Coverage of Worcester County, Massachusetts.

An outdoor community refrigerator in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Jill Kaufman / NEPM

The pandemic reversed the last 10 years of progress toward ending hunger in the United States, according to Feeding America. Millions more people than before are experiencing food insecurity, and a relatively new movement of community refrigerators is helping out — a bit.

A PVTA bus.
Mark M. Murray / The Republican / Masslive

The Pioneer Valley Transit Authority has started new bus service between Amherst and Worcester in Massachusetts.

Worcester Public Schools welcomed back students Monday after what has been a long year and a half for parents of school children.

From remote learning and mask mandates, to a return to classrooms with some public safety precautions, the uncertainty of the pandemic weighed heavily on some families as the new school year began.

For Worcester parent Brandy Mehlhouse, the choices and challenges facing students and their guardians were at times overwhelming.

Ace Mejia, one of the influencers trying to help Worcester, Massachusetts, boost vaccination rates among the city's youth.
Michael Bonner / The Republican / Masslive.com

The city of Worcester is launching a program to use social influencers to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates among the city's youth.

Devantee Jones-Bernier was spending an afternoon at a friend’s apartment in Worcester when police banged on the door, looking for drugs. They found marijuana in the unit, where several people had gathered, but not on the 21-year-old college student. Police took his iPhone and $95 in cash.

The district attorney’s office charged him and seven others in May 2014 with drug offenses, but later dismissed them against Jones-Bernier and all but one person. Despite that, law enforcement officials held onto his money and phone.

St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts.

A nurses strike in Worcester shows no signs of ending. The union said the latest offer from St. Vincent Hospital doesn't go far enough.

Nurses talk to a patient at the COVID-19 mass vaccination site at Eastfield Mall in Springfield, Massachusetts, in January 2021.
Hoang 'Leon' Nguyen / The Republican / Masslive

The numbers remain low compared to earlier in the pandemic, but local public health officials are expressing concern about upticks in COVID-19 cases in two of New England's largest cities.

As of this show date, nurses at Saint Vincent Hospital have been on strike for 113 days - the second longest nurses strike in Massachusetts history. Of the 800 nurses registered there, 700 are bargaining for safer staffing to ensure safer patient care. The hospital has announced that they would begin hiring replacements.

Dara Kennedy and Maya Shwayder will talk with multiple sides including Marie Ritacco, a Saint Vincent registered nurse and Vice President of the Massachusetts Nurses Association. She explains the working conditions inside the hospital that led to the strike.

Saint Vincent Hospital CEO Carolyn Jackson gives us an update on the latest offer to the Massachusetts Nurses Association. 

Marlena Pellegrino is one of the Saint Vincent nurses on strike and is co-chair of the local bargaining unit for the Massachusetts Nurses Association. She explains how far apart the two sides are.

Finally, we'll hear from a non-striking worker who gives us a first account of what's happening inside the hospital during the strike.

Skyleigh D’Ambrosia, 17, loves learning about science. She’s taken pretty much every science class available at her high school in the western Massachusetts town of Athol.

“I want to be a doctor when I’m older,” she said. “So those are just kind of important classes.”

After years of anticipation, the professional baseball season is finally underway in Worcester. But the Opening Day crowd was limited because of the pandemic.

The Worcester Red Sox — nicknamed the WooSox — christened their new stadium Tuesday after the city lured the team from Pawtucket, R.I. with millions of dollars in aid building a new stadium.

However, the state is currently only allowing only sports teams to fill 25% of seats. Tuesday’s game drew 2,377 fans to Polar Park, the maximum permitted under restrictions designed to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Mark Twain called it the “magnificent Mississippi.” He said the river “will always have its own way; no engineering skill can persuade it to do otherwise.”

Garret Dunn is doing his best, anyways.

A PVTA bus in April 2019.

The Pioneer Valley Transit Authority wants to begin new bus service connecting Amherst, Massachusetts, to Worcester. It would stop in seven towns in between.

There’s a small business inside a big warehouse in an industrial area of Worcester.

Walk inside, and you’ll see scrawls in neon magic marker all over the walls — rants against cancer, against Donald Trump, against COVID.

And you’ll hear the sounds of pent-up pandemic frustration being let out.

This is a place where you go to break things. Where you’re supposed to bash and crush and pummel. It’s called Smash It 2.

Customer Danielle Blanchard has brought a bag full of stuff to smash to smithereens.

With New Mass. Police Reform Law In Place, Conversations Continue At Local Level

Mar 5, 2021
Springfield, Massachusetts, police and detectives at the scene of a shooting in 2017.
Patrick Johnson / creative commons / flickr.com/photos/paddyj1325

More than two months after Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker signed a police reform law inspired by nationwide and local protests over the police killing of George Floyd, conversations on many of the same issues contemplated in that sweeping legislation are happening on the municipal level.

