Want to see lots of happy folks? Visit a vax clinic

I had the opportunity to tour the vaccine clinic at Tripadvisor with Congressman Jake Auchincloss, state officials, Newton-Wellesley Hospital President Dr. Errol Norwitz and others yesterday.
 
It was inspiring to see how smoothly the clinic operates, while watching what could best be described as a nonstop flow of very happy patients.
 
Tripadvisor turned over its Needham headquarters this winter -- at no charge to Newton-Wellesley Hospital and Mass General Brigham -- becoming the first private-sector company to do so.
 
Auchincloss described it as “an opportunity to see the best of Massachusetts business and the best of the Massachusetts hospital system come together to help people.
 
“Tripadvisor is one of the great success stories of Massachusetts enterprise and during this past year, this crisis, we learned that Tripadvisor is not just a great exemplar of business, but also of corporate citizenship,” he added.
 
“I know we are all looking forward to a time when Tripadvisor can stop doing vaccinations and start advising on trips again. But until then, I really want to commend one of the great corporate citizens of Massachusetts for the work they’re doing here.” 
 
More than 20,000 shots have been administered at the site, including more than 850 yesterday, the largest single day number there yet.
 
And even with masks, you could tell everyone was smiling.
 
 
Baker says J&J mishap shows ‘process works’
 
That manufacturing error behind the loss of 15 million Johnson & Johnson vaccines, won’t impact the 100,000 J&J shots headed to the Bay State next week.
 
Gov. Charlie Baker said the fact that J&J vax were scrapped should give us confidence that safeguards are in place.
 
"People screwed up. People recognized it. People ditched it," Baker said yesterday.
 
"It's a shame to have 15 million vaccines, when you're in a race against variants, go down the drain. But the good news is the control process worked. They realized they had a problem and they didn't ship any of them."
 
poll released yesterday shows that residents are increasingly warming to the idea of getting a vaccine in Massachusetts, while data shows case counts going in wrong direction.
 
 
Newton to mark one year of COVID loss
 
One year ago yesterday (April 1, 2020) Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller announced the loss of three residents to COVID, the city's first.
 
She has been faithfully – and with dignity – keeping a tally (213 so far) in her newsletter every since.
 
There will be candlelight memorial service Tuesday, April 6, at 7:30 p.m. outside of City Hall to recognize those lost.
 
Another $15K pumped into local restaurants
 
Another thousand meals were delivered this week to Newton and Wellesley individuals and families facing food insecurity through our Nourishing Newton and Nourishing Wellesley programs.
 
This week’s freshly prepared meals came from Papa Razzi, Juniper, Captain Marden’s, Great Wok, Baramor, Café St. Petersberg, Inna’s Kitchen, Jumbo Seafood, The Biltmore Bar and Grill, Ellana’s Kitchen and Tartufo Restaurant.
 
The orders, totaling over $15,000, are funded by a state grant and powered by volunteers at the Rotary Club of Newton, the Town of Wellesley, local food pantries, senior centers and nonprofits; including the West Suburban YMCA, Welcome Home and Arabic Baptist
 
Restaurants for Brookline (funded by the same state budget earmark by Sen. Cindy Creem) is underway in partnership with the Brookline Food Pantry.
 
And Nourishing Needham (a new program funded by a private donor) will start delivering meals soon.
 
All together, the four hyper-local programs will direct $200,000 to independent restaurants and purchase more than 12,000 meals by June.
 
Retailers brace for more empty shelves
 
The great toilet paper shortage of 2020 resulted in $836.5 million in lost grocery store sales from March 2020 to February 2021, reports Forbes.
 
Paper towels, multi-purpose cleaners, pet food, cereal, laundry detergent, soap, frozen pizza and soup also topped the list of frequently sold-out items last year.
 
Now there’s concerns about a new round of product shortages – including sunscreen and insect repellent -- and if schools reopen widely, lunch meat -- as vaccination accelerate and normalization create demand for different products.
 
For retailers, empty shelves don’t just mean lost revenue. It can lead to lost customers.
 
