Regional News

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

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

While the numbers of COVID-19 patients are creeping up, western Massachusetts hospitals have not yet had to limit elective care.

The Hampden County Hall of Justice.
File Photo / The Republican

The main courthouse in Springfield, Massachusetts, is closing temporarily so a mold problem can be dealt with. The state's court system made the announcement Wednesday.

Blumenthal, Murphy Break With Biden Over Afghanistan Deadline

Aug 25, 2021

Connecticut’s two Democratic senators broke with President Joe Biden on Tuesday over his refusal to extend the Aug. 31 deadline for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan while U.S. citizens and allies are in jeopardy.

Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy said troops must remain as long as it takes to extract Americans and Afghan allies from a nation in chaos since its fall to the Taliban.

“We make a commitment as a country to leave no one behind in a war zone,” Murphy said. “We need to make good on that commitment here.”

The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meets Tuesday with education commissioner Jeffrey Riley.
Screen shot / State of Massachusetts

Updated Aug. 24, 2021

The Massachusetts education commissioner has been granted authority from a state board to mandate masks in public schools. 

Higher Ed Racial Equity Plan To Launch In Massachusetts With Campus Surveys

Aug 23, 2021
Holyoke Community College.
Holyoke Community College / Creative Commons

Massachusetts higher education officials are working to develop a 10-year strategic plan setting racial equity goals and objectives, with a survey of students, faculty and staff across public colleges and universities coming this fall as an early step in the process.

Vaccine administration in a file photo.
Caitlin O'Neil-McKeown / U.S. Air Force

Last week, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed an executive order mandating COVID-19 vaccination for some 42,000 state employees. The order says they must be vaccinated by mid-October or face consequences, which could include losing their job.

As Tropical Storm Henri batters much of New England this weekend with damaging winds, heavy rainfall, storm surges and a large possibility of inland flooding, it may feel like one more item to add to the list of abnormal weather events we’ve seen this year.

Downtown Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPM

The latest U.S. census data shows the population is continuing to decline in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and in Berkshire County overall. But the decline is slowing — and diversity is increasing.

For months now, Maine's coastal towns have been packed with visitors — a welcome bounce-back for a hospitality industry that was reeling last year. But the return of tourists hasn't been all good for restaurant workers, who say they've had to deal with contentious customers, some challenging health protocols such as mask and vaccine mandates.

The pressures of the pandemic have stressed many workers, and has others thinking about leaving the industry altogether.

Despite Success In Other States, Hopes Dim For A Public Option In Connecticut

Aug 23, 2021

With just over two weeks left in the legislative session this year, Democrats who had been pushing a bill to create a public option health plan conceded that the effort would fail again. Opposition from the insurance industry and Gov. Ned Lamont had sunk the bill — the third consecutive year it died unceremoniously.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the track of Tropical Storm Henri has shifted towards the Catskills and the capital region. Those areas should expect several inches of rain that can cause floods.

Henri, now a hurricane, on the morning of Saturday, August 21, 2021.
NOAA/STARR 08/21/2021 12:11 UTC GOES-East / National Weather Service

Henri is now a hurricane. The National Hurricane Center issued an advisory late Saturday morning upgrading the tropical storm to a hurricane as it moves northward toward New England.

Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin gestures to a county-level map showing the 2020 census results.
Sam Doran / State House News Service

Western Massachusetts is lagging the rest of the state in population growth, according to the latest U.S. census numbers. In a visit to Springfield this week, Secretary of State Bill Galvin brought attention to the region's stagnant or declining population.

In Shift, Massachusetts Education Commissioner Seeks School Mask Mandate

Aug 20, 2021
Mass. Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley, who appeared at a Rockport school press conference in February 2021.
Nicolaus Czarnecki / Pool / The Boston Herald / State House News Service

The Massachusetts education commissioner is seeking authority to mandate that students ages 5 and up, staff and educators in public K-12 schools wear masks indoors through Oct. 1, a measure that will come before the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education for a vote Tuesday.

Connecticut’s transportation infrastructure would be significantly improved by the federal infrastructure bill negotiated by the Biden Administration.

Late on Monday night, two cars filled with luggage and seven tired travelers pulled up in front of the New Haven headquarters of Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services, or IRIS.

