Guv hints at reopening announcement

It’s nice to be back in your inbox today.  I've been away for a week but feel like I have a month's worth of news to share.
 
Here’s what you need to know today.
 
Guv promises reopening announcement
 
Gov. Charlie Baker is promising "some announcements" this week, presumably about reopening and perhaps about outdoor mask mandates.
 
The last restrictions (including allowing 12% capacity at Fenway and Boston Garden) were lifted one month ago. Many businesses are still restricted to 50 percent capacity. Restaurants still operate under 90 minute maximum stay rules, require food purchases with alcohol and don’t allow counter service or indoor singing.
 
The Globe lists all the current restrictions here.
 
There’s also speculation that Baker could lift outdoor mask rules but it looks like President Joe Biden will beat him to that. Biden is expected to announce changes to the CDC outdoor mask guidance today, according to CNN.
 
Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN the CDC will also address both what vaccinated people can do, but what unvaccinated people will be permitted to do as well.
 
Meanwhile, a BBJ survey found that 31% of its event attendees in the Boston area said they’re ready to return to in-person events, while another 17% would expect they’ll be ready in one month or two. Another 27% said they are likely to be ready in three to six months. Three percent said they would need another year.
 
In contrast, 73% of respondents in Jacksonville, Florida and 63 percent in Orlando say they’re ready to attend in-person events right now.
 
 
We are not giving away our shot
 
Five million Americans, or eight percent of those who got a first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, never returned for a second dose, the New York Times reports.
 
Some apparently skipped their second shot because they were worried about side effects. Others reportedly decided one shot provides "enough protection," a view experts dispute.
 
But Baker says that’s not the case in Massachusetts where 99 percent of those who received a first dose of Pfizer or Moderna have returned for their second shot, reports Shira Schoenberg at CommonWealth.
 
A recent poll by Morning Consult found that just 11 percent of Massachusetts residents would refuse to get the vaccine, tied with Hawaii for the lowest in the US. (Forbes)
 
Need help locating vax appointments for your employees?  
 
Through a partnership with Holzman Medical Group and the City of Newton, the chamber's Newton-Needham Dining Collaborative worked with restaurant owners to help secure 150 vaccination appointments for their employees within the last few weeks.
 
While vaccinations are open to all adults nation-wide, if your employees are having trouble securing access to appointments due to language barriers, lack of access to medical services and/or transportation, immigration status or other barriers please reach out to us as we may be able to help coordinate.
 
Priority will be giving to our communities of color, low-income communities, older adults, and other impacted populations that face many barriers to vaccine acceptance and access. 
 
Vaccines finding their way to our independent pharmacies
 
NBC10 visited Union Pharmacy in Newton Centre, which has been administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and expects to receive a Moderna supply soon.  
 
And Keyes Drugs in Auburndale is currently talking appointments for the Moderna vaccine. Anyone over the age of 18 can sign up here.
 
Fate of Newton express buses unclear
 
Thanks to federal stimulus dollars, a preliminary budget released by the MBTA yesterday does not include fare increases, layoffs or furloughs, or reallocation of funding from capital projects to operations. (State House News)
 
But it is still not clear if the plan includes restoring express bus service that once ran through Newton to Boston.
 
The T has said it will resume some service on the suspended bus Route 52 in Newton which connects Watertown with Dedham, although not until June 20.
 
But the MBTA also altered the commuter rail schedule through Newton, skipping the three Newton stops during several hours of the morning and afternoon due to operational challenges related to the city's single-platform stations.
 
Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller wrote in a recent letter to the T that the changes leave “serious holes in the scheduled stops at the three Newton stations, severely limiting the ability of Newton residents to get into Boston during the day and precluding any Boston morning commuters from arriving in Newton until after noon.”
 
Earlier this month, the MBTA added a new bus service called Newton Connection RailBus. The free bus stops at the Newton Highlands, Newtonville, West Newton, Auburndale, Riverside and Wellesley Farms T stations on a limited schedule.
 
But the bus is no substitute for the express service that has been curtailed.
 
 
Wellesley to raise tobacco sales fines
 
Wellesley’s Health Department is looking at a tenfold increase in fines for tobacco sales to minors. Fines would go from $100, $200, and $300 fines (first, second, third offenses) to $1,000, $2,000, and $5,000, according to the Swellesley Report.
 
