Virus notes: 22 mayors back vote-by-mail

ACLU challenges DOC testing reports to SJC

TWENTY-TWO MASSACHUSETTS MAYORS signed onto a letter urging lawmakers to adopt some form of vote-by-mail system for the fall elections.

“Our constituents deserve the opportunity to exercise their right to vote without risk of exposure to a deadly virus,” the mayors wrote to House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Karen Spilka.

Secretary of the Commonwealth Bill Galvin has come out in favor of expanding early voting by mail this year, and several legislative proposals are being considered. None of the proposals would completely eliminate in-person voting.

In the letter, circulated by Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller, the mayors do not specify the details of what vote by mail would look like, but they say some form of vote by mail should be available for both the Sept. 1 primary and the Nov. 3 general election.

They write that several states have adopted vote by mail programs, such as Colorado, Utah, Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii. “In recent years with many safeguards available, vote by mail has become the gold standard for voter access and participation,” the mayors wrote.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is not among the signers. The 22 mayors who signed the letter come from all regions of the state, including Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken, Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty, Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera, New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell, Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer, and others.

DOC testing reports to high court under fire

The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and a group representing the state’s public defenders on Wednesday filed a motion of contempt against the Department of Correction, alleging the agency is failing to comply with an earlier decision by the Supreme Judicial Court requiring the release of accurate information on the number of COVID-19 tests and outcomes.

The April 3 SJC decision focused mostly on the release of inmates awaiting trials to ease overcrowding and the potential for a COVID-19 outbreak. According to the latest report from the SJC’s special master on the case, more than 630 prisoners have been released.

The SJC decision also required the agency and each county sheriff to provide daily reports on COVID-19 tests and results. “According to our new filing, the DOC’s reports have been neither daily nor sufficient,” said Kate Lagreca, a spokeswoman for the ACLU.

The ACLU filing said the agency has often failed to break down data by facility, which, “during a growing pandemic, puts incarcerated people, prison staff, and the surrounding communities at greater risk from an outbreak.”

The Department of Correction announced on Wednesday that two more prisoners had died of COVID-19 at its facilities, bringing the total to seven.

The two men, both in their 70s, died while receiving treatment at hospitals outside of their respective prisons, Massachusetts Treatment Center in Bridgewater and MCI-Shirley.

As of Wednesday morning, 296 of the 8,000 inmates at the state prison system had been tested for COVID-19 and 127 had tested positive.

Statewide, 2,182 people have died from COVID-19 and 42,944 have tested positive.

Association: Limited data confirms COVID-19 racial inequities

Even though racial data on 56 percent of the state’s COVID-19 cases is unknown, the Massachusetts Public Health Association said on Wednesday that it has enough data to say with a high degree of confidence that black and Latinx residents in Massachusetts are far more likely than whites to suffer from COVID-19 infections.

Meet the Author

Shira Schoenberg

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

Meet the Author

Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

The association, a nonprofit organization advocating for the elimination of racial inequities in health care, said Latinx residents are three times more likely to suffer a COVID-19 infection than white residents and black residents 2.5 times more likely. Interestingly, the association said Asian residents have fewer COVID-19 infections than white residents.

“Although a considerable number of reported cases are missing race/ethnicity, the differences between the per capita rates for cases in which race/ethnicity is recorded reveal serious inequities that are likely to persist as additional data is collected,” the association said.