Baker takes heat on vaccine rollout

Gov. Charlie Baker gave an impassioned response on Wednesday to reporters’ questions about who should be prioritized to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

With the vaccine rollout moving ahead slowly and many in the general population eager for their chance to get the shots, Baker stressed the need to give inoculations to those who need them the most, even if they are people inside prisons convicted of crimes.

 “I really hope that early on we are able, with the vaccine that’s available, to hit the populations for whom life is most at risk and for whom the health care system relies on and depends on to provide care,” Baker said. 

One of the more contentious questions was why the state isn’t changing its COVID vaccine timetable to vaccinate anyone over 65, as some in Washington are recommending.  Baker said he would run that recommendation by his local experts once he receives formal guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guideline. Under current rules, people 75-plus will be targeted at the start of Phase 2 and those 65-plus toward the end of Phase 2.

Baker has focused on inoculating specific populations considered to be high risk, starting with health care workers, residents and staff of long-term care facilities, first responders, and so forth. He said some other states are taking a different approach, targeting high-risk groups but also handing out vaccines to others.

“People who are the same age as my kids have got vaccinated [in other states] before people who are home health workers or health care workers or long-term-care workers or long-term-care residents or people who have multiple co-morbidities and are over the age of 70. Honestly, I just don’t think that’s the way we should do this,” he said.

In Ludlow, a couple has spent months trying to figure out how to get a vaccine for their 97-year-old father and neighbor, Donald Scott, a World War II veteran. In a letter to the Springfield Republican, the couple said New York resident Martha Stewart “got her vaccination yesterday, as have many other people in other parts of the country.”

Despite his age, Scott wasn’t considered a priority because he isn’t living in a long-term care facility.

After the publication began reporting on the situation, the couple heard from the Springfield veterans administration’s office, which said older veterans will be scheduled to get vaccinations soon. On the other side of the state, a 97-year-old combat veteran was vaccinated Wednesday in Hyannis.

Meanwhile, complaints about the vaccine rollout and suggestions for how to improve it seem to be pouring in. Local health directors are blaming the state for lax communication in a last minute push to roll out the vaccine to first responders, while Delta Dental suggested dentist offices could be tapped as vaccination sites and Secretary of State Bill Galvin said it might make sense to dispense shots at polling locations.

Federal data indicate Massachusetts ranked 25th nationwide in vaccine distribution, with 3,155 doses given per 100,000 people.

SARAH BETANCOURT

 

FROM COMMONWEALTH

On Beacon Hill, House and Senate leaders pledge to pass the same climate change bill again if Gov. Charlie Baker vetoes the current one. It’s a common sense response to the current restrictions imposed by parliamentary procedures.

Baker is preparing to sign Laura’s Law, the name for legislation responding to the tragic death of Laura Beth Levis with measures to improve access to emergency rooms.

Prisoners will start being vaccinated next week, along with residents of homeless shelters, group homes, and other congregate settings.

A new report says Alex Morse did not violate UMass policies by having online chats with students but did make some students uncomfortable.

Opinion: Bradley Campbell of the Conservation Law Foundation and Elizabeth Turnbull Henry of the Environmental League of Massachusetts urge Baker to sign the climate change bill despite his misgivings with some of its elements.

FROM AROUND THE WEB

 

MUNICIPAL MATTERS  

Officials say Natick resident Sue Ianni, who organized 11 busloads of Trump supporters to Washington to contest the counting of electoral votes, cannot be removed as a Town Meeting member. The Select Board approved two statements condemning the violence at the Capitol, neither of which named Ianni. (MetroWest Daily News)

Thanks to approval from the Legislature in the closing hours of its last session, Boston will now have greater flexibility to extract affordable housing commitments from developers. (Boston Globe

An appointed Somerville official who boasted on social media about taking part in last week’s insurrection at the US Capitol is facing criticism from the city council and Mayor Joe Curtatone. (DigBoston) 

A Fall River store owner caught the attention of the FBI for his role at the storming of the US Capitol last week. (Herald News)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Coronavirus levels in Boston area wastewater have soared in recent days, pointing toward  rapidly expanding infections in the region. (Boston Herald

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

The House impeached President Trump for the second time, with 10 Republicans joining all Democrats in the 232-197 vote on the single article charging “incitement of insurrection,” making him the only president in US history to meet that ignoble fate. (Boston Globe) House Rules Committee chair Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, shepherding the House’s impeachment process, lashes out at Republicans for not doing more to call out Trump’s lies. (Telegram & Gazette) The impeachment vote, with troops guarding the Capitol in a scene not witnessed since the Civil War, “felt like the preordained coda of a presidency that repeatedly pressed all limits and frayed the bonds of the body politic, writes New York Times White House reporter Peter Baker. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he will consider voting to convict Trump in a Senate trial, a remarkable break from years of fealty to the president, but won’t rush the chamber back to start such an undertaking. (Washington Post

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley’s husband, Conan Harris, tests positive for COVID-19 after being with her during the US Capitol siege. Pressley, who is in isolation, tests negative. (GBH)

As Washington prepares for Joe Biden’s inaugural, the city is taking on the appearance of an armed encampment with roughly 20,000 members of the National Guard on duty. (NPR) Gov. Charlie Baker said Massachusetts has been asked to provide 200 from the Guard. (WBUR)

Housing advocates across the country urge Biden to extend the federal eviction ban. (Associated Press)

ELECTIONS

Boston city councilors appear divided over the idea of suspending a city charter provision that could call for a special election for mayor this summer and instead having a new mayor elected during the regularly scheduled city election this fall. (Boston Herald)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Under a newly signed law, craft brewers will get more flexibility to leave their contracts with distributors. (The Salem News) The Boston Business Journal looks at the decade-long fight to reform beer distribution laws. 

Boston’s planning agency is rolling out a new set of rules to ensure residents who don’t speak English well or at all can participate in public meetings about proposed developments after long time criticisms. (GBH)

EDUCATION

South Coast substitute teachers fill key roles during the pandemic. (Standard-Times)

TRANSPORTATION

MassDOT is considering three options for an east-west rail line connecting Pittsfield to Boston, which range in price from $2.4 to $4.6 billion. (Telegram & Gazette)

Quincy city councilors say they’re willing to fork over half the cost of running a ferry service to Long Island if it means Boston city officials drop plans to rebuild a controversial bridge in the harbor. (Patriot Ledger)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Merrimack River advocates say a new law requiring notification of sewage discharges is a first step toward ending those discharges. (Eagle-Tribune)

IMMIGRATION

A coalition of public defenders, including some in Massachusetts, is calling on the incoming Biden administration to adopt a 10-point immigration policy plan to reverse many of Trump’s stringent immigration moves. (State House News Service)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

The State Ethics Commission fines a Hubbardston police officer who also ran a construction business for submitting fake bids in order to drive municipal contracts to his company. (Telegram & Gazette)

Springfield’s police commissioner and union head tell the Springfield Republican and MassLive in an editorial board meeting that if the state mandates additional training through the new police reform law, the state also needs to give police departments money to pay for it. 

A Springfield police officer is charged with assault after using a stun gun unnecessarily on a pregnant woman. (MassLive)

PASSINGS

Dennis Thresher, a 90-year-old veteran living at Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, survived a bout of COVID-19 only to succumb to pneumonia. His daughter, Cheryl Turgeon, has been a vocal advocate for the home’s veterans through the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home Coalition. (MassLive)

Norton Police Det. Sgt. Stephen Desfosses, a 30-year veteran of the department, dies of COVID-19. (MassLive)