Massachusetts: Voting bill on the move; 35 COVID-19-related deaths reported
By Steve LeBlanc and Mark Pratt, Associated Press
BOSTON (AP) — A committee made up of members of the Massachusetts House and Senate has agreed on a final compromise bill aimed at safeguarding elections during the coronavirus pandemic.
Backers said Monday the bill’s goal is to expand voter access and safety during the remaining 2020 elections, including the Sept. 1, state primary and Nov. 3, general election.
The latest version of the bill resolves differences between earlier House and Senate versions.
The bill — if approved — would for the first time in state history give all eligible residents the opportunity to vote early in both the state primary and general election while also letting residents vote by mail and expanding absentee ballot access.
All registered voters in Massachusetts would receive applications in the mail to vote early.
Cities and towns would also be required to take a public vote and provide 20 days notice before changing the location of a polling place.
The House and Senate must take a final vote on the compromise bill before it can be sent to Republican Gov. Charlie Baker.
VIRUS BY THE NUMBERS
Massachusetts reported another 35 COVID-19-related deaths Monday, bringing the total number of confirmed and probable deaths since the beginning of the pandemic to 8,095.
There were about 100 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, reported Monday — bringing the total number of confirmed and probable cases to more than 108,700 in Massachusetts.
The number of those hospitalized with COVID-19 ticked up to 762 compared to the 748 reported Sunday.
The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care also rose slightly to 138 compared to the 134 reported Sunday.
Patients requiring intubation fell from 81 on Sunday to 79 on Monday.
The number of the deaths at long-term care homes rose to 5,111 — or more than 63% of all deaths in Massachusetts attributed to the disease.
Boston University is planning to lay off or furlough up to 250 workers as it grapples with an estimated $96 million budget gap due to the pandemic.
University President Robert Brown wrote in a letter to faculty and staff that the university has dipped into its reserves and other financial sources to help cover an anticipated shortfall of about $264 million in the fiscal year starting July 1.
Even with those efforts, the university still faces a $96 million hole, he wrote, and the future remains uncertain.
“The deposits for almost all our undergraduate and graduate programs are strong; however, there is enormous uncertainty about whether these students can and will attend,” he wrote. “This is especially true for our international students for whom obtaining visas is not yet possible.”
CASINO STAFF CUTS
The lone resort casino in the Boston-area is furloughing thousands more workers as it eyes reopening in July.
Encore Boston Harbor in Everett will have about 700 workers on staff, but about 3,000 workers and managers will have to be furloughed, Wynn Resorts said Monday.
The casino in late May furloughed about 10% of its full-time staff and stopped paying about 850 part-time workers.
The Las Vegas-based company said the worker furloughs are “very difficult decisions” that will remain in effect “until business demand dictates their return.”
Massachusetts three casinos — Encore, MGM Springfield, and Plainridge Park — have been closed since March 15.
The facilities are expected to be allowed to reopen as part of Gov. Baker’s third phase of restarting the local economy, which could start around July 6.
Encore says it plans to reopen gambling areas, dining establishments and hotel rooms with capacity limits and other restrictions to limit spread of the virus.
MILITARY BURIAL SERVICES
Two state-run veterans’ cemeteries in Massachusetts are scheduled to resume full burial services this week.
Military committal services, which include the folding of the flag, the playing of Taps, and a gun salute, can be held at the cemeteries in Agawam and Winchendon again starting Friday, according to a statement Monday from the state Department of Veterans’ Services.
The services were paused March 17 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The services will be limited to 10 family members or fewer, and face coverings will be required in the chapel, where seats will be spaced 6 feet apart.
HEALTH BOARD vs SELECT BOARD
The Board of Health in a small Massachusetts town is at odds with the Select Board over the decision to hold an Independence Day celebration.
The three-member North Brookfield Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to create the July 4 event two weeks after hundreds of people attended a Black Lives Matter protest in town, according to The Telegram and Gazette.
The three-member Health Board called the celebration, which will feature a parade, beer garden, and children’s events, irresponsible.
Selectmen Chairman Dale Kiley, a retired state police lieutenant and attorney, said he believes fears of COVID-19 have been overblown.
There have been 16 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the town of fewer than 5,000 residents.
Associated Press reporter Philip Marcelo contributed to this report.
©The Associated Press 2020