Regional News

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

Rollback: Baker Shrinks Capacity At Nearly All Businesses; Releases New Dining Rules

Dec 8, 2020

Gov. Charlie Baker declared Tuesday that Massachusetts will soon roll back a single step within the current phase of its economic reopening plans, as cases continue to spike across the state.

Springfield, Massachusetts, Schools Superintendent Daniel Warwick
File Photo / Masslive /

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.

The coronavirus pandemic has isolated a lot of us, but it’s also brought community institutions together in a new way. In New Hampshire’s North Country, a daily Zoom call has become essential for leaders managing the fallout of the pandemic.

When the coronavirus shut down just about everything in March, including schools, Gorham Superintendent David Backler got on a call with his counterpart in Berlin, and staff from the hospital and local health centers.

A text message invitation to bet on the location of next year’s first homicide in Hartford has resulted in a major shakeup within the city’s police department.

A health care worker places a cotton swab into a vile after taking a sample from someone being tested for COVID-19 last month at a drive-through testing area at Somerville Hospital.
Jesse Costa / WBUR

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker announced on Monday an expansion of free COVID-19 testing in the western part of the state.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker.
Suzanne Kreiter / Boston Globe Pool / State House News Service

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has before him two measures on how police are held accountable. One has been voted through the legislature, and awaits his signature. The other is of Baker's own creation.

Like many people who get COVID-19, Maddy Alvarez, a 35-year-old Revere resident, can’t be certain how the coronavirus got into her home. But once it did, it was uncontainable.

First, her husband Marco came down with it. He had muscle aches and a fever, but he had also experienced those symptoms just a few weeks prior. He tested negative then, so they didn’t worry too much or take any special precautions.

“It was funny because he thought he had it. He had all the symptoms, but he tested negative,” Alvarez says. “So, this time we weren’t that worried.”

Lamont To Leverage $55M In Federal Aid To Assist Poor Unemployed

Dec 7, 2020

Gov. Ned Lamont announced an expansion Friday of unemployment eligibility rules expected to channel more than $1,800 this winter to each of about 38,000 residents, most of whom lost low-paying jobs.

By spending $7.5 million from the state unemployment trust — which is already in debt — to slightly boost state benefits to those residents, Connecticut could leverage $55 million in additional federal benefits for its jobless.

For decades, millions of tons of trash have been put on a truck and shipped to the banks of the Connecticut River in Hartford.

There, inside an incinerator, trash from dozens of communities is burned and turned into power. But recent years brought problems to the plant, as age, mechanical failures and ever-changing energy market forces aligned to cause the plant’s operator to threaten permanent closure.

Massachusetts House, Senate Send Gov. Baker $46.2 Billion Budget

Dec 4, 2020
The Massachusetts Statehouse in Boston.
William Zhang / Creative Commons

The Massachusetts legislature sent its compromise $46.2 billion budget for the fiscal year that started five months ago to Gov. Charlie Baker's desk Friday afternoon, shifting attention to whether the governor might veto a policy section dealing with abortion access.

An inmate is tested for COVID-19 at the Hampden County Correctional Center in Ludlow, Massachusetts.
Mark Murray / Hampden County Sheriff's Office

Earlier this week, the sheriff of Hampden County announced that 10% of inmates in the department's Ludlow, Massachusetts, jail had tested positive for COVID-19.  But the sheriffs of the other three counties in western Massachusetts said they see no need to test all their inmates.

Massachusetts state Rep. Carlos Gonzalez, Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz and Sen. Will Brownsberger delivered their committee's compromise policing reform bill to Senate Clerk Michael Hurley on Nov. 30, 2020.
Sam Doran / SHNS

Looking back at news of the week, the Massachusetts House and Senate passed a long-awaited policing reform bill. The compromise legislation would, for the first time, create an independent, civilian-led commission to standardize the certification, training and decertification of police officers.

"Sandra" (2019, Acrylic on canvas) by Longmeadow High School senior Wynne Dromey is one of almost two dozen portraits in a new Springfield Museums show called "This is Us."
Wynne Dromey / D'Amour Museum of Fine Arts

The Springfield Museums has curated a regional portrait exhibit to coincide with the arrival of a prestigious Smithsonian show of American portraiture.

Downtown Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPM

The Pittsfield, Massachusetts, Board of Health has rescinded an earlier order to close indoor dining in the city.

Early in the pandemic, Xiomy De la Cruz was working at a fast-food restaurant when her work hours were cut back. She is a Peruvian refugee and a single mother with two children and another on the way. Like many families, she found herself in various pantry lines to make ends meet.

