POLITICAL NOTEBOOK: The holidays are here, and so is COVID-19 (still)

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  • Charlie Baker
    American politician
  • Katherine Clark
    U.S. Representative from Massachusetts

The holiday season is here once more, and not only is the coronavirus still with us, it is again on the march in Massachusetts.

If recent trends continue after many people have gathered indoors with friends and family for Thanksgiving, Gov. Charlie Baker's pandemic management strategies and public health messaging could again be put to the test nearly two years after COVID-19 first burst onto the scene.

In the last month, the daily average of new cases in Massachusetts is up more than 67%, the state's positive test rate has just about doubled and the average number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients is up 23.5%.

As of Wednesday's update from the state Department of Public Health, there were 764 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Massachusetts, more than any day since March 1. The Baker administration ordered hospitals that don't have at least 15% available capacity to begin scaling back non-emergency procedures starting next week as COVID-19 hospitalizations rise and hospitals contend with a shortage of workers.

"Our hospitals are full. All hospitals are full," Dr. Shira Doron of Tufts Medical Center said during a weekly segment on NBC10 Boston taped before the Baker administration's announcement. "Hospitals are already doing really terrible things like deferring and canceling elective surgery now in Massachusetts and so, you know, we are not in a position where we can afford an increase in COVID cases. Or flu, for that matter."

MassGOP meets Tuesday

The Massachusetts Republican State Committee meets Tuesday evening at the Apex Entertainment Center in Marlborough as the party deals with issues on multiple fronts with statewide elections now less than a year away.

Included on the agenda is an update on Attorney General Maura Healey's investigation into possible MassGOP campaign finance violations last year.

That investigation's tentacles extend into the State House — at issue is the way that Sen. Ryan Fattman, R-Sutton, made donations to the MassGOP just before the party spent a nearly identical amount of money to support his wife's campaign for reelection as register of probate in Worcester County.

The meeting will also feature a discussion and vote on sending Secretary of State William Galvin a letter regarding universal mail-in voting. The MassGOP circulated statements earlier this month from two state committee members calling universal mail-in voting "an unconstitutional partisan scheme."

Clark moving to Revere

U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., whose 5th Congressional District includes much of MetroWest, is planning to transition to a new life in Revere.

She and her husband raised their kids in Melrose, where Clark lived while serving in the Massachusetts House and Senate.

"Melrose has been a wonderful home for over 20 years. It's where my husband and I raised our children and where I began my service as an elected official," Clark, the assistant speaker of the U.S. House, said in a statement. "With my children off to college and their own careers, we have decided to move to Revere. While Melrose will always be a very special place for us, I'm excited to call another incredible city in the Fifth District home."

After losing to Republican state Sen. Richard Tisei in 2004, Clark went on to win election to the Massachusetts House in 2008 and to the state Senate in 2010. In 2013, she emerged from a crowded Democratic primary field that included Sens. Karen Spilka and Will Brownsberger to win the U.S. House seat that Ed Markey gave up after he won election to the U.S. Senate.

The Boston Globe reported that Clark's five-bedroom home in Melrose was listed for sale at $2.1 million.

Northborough attorney nominated

Two weeks after unanimously confirming Milford attorney Pacifico DeCapua to become a district court judge, the Governor's Council will hold a hearing on another local candidate.

Attorney Christine Anthony, whose Northborough office specializes in family law, has been nominated by Baker to sit as a judge in Probate and Family Court. Her hearing has been set for 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Anthony is former chief law clerk of the Probate and Family Court. She previously worked with Lee, Levine & Bowser, and Lander & Lander PC, and assisted the first justice of the Worcester Probate and Family Court as an assistant judicial case manager.

Asking 'that question'

When Stephen Brewer decided to call it a career in politics in 2014, the Barre Democrat said he looked forward to teaching himself how to play the banjo.

Brewer, who had just come out on the losing end of a battle to become the next Senate president, was 65 — the same age Gov. Charlie Baker is now — and ready to write his next chapter.

Fast-forward more than seven years, and there was Baker this week, admiring the guitar selection at Needham Music, where he was promoting the importance of shopping locally this holiday season.

"I always said that if I ever retire, I want to learn how to play the bass," Baker remarked.

Whether it will end by choice, by force or not at all in 2022, Baker's political future is the hottest question on Beacon Hill. No matter who you ask, chances are they have a strong opinion, and not always the same one. Northwind Strategies and Change Research went so far as to poll Baker's chances should he ditch the Republican Party and run as an independent — an option the governor has dismissed.

"I don't think he's running, and I'm worried that will slow down a lot of things over the next year if there's an exodus from his cabinet," one Democratic senator said this week.

It's a topic so hot, in fact, that Baker doesn't even want to touch it.

"I can't believe you're asking me that question," he told a reporter on Monday.

Gentile honored

State Rep. Carmine Gentile, D-Sudbury, was named 2021 Advocate of the Year last week by the Home Care Alliance of Massachusetts, a nonprofit trade association of home care agencies with more than 180 members from across the Commonwealth.

Gentile was recognized for his leadership in efforts to reform the reimbursement rate process for home care agencies, increase pay for home care workers, and improve the quality of care for clients relying on services in the state, according to the Alliance.

State Rep. Carmine Gentile, D-Sudbury, with Jake Krilovich of the Home Care Alliance of Massachusetts.
State Rep. Carmine Gentile, D-Sudbury, with Jake Krilovich of the Home Care Alliance of Massachusetts.

"Some legislators just 'get it,'" said Jake Krilovich, the Alliance’s director of legislative and public affairs. "They get that these services are essential to keeping people safe at home. They get that home care providers would do anything, and are doing everything, to pay these workers as much as possible for this difficult work. And they get that even if the state doesn’t make these investments today, we’ll pay for it later and then some down the line.

"Rep. Carmine Gentile is a legislator who gets it.”

They said it...

“This time of year, my phone would be ringing off the hook with volunteers from businesses, churches and civic clubs wanting to stand kettles and wanting to help us out. Here it's been a completely different story, and I've been really scratching my head about why that is the case.” — Capt. Kevin Polito, who runs The Salvation Army headquarters on Congress Street in Milford, commenting on the shortage of volunteers this holiday season.

"The challenger, she had her opportunity for a recount. The incumbent has his ability to ask for a hearing and to challenge that. What's good for one is good for the other." — Framingham District 5 City Councilor Robert Case, speaking in opposition to setting a date for a special election in District 3 after a recount found the two candidates, incumbent Afdam Steiner and challenger Mary Kate Feeney, tied at 997 votes apiece. The council voted 5-4 on Tuesday night to set a special election for Dec. 28.

Contributors to the Political Notebook this week include Deputy Director of Multimedia Dan O'Brien and the State House News Service.

This article originally appeared on MetroWest Daily News: The holidays are here, and the coronavrius lingers in Massachusetts

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