 
Three to know
 
  • The Newton City Council’s will hold a second public hearing tonight (April 27) at 8 p.m. via zoom to discuss a proposal by Mark Development to add two life sciences building to the Riverside Station project in partnership with Alexandria Real Estate Holdings. (BBJ story here, related Bisnow story here).
  • Framingham State University will continue to host a free COVID-19 testing site through Aug. 15 but the location is changing from 484 Franklin Street (through April 30) to Maple Street. Register to schedule here. (Framingham Source story here.)
  • Babson's Experiential Learning connects student consulting groups to your company or nonprofit to address real-world business challenges at no cost to your organization. Go here to learn more or contact Sophie Gray. Proposals due June 1.
 
Watertown Mall sold
 
The long-rumored sale of the Watertown Mall to life sciences developer Alexandria Real Estate Equities was completed last week.
 
The $130 million transaction doesn’t necessarily mean the lab space will be built there anytime soon because of tenants’ long-term leases (including Target which has a lease through 2033) reports Bisnow’s Andrew Martinez
 
The mall sits less than a mile from the former Athenahealth complex, an 11-building project that Alexandria acquired for $526M in 2019. That site has already secured commitments from a novel therapeutics company and a biomanufacturing project.
 
 
No news on those big UI bills
 
Still no word on whether employers will get a reprieve on their unemployment tax bills.
 
Gov. Charlie Baker said yesterday he's still waiting to hear from the feds if he can use stimulus dollars to cover a large spike in Q1 bills, reports Chris Lisinski at State House News.
 
Baker signed a law in March aimed at stabilizing the state's unemployment system and limiting cost increases on businesses. That legislation failed to avoid a spike in the solvency assessments that factor into the bills employers pay, catching many employers off-guard with increases of thousands or tens of thousands of dollars for some establishments.
 
The administration delayed Q1 payments, originally due this Friday) to June 1.
 
 
Well, that was fast
 
Our annual golf tournament typically sells out. Just never before Memorial Day.
 
But we booked our final foursome yesterday for our 30th annual Children's Charitable Golf Tournament, Aug. 2 at Wellesley Golf Club.
 
We have started a wait list. We also have reserved a limited number of foursomes for sponsors. For sponsorship inquiries, contact Lise Elcock at 617-244-1864.
 
 
Amazon warehouse in Needham not a ‘scare tactic’
 
In case you missed it, read Jon Chesto’s Globe article from last week looking at the uphill climb to rezone the 15 acres currently occupied by Muzi Motors and Channel 5 along I-95 in Needham.
 
Needham’s Finance Committee just voted against supporting the rezoning. The two newly elected Select Board members “have also expressed concerns.”
 
And if you read the various Needham Facebook page discussions on the proposal, you’ll see opponents dissing concerns that if the rezoning doesn’t pass the parcel could end up becoming a distribution center for Amazon, or another e-commerce company, as “scare tactics
 
It is scary. But it's not a tactic.
 
If the rezoning fails at Town Meeting next month, a warehouse could be built there by right, meaning without needing any municipal approvals.
 
Chesto says Amazon would neither confirm nor deny interest in the site but the company is rapidly adding warehouses in prime locations across Massachusetts. 
 
Marc Draisen, executive director of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council told the Globe he's seeing situations like the one in Needham popping up all over the country. Warehouses were once tucked away in industrial parks but are increasingly showing up in high-traffic locations near highway ramps, to expedite deliveries.
 
A MAPC report lists 20 Amazon facilities in operation in Greater Boston — with 10 opened in 2020 alone — and 14 more in the pipeline. (And if you look at the map accompanying this story you’d see that the company has a gap in our region.)
 
“It’s the growth in demand for very fast delivery, next-day delivery, that is really driving a lot of this,” Draisen tells Chesto. “I think as a society we have to ask ourselves, do we really want to sacrifice good land use all over our region just to get our packages a day earlier? That’s really the situation that we’re facing.”
 
That’s all for today. No time to tell you about yesterday's big racoon rescue on the Mass Pike or what happened last month to a woman who failed to return a VHS tape back in 1999.
 
There's always tomorrow.
 
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
617-244-1688
Your chamber is here when you need us.
 
P.S. Looking for something that appeared in an earlier edition of this e-newsletter? We’ve archived them all here.

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