Customers who see empty toilet paper and paper towel shelves at their local store may try Amazon or another online site for the first time and decide it's a better way to buy paper goods, forever, said Richard Cook of the consumer intelligence firm NielsenIQ.
 
Empty shelves are nothing compared to this
 
For the rest of this story, please read grocery store worker Mary Ann D’Urso’s most recent column in the Globe.
 
D’Urso walks us through what the year has been for supermarket workers: From being told by friends “Don’t take this personally. No one wants to be near you” to crying after learning about the deadly rampage at a Colorado supermarket that took ten lives in the middle of the afternoon.
 
“We are battered by the work, the anxiety,” she writes. “Dealing with the pandemic doesn’t grow easier.”
 
Grocery workers have been there for us all year. And yet, they’ve been forced to compete with everyone else for vaccines.
 
Opening doors to village vitality
 
In Needham and Wellesley vacant store windows are being transformed into mini art galleries.
 
Now Newton is getting ready to install art in the city's village centers.
 
Newton Community Pride has selected 25 artists to decorate 25 wooden doors that will go on display later this month.
 
The public art initiative -- Newton Out Doors -- aims to promote walkability and economic vitality in Newton’s unique village centers, while enjoying art in a safe, socially distanced manner.
 
“We hope Newton Out Doors inspires residents to visit our village centers, engage with the colorfully created doors, and shop or dine over the next several months,” said Gloria Gavris, chair of Newton Community Pride.
 
Need to knows
 
  • The Newton Community Freedge is a free, outdoor refrigerator and pantry located in the parking lot of Central Drapery and Dry Cleaning, 420 Watertown Street in Nonantum. Donations from individuals and businesses are needed. Guidelines are here and for inspiration (really, it's inspiring) follow the Freedge on Facebook.
  • UMass Amherst’s Massachusetts Small Business Development Center provides free, confidential, one-to-one business assistance and free and low-cost training to prospective and existing small businesses. Schedule a virtual meeting here.
  • The Better Life Food's Pop-Up Outdoor Market at Dunn-Gaherin’s featuring local artisans and businesses has been so popular they are extending it to every other weekend through June starting this Saturday. Details.
 
 
Lawmakers consider anti-hate laws
 
A national spike in anti-Asian hate crimes is prompting state lawmakers to push a bill they say would expand and clarify hate crime laws in Massachusetts reports the AP’s Steve LeBlanc.
 
The bill would combine the state’s two existing hate crimes laws and add gender and immigration status as protected classes when determining if a hate crime has been committed.
 
And the incident involving Duxbury High School's use of anti-Semitic slurs in their football game has led Newton’s state Sen. Cindy Creem to champion passage a bill would require schools to teach about the Holocaust and previous genocides that have occurred throughout history.
 
 
UI rates frozen, PPP tax adverted
 
Unemployment insurance rates paid by employers will be frozen for the next two years, adverting a near 60 percent increase, as part of a bill signed by Gov. Baker yesterday.
 
The new law also exempts certain employers who otherwise would have had to pay state taxes on federal PPP loans and EIDL advances from doing so. And it requires one week paid sick leave for COVID related absences. Globe story here.
 
 
Say hey to our new (and reinstated) members
 
The support we receive from businesses and nonprofits in our communities -- including from those employers hit hard by the pandemic -- inspires me, the rest of the chamber team and our board every day.
 
Please join us in welcoming 24 new and returning members who joined the chamber in March, or just reinstated their membership after an absence. 
 
 
We're here to help you, your business and our region thrive. If your business or nonprofit is not yet a member, but you value the information, events and advocacy we provide, we'd be honored to add you to April's new member list.
 
 
And if you’re looking for a way to support the chamber’s advocacy and programming but you don’t work locally, or perhaps you’re retired, please consider becoming a Citizen Member.
 
And that’s it for another week. Thanks to everyone who emailed this week. Happy Easter to all who celebrate. Be back Tuesday.
 
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
617-244-1688
Your chamber is here when you need us.

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