Amid rising cases, districts roll back reopening plans

DOZENS OF SCHOOL DISTRICTS shifted to remote learning for at least two weeks after the holidays in an effort to keep the virus out of schools in the event students and parents traveled or engaged in large-person events during the break.

Brockton, which has an 11.85 percent community positive test rate, is delaying its return to in-person learning for almost 400 high needs students, which was set for mid-January, by at least two weeks. Pre-K and kindergarten students, which have been remote, would return February 8.

“I would like to recommend a two-week delay in that just so we can see where these numbers go for the holidays,” Superintendent Michael Thomas told the school committee Tuesday. “I am concerned about the number of staff members who have COVID since November 27.”   

Brockton’s hospitals are experiencing hospitalization numbers not seen since late-May.

Other schools that remained hybrid after the holidays are switching to remote learning due to rising in-school cases. Students at Bagnall Elementary School in Groveland, with the exception of those with special needs, will move to fully remote learning beginning Thursday and continuing through January 15. The school committee for the Pentucket Regional School District, which the school is part of, demanded an emergency meeting after learning Bagnall had seven COVID-19 cases in December, a number that has doubled in the past week.  

In Worcester, school officials unanimously decided Thursday to delay the start of in-person learning indefinitely, after a date of January 25 had been set to return special needs students in-person.

The city’s medical director, Dr. Michael Hirsh, called the 31 percent testing positivity rate at the city’s “stop the spread” center “quite daunting,” and said there was great risk of adults working in the community transmitting the virus to students.

Some districts have set a high bar for a return to in-person instruction. In Williamstown, the Mount Greylock School District announced it will remain in remote learning mode until Berkshire County’s positivity rate goes below 3 percent, along with three consecutive weeks of the area being designated as gray or green (low risk for COVID-19 spread) on the state’s dashboard.

The number of in-school positive cases continues to remain low, but is skewed by the holidays. Statewide figures for the last two weeks showed 431 staff and students testing positive, a drop from 949 for a similar period before Christmas, but this includes the period of winter break when fewer people were inside buildings.

SARAH BETANCOURT 

 

FROM COMMONWEALTH

 

President-elect Joe Biden selects Boston Mayor Marty Walsh as his labor secretary, putting City Councilor Kim Janey in line to be acting mayor and setting off a wide-open scramble for his replacement. City Councilors Michelle Wu and Andrea Campbell were already in the race. 

Mayflower Wind, with the help of a new offshore wind tax credit, is cutting its already low contracted price by 10 percent.

Gov. Charlie Baker calls for President Trump’s removal. In a Q&A, Boston University political historian Thomas Whalen traces the roots of the mob attack on the Capitol building. 

62 percent of Massachusetts cities and towns are now considered high-risk for COVID-19. Baker extends restriction on how many people can come into restaurants, retailers, churches, and businesses.

The Supreme Judicial Court is taking up a case on whether Turo’s car-sharing approach is the same as car renting.

Weekend commuter rail is ending on most, but not all, lines. 

Opinion: Former state senator Richard Moore says nursing homes face a very uncertain future.

 

FROM AROUND THE WEB

 

BEACON HILL

Republican state representatives from Central Massachusetts condemn the rioting at the US Capitol. (Telegram & Gazette)

Police were patrolling the halls of the State House on Thursday, though the State Police say there was no credible evidence of a threat in Massachusetts. (MassLive)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS  

Two years after announcing a review of allegations of sexual abuse against minors, the Diocese of Fall River on Thursday released a list of 75 clergy credibly or publicly accused, including two former Easton priests. (The Enterprise, Standard-Times)

The Eagle-Tribune looks back at Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera’s seven years in office. 

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Testing delays continue to hamper efforts to combat COVID-19 in the state. (Boston Globe)

More than 100 medical students in Worcester are being trained to give the COVID-19 vaccine. (Telegram & Gazette

Massachusetts relaxes nurse staffing ratios to help hospitals that reach capacity due to COVID-19 patients. (MassLive)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

A Capitol Police officer dies from injuries sustained during the mob attack on the Capitol building. (NPR) Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy says a 7-foot non-scalable fence is going up around the Capitol. (NPR) Facebook blocks Trump account indefinitely. “We believe the risks of allowing the president to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great,” posted Mark Zuckerberg. (Facebook)

A Globe editorial urges Congress to impeach Trump. Again. 

Rep. Seth Moulton tells The Salem News that the Capitol Police’s response to the violence was “pathetic” as they failed to protect the Capitol. Rep. Jim McGovern, who took the gavel to suspend the Electoral College count after Speaker Nancy Pelosi was led out, calls on Trump to be removed from office. (Telegram & Gazette) Rep. Richard Neals also calls for Trump’s removal. (MassLive) Cape Cod Republican politicians distance themselves from Trump. (Cape Cod Times)

Northeastern University law professor and GBH News legal analyst Daniel Medwed says Trump cabinet resignations make invoking the 25th Amendment less likely.

Massachusetts US Attorney Andrew Lelling says he will prosecute state residents who were involved in storming the US Capitol. (Boston Herald)

Officials from Joe Biden to Suffolk DA Rachael Rollins reacted to the disparate treatment of the mob that invaded the Capitol and Black Lives Matter protesters over the summer. (Boston Globe

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo is chosen by Biden to serve as commerce secretary. (Boston Globe

Pittsfield resident David Lester Ross is arrested during the Capitol protests on misdemeanor charges of unlawful entry and violating the city’s curfew. Richard Howell of Wilbraham, a Trump supporter who attended the protest, gives his account of what happened and says the waning support for Trump has “emboldened our people.” (MassLive)

Massachusetts native Lisa Monaco is picked as President-elect Joe Biden’s deputy attorney general. (MassLive)

TRANSPORTATION

State officials are pressing Harvard and the city of Boston to pony up more money to help pay for the planned remake of the Massachusetts Turnpike through Allston, where Harvard has big development plans. (Boston Globe)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

The Swampscott police are examining video footage and reviewing the arrest of a protester during dueling Black Lives Matter and pro-Trump protests last month. (The Salem News)

Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev sues the federal government over conditions at the Colorado prison where he is being held. (Associated Press)

PASSINGS

Neil Sheehan, the Holyoke-born New York Times reporter who obtained the Pentagon Papers that exposed the folly of the country’s long war in Vietnam, died at age 84. (New York Times)  Sheehan never gave an account of how he obtained the Pentagon Papers until 2015, and he only did so then on the condition that the story not appear until he died. (New York Times