Dealers and gamblers wearing face masks at the MGM Springfield casino.
Hoang 'Leon' Nguyen / The Republican /

MGM Springfield continues to miss its hiring goal for women, and is now placing some blame for it on the pandemic. The question came up Thursday during a Massachusetts Gaming Commission meeting.

Gov. Baker Mandates Vaccination For Executive Branch Massachusetts Workers

Aug 19, 2021
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker in July 2021.
State House News Service

Updated 4:01 p.m.

About 42,000 Massachusetts state employees will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or have secured a medical or religious exemption by Oct. 17, or face the risk of consequences including losing their jobs, under an executive order Gov. Charlie Baker signed Thursday.

The writer Callum Angus received his MFA from UMass Amherst.
Submitted / Ebenezer Galluzzo

In "A Natural History of Transition," author Callum Angus writes a collection of short stories about transgender experiences through a magical realism lens.

Walking Trail Floated To Highlight Mandela’s 1990 Boston Visit

Aug 19, 2021
Festivities, including music and speeches for Nelson Mandela's first visit to Boston, Massachusetts following his release from jail in South Africa.  Event held at Boston's Hatch Shell along the Charles River on June 23, 1990.
Paul W. / Creative Commons /

The commission created in 2016 to look into ways to commemorate Nelson Mandela's 1990 visit to Boston has filed its interim report, indicating that it favors an approach similar to the popular Freedom Trail that would connect three locations Mandela visited in the city.

Massachusetts Secretary of State Bill Galvin (left) and Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno in Springfield walk to a press conference.
Adam Frenier / NEPM

Massachusetts Secretary of State Bill Galvin said action needs to be taken to grow the population of the western part of the state. He made his comments Wednesday during a visit to Springfield.

The University of Connecticut is joining colleges that are making it mandatory for staff and faculty to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 ahead of the fall semester.

The public university on Tuesday notified 9,800 full- and part-time employees, including those who work at UConn Health, that they have until Oct. 15 to show proof of vaccination or get approved for a medical, religious or personal belief exemption.

Audience members at the Springfield Indie Soul Festival in 2018.
Courtesy / Darryl Moss

Over the years, people have come to the annual Springfield Indie Soul Festival for more than just music. It's back this weekend at Riverfront Park, with room for a couple thousand music lovers alongside the musicians and vendors.

Gov. Lamont Continues COVID-19 Mask Mandate In Schools

Aug 18, 2021

With infections increasing, Gov. Ned Lamont said Tuesday he will continue a requirement that K-12 students wear masks in school to combat the spread of COVID-19 to a population that includes many children still ineligible for vaccinations.

“At this point, I don’t see that changing,” Lamont said at a morning event in New Haven. Hours later, he made it official, saying he wants no “ambiguity.”

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.

The Holyoke Soldiers' Home.
Mike Plaisance / The Republican /

A class action civil rights lawsuit has been filed in federal court in Springfield against five former administrators at the state-funded Holyoke Soldiers' Home.

Archaeologist Ann Morton discusses the Mohican archeological dig with volunteers Bradley Pitts and Rick Wilcox in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPM

The Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans wrapped up their second archeological dig in the Berkshires this summer with a discovery that could shift thinking about the tribe's history in the region.

'It Shocks the Conscience': Afghanistan Withdrawal Hits Home With Some Massachusetts Legislators

Aug 17, 2021
John Velis of Westfield in a file photo.
Don Treeger / The Republican /

Massachusetts State Rep. Steven Xiarhos visited his son's grave Monday to remind the late Marine of his heroism.

A federal judge on Monday sided with the University of Connecticut in a legal challenge against its coronavirus vaccine policy, upholding a requirement for students to get the shot or request an exemption before returning to campus.

Two students and the parent of an incoming freshman sued university trustees last month, arguing they failed to provide clear guidance around UConn’s coronavirus vaccination policy and applied it arbitrarily by excluding faculty and staff.

Massachusetts' Share Of Casino Revenues Hits Record In July

Aug 16, 2021
Casino gambling chips.
Jamie Adams / Creative Commons /

The two resort casinos and lone slots parlor in Massachusetts raked in $95.74 million in gaming revenue last month, generating a record $27 million in taxes and fees for the state in the process.