St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Terageorge~commonswiki / Creative Commons

Nurses at St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester said they will head back to the negotiating table with hospital officials Monday night.

Voting Rights Lawsuit Targets Worcester School Committee

Feb 8, 2021
A school bus in Worcester, Massachusetts.
File photo / Masslive / Masslive.com

Several organizations representing Black and Hispanic residents of Worcester sued the city Monday over its at-large system for electing members to the School Committee.

When the first doses arrived in a small, insulated cube, Dr. Sheena Sharma felt a thrill of joy and terror. Packed inside were vials of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines: 700 chances to protect someone from the coronavirus, Sharma thought, and begin loosening the grip of the pandemic.

“I felt like this huge burden of responsibility,” she says, “like someone just gave this to you, and do not screw it up.”

An emerald ash borer.
Judy Gallagher / Creative Commons

The U.S. government has lifted a quarantine on an invasive insect, the emerald ash borer, that's killed many trees in Massachusetts and Connecticut. But critics of the change have been more vocal outside those states.

The lobby of the emergency homeless shelter in the old Ascension Church in Worcester — known as Hotel Grace — turned into a makeshift clinic Tuesday morning. Shelter guests sat behind temporary curtains, answered medical history questions and rolled up their sleeves to receive vaccines against the coronavirus.

Homeless shelters are among the congregate care settings where the vaccinations are being rolled out this week.

Steven Fontaine, 48, has been staying at Hotel Grace for two weeks and wanted to get the vaccine at his first chance.

Diocese of Worcester Bishop Robert McManus.
Diocese of Springfield

The Roman Catholic Diocese in Springfield, Massachusetts, recently said it will expand its public list of priests accused of abuse to include those implicated after their death. But some other dioceses in Massachusetts don't have lists posted on their websites at all.

A photograph of the exterior of City Hall, Worcester.
Claudia Snell / Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/claudiasnell/

A longtime newspaper reporter and columnist who covered the city of Worcester and its politics has said goodbye to his readers.

Springfield, Massachusetts, Schools Superintendent Daniel Warwick
File Photo / Masslive / masslive.com

The Springfield, Massachusetts, public schools are pushing back against a request from the Massachusetts department of education to bring some students back for in-person learning soon.

Paul Knowlton owns 300 acres of land in Grafton, and farms about 50. The farm has been in his family for five generation, ever since Knowlton’s great-great-grandfather settled in the Blackstone Valley in 1872.

These days Knowlton grows pumpkins, squash and corn. Up a gravel road, past the family cemetery, corn stalks are still standing from this year’s crop. “Considering the drought situation, we did fair,” Knowlton says.

Massachusetts Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, at left, and Republican challenger Tracy Lovvorn.
Robin Lubbock / WBUR // Daily Hampshire Gazette / gazettenet.com

In Massachusetts' 2nd Congressional District, there's a rematch on the ballot from two years ago.

Last time, incumbent Democrat Jim McGovern defeated Republican challenger Tracy Lovvorn by about a two-to-one margin.

Southborough, Massachusetts, author Jennifer De Leon.
Submitted Photo

The next selection in our Books For Young People series is "Don't Ask Me Where I'm From," a novel that is for and about high-schoolers. 

Diocese of Worcester Bishop Robert McManus.
Diocese of Springfield

Worcester Bishop Robert McManus will oversee the Springfield, Massachusetts, Roman Catholic Diocese until a new bishop is named.

Worcester City Hall in Worcester, Massachusetts.
File Photo / Masslive / masslive.com/photos

The city of Worcester says it’s received more than 25 complaints in the past several weeks about local businesses and their customers not following COVID-19 protocols. 

The Town House in North Brookfield, Massachusetts.
Doug Kerr / Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/7327243@N05

The town of North Brookfield, Massachusetts, has canceled a Fourth of July celebration after the local board of health and the governor raised concerns.

Late Worcester firefighter Christopher Roy with his daughter, Ava.
Courtesy of Roy Family / MassLive / masslive.com/photos

Massachusetts lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow the pension of a deceased firefighter to go to his young daughter.

Usually attracting tens of thousands of visitors, the Brimfield Antique Flea Markets in May 2020 were canceled because of COVID-19.
Hoang 'Leon' Nguyen / File photo / The Republican / MassLive.com/photos

Like so many events this spring in Massachusetts and around New England, the Brimfield Antique Flea Markets were canceled for May because of the pandemic. For the businesses that make the more than 50-year-old show come to life, it's a deep hit, and some dealers are salvaging what they can.