CommonWealth’s 10 most-read news stories of 2021

At-home COVID tests and Lt. Gov. Polito’s beach house top list

AS COVID-19 continued to dominate society in 2021, a story about the virus also topped CommonWealth’s most-read stories of the year.

In early September, as the Delta variant was causing COVID cases to rise, companies were struggling to manufacture enough at-home rapid tests to meet the demand. CommonWealth’s most-read story in 2021 looked at the difficulty pharmacies were having keeping rapid COVID tests in stock. The story also raised questions – still relevant today – about the accuracy of state case counts, since people testing positive at home would not necessarily report the result to public health authorities.

COVID was also a theme in several other top-read stories, including one about seven state representatives failing to comply with the House of Representatives’ COVID vaccine mandate and another about Gov. Charlie Baker’s announcement of the state’s target date of August 1 for full economic reopening.

Indirectly, COVID contributed to the decisions of eight Massachusetts mayors not to run for reelection. The death of autistic teenager David Almond raised questions about how COVID impacted the Department of Children and Families’ ability to care for vulnerable children.

In descending order, here are the top ten most-read stories on CommonWealth’s website this year.

  1. Unpaid $3,056 tax bill may cost Oxford man his $254,000 home

By Shira Schoenberg, October 17, 2021

The case of elderly Oxford resident John Smith spotlights the questionable fairness of a state law that allows municipalities to seize a property – and take its full value – for nonpayment of taxes. A legal challenge raised concerns about whether homeowners are adequately notified when this happens. 

  1. Death of Fall River boy puts DCF in spotlight again

By Shira Schoenberg, November 18, 2020

David Almond, a 14-year-old autistic boy, dies allegedly due to abuse and neglect by his father and father’s girlfriend. The Department of Children and Families was overseeing David’s care and he was enrolled in Fall River public schools, leading to questions about potential pandemic-related gaps in the state systems tasked with protecting children.

  1. Rollins received severance agreement from Massport

By Colman Herman, contributing writer, August 1, 2021

Rachael Rollins, who has since been confirmed as US Attorney for Massachusetts, left Massport with a $175,000 severance agreement plus a $45,000 educational benefit.

  1. Nearly a fifth of state’s mayors are stepping down

By Bruce Mohl, March 18, 2021

Eight Massachusetts mayors announced plans to step down this year, whether to take new jobs or simply not to run for reelection. Many cited the challenges of managing the COVID pandemic as a key factor in their decision to leave office.

  1. Massachusetts will fully reopen on August 1

By Shira Schoenberg, April 27, 2021

Gov. Baker announces that Massachusetts will lift its outdoor mask mandate within days and the state will plan to fully reopen, with almost no remaining restrictions on businesses, on August 1.

  1. Convicted murder Raymond Gaines freed after 46 years amid new evidence

By Shira Schoenberg, April 28, 2021

A Suffolk Superior Court judge ordered Gaines’s release after new evidence raised questions about his guilt, and about potential misconduct by the Boston police who investigated the case.  

  1. Seven reps not complying with House vaccine mandate

By Shira Schoenberg, November 3, 2021

There were seven state representatives who had not yet provided proof of vaccination or requested a religious or medical exemption from the vaccine mandate imposed by the House of the Representatives, as the mandate went into effect for those who chose to work at the State House. 

  1. Harsh judgement from some parents for Probate Judge

By Shira Schoenberg, May 9, 2021

A legislative petition seeks to remove Essex Probate and Family Court Judge Abbe Ross from the bench, in response to complaints of bias by a number of unhappy litigants.

  1. Lt. Gov. Polito buys $1.8m beach house

By Shira Schoenberg, March 19, 2021

Polito and her husband Stephen Rodolakis joined the trend of those buying second homes during the pandemic. The couple paid $1.795 million for a 4,800-square-foot house located not far from the water on Ricketson’s Point in Dartmouth.

  1.     At-home COVID tests surging in popularity
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.

By Shira Schoenberg, September 6, 2021

As COVID-19 rates rose again amid a surge in Delta variant cases, people flocked to buy at-home, rapid COVID tests. The high demand nationwide created a shortage of tests, and their availability posed new questions about the accuracy of state COVID case counts.