Chamber News

Needham / Newton
January 28, 2021 Likes Comments

A million here. A million there. Pretty soon, we don't have enough vaccines

Charlie Baker used simple math yesterday to try and explain why so many seniors weren’t able to book a vaccine appointment yesterday.

He said there are one million residents in the state 75 years or older. On the other hand, the state has received less than one million doses since vaccines first became available late last year.
 
"If you have a million people who are [newly] eligible and you have only received a million doses since this all began in December, you are going to be constrained by supply," he said.
 
Of course, most of those doses have gone to hospital workers, first responders and others during Phase 1 of the rollout. And the state is reportedly only about a third of the way toward completing its Phase 1 vaccination goal.
 
That explains why it was nearly impossible to find a clinic with supply yesterday.
 
But it doesn’t explain why the state thought everyone over 75 would have the necessary computer skills or access to use the registration portal and isn't also offering telephone support.
 
As Globe editors write this morning, the state needs a centralized appointment system, not one that has users endlessly clicking on dots on a map to see who has vaccines.
 
Phase 2 of the roll out plan begins Monday. How fast it proceeds depends on federal supply. The Biden administration says supply is on the way , but "we haven't heard officially what that will mean for Massachusetts," said Baker.
 
Nonetheless, a senior state Department of Public Health official said yesterday that a target to make doses available to the general public starting in April is still “reasonable.”
 
“We're well along our path," said Kevin Cranston, DPH's assistant commissioner, according Chris Lisinski at State House News. “I actually believe those are reasonable timeframes."
 
Self attestation, explained

Most hospital workers, first responders and others currently eligible for a vaccine have employer IDs.
 
And most folks over 75 (or over 65 when that age group becomes eligible) can easily prove their age with a drivers license or similar ID.

But what about employees of restaurants, grocery stores and other sectors who will become eligible later in Phase 2? After all, most restaurants and other small businesses don’t issue work IDs.

Massachusetts is using a self attestation system, which basically means they’re going to take your word for it when you schedule your vaccine. But officials advise these workers to bring a pay check stub and something else that connects you to your employer.
 
No PPP news today!
 
Kidding.
 
The SBA says it has approved $35 billion in PPP loans since opening its loan portal two weeks ago. Here’s some of the early number crunching from (who else?) Andy Medici at the BBJ.
  • There have been 400,580 loans through Jan. 24, which is slower than the PPP Round 1 launch last spring.
  • Fewer lenders are currently participating this time.
  • Accommodation and food services topped the list of industries receiving PPP loans so far, behind construction, professional services, manufacturing and health care.
  • Average overall loan so far is $87,000, down from the average of $206,000 during the first few weeks of PPP 1.
Need help with your PPP loan? The SBA District Office in Massachusetts, America’s SBDC, Massachusetts Small Business Development Centers, and other SBA resource partners offer virtual workshops and resources for small businesses, including PPP forgiveness and other technical assistance.
 
Everything you wanted to know about masks* (*But didn’t know who to ask)

It’s hard (or maybe not when you consider who’s been in charge) to believe we’re 11 months into this pandemic without authoritative face masks ratings for consumers.
 
The CDC has been working on one. But who wants to wait, amidst new concerns that the coverings we’ve been wearing for most of a year may not be adequate for the new more transmissible variants of the virus?

The Globe’s Janelle Nanos has this excellent chock-full-of links article on the subject.

And a new Wall Street Journal article titled New Playbook for Covid-19 Protection Emerges After Year of Study, Missteps, takes a fresh look at other protocols we’ve been following.
 
For example, are all those plexiglass barriers helping block particles, or just messing with air cleaning systems?
 
Or what about the deep cleaning protocols we adopted last spring, when CDC guidelines issued in October say that, for most surfaces, normal, routine cleaning should suffice?

‘Worst year in history’

One year ago, the National Restaurant Association issued a bullish annual report predicting $899 billion in sales in 2020, representing a 4% increase over $863 billion in 2019.

Of course, that’s not the way it worked out.

Restaurant sales nationwide in 2020 were about $659 billion; about $240 billion below the predictions, according to the group’s 2021 State of the Restaurant Industry report -- the worst in the industry’s history.

The report predicts restaurants to post double-digit growth in 2021, but that won’t be “nearly enough to make up for the substantial losses experienced in 2020,” Forbes reports.

Here’s some other highlights (lowlights?) from the report:
  • The industry ended the year with nearly 2.5 million fewer jobs.
  • 110,000 restaurants were closed long term or for good. The majority of permanently closed restaurants were well-established businesses in operation for at least 16 years. 16% of closed restaurants had been open for at least 30 years
  • Many operators are optimistic that consumers greatly miss dining at restaurants and that pent-up demand for restaurant experiences will be high.
Trees to mark lives lost
 
A team of Newton high schoolers affiliated with the environmental nonprofit Green Newton has launched a project to commemorate the lives residents lost to COVID-19 by planting a tree.
 
About 170 Newton residents have lost their lives because of complications with the virus. So far the group has raised $10,159. At a cost of $150 per tree that’s enough for about 60 trees, writes Jenna Fisher at Newton Patch.
 
"We want to organize and fundraise this winter, and then begin planting at the optimal time next Spring 2021, not only so that we can honor victims of COVID-19, but also so that we can plant trees, watch them grow, and leave them for the next generation to enjoy while helping to offset carbon emissions," said Yoshi Futi, a Newton South Student, part of Green Newton's youth leadership team, which is spearheading the project.
 
Go here to learn more or to sponsor a tree.
 
Watertown fav first to get national grant

Watertown’s Donohue’s Bar & Grill received the first grant from the Step Up to the Table Foundation, a nationwide organization in Newport Beach, California, looking to save 1,000 local restaurants during COVID-19. Watertown News has more and be sure and watch the classy interview with owner JD Donohue.
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
617-244-1688
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