Black and Hispanic communities have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. A new study from Yale finds Hispanic and Black children are hospitalized for COVID-19 at even higher rates than adults.

Gamblers wear face masks at the MGM Springfield slot machines in July 2020.
Hoang 'Leon' Nguyen / The Republican /

MGM Springfield on Thursday gave some specifics on its workforce — which has been pared down during the pandemic.

The federal government could grant emergency use authorization to COVID-19 vaccines as soon as next week, potentially getting doses in the hands of Connecticut hospitals by mid-December.

While official statewide distribution plans are still being finalized, health providers do know enough about the upcoming vaccines in order to take some immediate steps in preparation, with little time to spare. 

Christopher Stetson, an infant and toddler teacher in Northampton, Mass., retired earlier than planned, after the school where he taught for 20 years shut down in mid-March.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPM

During the pandemic, a lot of people have lost work. In Massachusetts, more than 1.6 million residents have applied for unemployment since mid-March.

City Hall in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
Kenneth C. Zirkel / Creative Commons /

After several dozen people began camping in Pittsfield's Springside Park this summer, the city first relaxed its rules that prohibited people from being there after dusk. But last month the Park Commission set Tuesday as the day to start enforcing those rules.

In this file photo, Tapestry Health employees provide free COVID-19 testing in Springfield and Agawam, Massachusetts.
Douglas Hook / MassLive /

State legislators in western Massachusetts are turning up the pressure for more COVID-19 testing, but they don’t all necessarily agree on how that should be done.

Massachusetts Policing Bill Votes Shift Focus To Gov. Baker

Dec 2, 2020
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker.
State House News Service

Six months after George Floyd died under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, Massachusetts lawmakers on Tuesday night sent Gov. Charlie Baker a policing tactics reform and oversight bill, shifting the focus to the Republican governor whose views on qualified immunity and other thorny details of the legislation remain unclear.

Annye Anderson visits the site of her family home in Memphis, Tennessee, where she lived with Robert Johnson.
Preston Lauterbach / Used with permission

The first thing to know about Annye Anderson is unless you’re older than she is — and fat chance of that; she’s 94 — you better just call her Mrs. Anderson." class="wysiwyg-break drupal-content" src="/sites/all/modules/contrib/wysiwyg/plugins/break/images/spacer.gif" title="<--break-->">

“People say, ‘Don't you have a first name?’” Anderson said from the couch in her living room in Amherst, Massachusetts. “I say, ‘Yes, I do.’ And they wait for it. But I tell them, ‘Mrs. Anderson will do just fine.’”

Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse speaks at a press conference in the final days of his 2020 Democratic primary campaign for Congress.
Hoang 'Leon' Nguyen / The Republican /

Alex Morse, who first became mayor of Holyoke, Massachusetts, at the age of 22 in 2012, announced Tuesday he's stepping aside when his term expires in January, 2022.

As COVID-19 drags on and advocates continue to pressure state officials to release people from prisons and jails, the Board of Pardons and Paroles has a tool that, in the words of the U.S. Supreme Court, gives them “unfettered discretion” to commute a person’s sentence and shorten the length of time spent behind bars.

Massachusetts state Rep. Carlos Gonzalez, Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz and Sen. Will Brownsberger delivered their committee's compromise policing reform bill to Senate Clerk Michael Hurley on Nov. 30, 2020.
Sam Doran / SHNS

After contentious mid-summer debates followed by four months of closed-door negotiations, Massachusetts House and Senate Democrats reached a compromise Monday on a landmark police reform and racial justice bill.

Update: The most recent special master report from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court confirms the men’s deaths were not listed as COVID deaths that occurred while in custody. The report released Friday, which tracks cases and deaths due to the virus in correctional facilities through Dec. 2, lists 139 current active cases among DOC prisoners and 135 positive correction officers.

Employees tend to marijuana plants in a grow room at the INSA marijuana dispensary in Easthampton, Massachusetts, on July 18, 2019.
Don Treeger / The Republican /

Massachusetts marijuana regulators gave final approval Monday to the delivery of recreational cannabis within the state.

Springfield, Massachusetts, Schools Superintendent Dan Warwick.
Don Treeger / The Republican /

Springfield's public schools have seen a dip in enrollment following a trend across Massachusetts during the pandemic. And the city's schools superintendent warned this could affect funding for the district.

The Massachusetts Statehouse in Boston.
William Zhang / Creative Commons

Of all the deadlines Massachusetts legislative leaders have missed or postponed during the pandemic, the end of the session will not be one of them.