What makes a COVID-19 hotspot?

It’s no secret that the coronavirus is not evenly spread across Massachusetts. New statistics released Wednesday confirmed that Chelsea remains a hotspot of the virus, with the most cases per capita. Brockton was next, followed by Everett, Lynn, Randolph, Lawrence and Revere, according to CommonWealth’s analysis of state statistics.

Earlier this month, the Boston Globe published a piece that looked at Chelsea and argued that its Latino immigrant population – many of whom lack legal status – are uniquely vulnerable because they lack access to health care and public supports. Many people in Chelsea live in overcrowded conditions. Many low-income individuals hold jobs where they are unable to work from home.

Many of the other communities emerging as hotspots are also dense, urban, and low-income neighborhoods.

A story in the Boston Globe Wednesday adds another interesting commonality: All six of the hardest hit Massachusetts communities are also communities with environmental problems – namely, high rates of asthma and environmental-related respiratory diseases.

The story focuses on a nationwide study by researchers at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, which found that people who live in areas with high levels of air pollution are more likely to die of COVID-19 than people who live in less polluted areas. The study found that even controlling for other factors – socioeconomics, weather, population size, and others – increased exposure to air pollution was correlated with a higher death rate from COVID-19. The findings were not shocking since air pollution is already known to lead to higher risks of death from other respiratory ailments.

The Globe story notes that there is no evidence that air pollution affects who gets infected in the first place. But experts say the environmental facet is simply another factor to add to the myriad reasons why certain communities are more vulnerable – others include overcrowded housing, reliance on public transit, and people working in essential jobs, like delivery services or grocery stores.

Many of these hard-hit areas are also communities of color, which is why advocates for minority groups are increasingly calling for a focus on the disparate impact of the disease. A task force on coronavirus and equity, coordinated by the Massachusetts Public Health Association, has called for a range of actions, including passing emergency paid sick time for workers who are ineligible under other laws, providing safe quarantine spaces for homeless people, and ensuring all immigrants, regardless of legal status, have access to testing and treatment.

The Massachusetts House passed a bill that would create a diversity task force to look at disparities in the health care system related to the COVID-19 pandemic and make policy recommendations. The Senate has not passed the bill, although Senate President Karen Spilka said she is continuing to work on the issue of addressing the disparate impacts COVID-19 is having on communities of color.

As state Rep. Jon Santiago, a Boston Democrat and physician who works in the emergency room at Boston Medical Center, told Boston.com, “So much of a person’s health, even pre-COVID-19, is related to the zip code they live in… All COVID-19 has really done is expose that to the person who maybe wasn’t paying attention before.”



It’s getting messy in the House, with Republicans accusing the Dems of using a rules debate to seize even more power and Dems accusing the Republicans of putting the state in jeopardy with their delays. (CommonWealth)

Carol Mici, the commissioner of the Department of Correction, testifies in court that she sees no need to release prisoners convicted of serious crimes to deal with COVID-19 inside the state’s 16 facilities. (CommonWealth)

The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s financial woes continue to mount with $2.3 million in legal fees tacked on to a settlement that cost the agency nearly $21 million. (CommonWealth)

Rep. Smitty Pignatelli of Lenox pushes legislation to support the arts sector in Massachusetts. (CommonWealth)


Plymouth County landed $90 million in federal coronavirus aid, nearly nine times the largely defunct government entity’s annual budget. (Boston Globe)

The Adams Square Baptist Church in Worcester, which defied state orders to hold a 56-person worship service on Sunday, held another service Wednesday but capped attendance at 10 people, complying with Gov. Charlie Baker’s ban on large gatherings. (Telegram & Gazette)

With her first 100 days in office coinciding with the COVID-19 crisis, Boston City Councilor Julia Mejia perseveres in the interest of most vulnerable, disconnected populations (DigBoston)


Massachusetts continues on the coronavirus plateau — more than two weeks and counting. (CommonWealth)

An early trial of the antiviral drug remdesivir showed promising results in shortening by about 30 percent the length of hospitalization stays for coronavirus patients. (Washington Post)

Based on international data, COVID-19 appears to be more fatal for men than women, Paul Hattis of Tufts University Medical School explores why Massachusetts appears to be bucking that trend. (CommonWealth)

Local blood banks are collecting plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients, hoping it can be used to treat others. (The Salem News)

CDC data raises questions about whether the coronavirus death toll in Massachusetts is actually greater than what is being reported. (MassLive)

WBUR breaks down the coronavirus outbreak by neighborhood in Boston.


The White House begins framing its response to the pandemic as “a great success story,” despite widespread reporting on the administration’s failures to take action on early warnings. (New York Times)

After President Trump suggests that coronavirus aid could be tied to states’ immigration policies, Gov. Charlie Baker disagrees. (MassLive)


Activists and women’s rights groups are urging Joe Biden to address directly an allegation of sexual assault from the early 1990s, but his campaign so far is resisting. (New York Times)

Biden hired former Massachusetts congressional candidate Rufus Gifford to be his deputy campaign manager with a focus on finance. (MassLive)


Never mind toilet paper. The big shortage now coming: meat. (Boston Globe)

Worcester city officials order Walmart to shut down for cleaning after 23 employees test positive for coronavirus. (Telegram & Gazette)

Crane Stationery is shutting its North Adams facility, letting 270 employees go. (Berkshire Eagle)

Owners of big Boston office towers say the long-term future for such buildings remains bright — even as they endure major disruptions from the pandemic. (Boston Globe)

Daycare centers ask for help from the state to avoid closing permanently. (MassLive)


UMass Medical School furloughs 100 employees. (MetroWest Daily News)

As deposit day looms for incoming freshmen, coronavirus shapes students’ 2020 college choices. (WGBH)

Boston University has launched an investigation into possible online cheating on exams by students now handling coursework and tests remotely. (Boston Globe)


A New Bedford police detective leads a double life as an artist and draftsman. (Standard-Times)


The Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority and the Steamship Authority won’t require that passengers wear masks (Cape Cod Times)


Attorney General Maura Healey sues a Pennsylvania energy developer for violating water protection laws during the construction of a 4 megawatt solar farm in Williamsburg. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)


Kay Doyle resigns from the Cannabis Control Commission to take a job with a pharmaceutical company. (CommonWealth)

Cannabis doctor Richard Boxer argues in an op-ed that recreational marijuana shops are essential for patients who use marijuana to treat illness and should be allowed to remain open. (Telegram & Gazette)


US Attorney Andrew Lelling releases a list of federal inmates ranging from Latin King gang members to wealthy parents from the Varsity Blues case who have been released early from prison because of coronavirus risks behind bars. (Boston Herald)

Lelling says he is looking into allegation of housing-related sexual harassment. (State House News Service)

Employers are bracing for what could be a flood of coronavirus-related lawsuits from workers. (Boston Globe)

Settlement talks are underway to resolve two lawsuits that a woman who worked under former Judge Thomas Estes in Pittsfield District Court — and had an affair with him — brought against the judge and the Trial Court alleging sex discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. (MassLive)


The weekly Berkshire Record of Great Barrington is shutting down and furloughing its employees. (Berkshire Eagle)

Axios says it is returning its PPP loan.

COVID-19 is threatening press freedoms abroad. Could it happen here, too? (Media Nation)


Former Brockton city councilor George Cataldo, a World War II veteran, and local cable access TV host, dies at 92. (Brockton Enterprise)