, Massachusetts. It tells the story of a growing pear tree found beneath the ruins of the Twin Towers. Today, the tree thrives and is planted at the 9/11 Memorial in New York. 

The flyer put together by Dan Trant's family and distributed around ground zero, formerly the World Trade Center, where Trant worked on September 11, 2001.

Dan Trant, a Westfield, Massachusetts, native recognized for his basketball playing in high school and college, died 20 years ago on 9/11. Trant was 40, married with children, and worked as a bond trader at Cantor Fitzgerald in the north tower of the World Trade Center.

In Connecticut, Pelosi Dismisses Mid-term Challenges

Sep 9, 2021

EAST HARTFORD — U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., insisted Wednesday she is not feeling the tidal pull of history — the trend of the president’s party losing House seats in mid-term elections.

“I think any assumptions about politics are obsolete. We live in a whole new world of communication and the rest,” Pelosi said. “And I think that all of our members who survived Trump being on the ballot with them will survive next year.”

Hotel, Retail Jobs At Risk Under Massachusetts Ballot Proposal, Warren Says

Sep 9, 2021
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren says a proposed Massachusetts ballot question concerning app-based drivers is "not just about Uber drivers," and could result in hotel, grocery and retail workers losing jobs or benefits.
Chris Lisinski / State House News Service

Joining a heated political fight that could decide pay and benefits for more than 200,000 gig economy workers, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Wednesday warned that a proposed Massachusetts ballot question would harm scores of workers beyond the app-based drivers at its center.

Springfield Catholic Bishop William Byrne speaks at a press conference announcing recommendations by a task force on clergy sexual abuse.
Adam Frenier / NEPM

A task force on Wednesday released recommendations for how the Springfield Catholic diocese can better handle — and prevent — instances of clergy sexual abuse.

The rollout of New York’s new cannabis policies has new life after the state Legislature confirmed appointments to oversee the regulatory process last week, but the state is still months away from issuing licenses to retailers, growers and processors.