Chamber News

September 25, 2020 Likes Comments

School data shows low infection rates

Here’s another part of the COVID story the doesn’t get enough attention: How much harder (and sometimes financially challenging) customer facing work can be these days.

From the Washington Post…
Workers across the country say even the most basic interactions with customers and colleagues have been complicated by social distancing and mask requirements, as well as the underlying fear of contracting the deadly virus.
The added complications, they say, often results in lower pay because they’re losing out on tips, commissions and bonuses predicated on keeping customers happy and engaged.
School data shows low infection rates
A new study has found minimal evidence that COVID-19 is transferring inside K-12 school buildings. Brown University researchers collaborated with school administrators and have created a new National COVID-19 School Response Data Dashboard.
Researchers say the early evidence could mean that a return to classes this fall may not be as risky as many school administrators, teachers and parents may have feared (Washington Post ).
The data would seem to support Gov. Charlie Baker’s continued push to bring students back in person.
At a press conference with Baker by his side, Education Commissioner Jeff Riley urged school districts to take advantage of low COVID rates now, knowing that a second spike might emerge later, forcing districts to go remote later and then think “we could have had kids back in for a couple of months or even six months, and we missed that window.” (CommonWealth)
Public art brightens Newtonville development
Boston University journalist Melissa Ellin has a nice story on the Globe’s Newton page about the new mural in Newtonville that’s part of that once-controversial (but now seemingly well-accepted) 28 Austin Street mixed use development.
The artwork was commissioned by Scott Oran, principal of Austin Street Partners, with his wife Meryl Kessler, as part of the company’s commitment to contribute $10,000 annually to social or cultural activities as part of its special permit requirement.
Originally, they had planned to hold live music in the plaza, but Oran said the group had to get creative when COVID-19 hit, Ellin writes.
Your small businesses may qualify for free energy saving equipment
For a limited time Eversource is offering to pay up to 100 percent of costs for installation and energy saving equipment to eligible Needham, Newton and Watertown small businesses.
Previous participants have benefited from new lighting, controls, motors, refrigeration and HVAC units. The equipment can save you thousands of dollars on your energy bills each year. After your free assessment, and the paperwork is complete, the project typically begins within 30 days. Call now for your assessment: 617-371-4512 or or e-mail:
Workman’s comp fixes stalled on Beacon Hill
Last week, I mentioned that next year’s health insurance premiums are going up by an average of eight percent.
The week before that, we learned that business owners can expect an increase of nearly 60 percent in unemployment insurance costs next year due to the high jobless rate.
Does it help just a smidgeon to know that this week we’re learning that (the typically less costly) workers comp insurance rates will go down by about seven percent?
Perhaps not, once you hear that efforts on Beacon Hill to make it easier for health care workers to tap into workers comp benefits for COVID-19 care appears have stalled, reports Colin Young at the State House News.
Currently front-line health care workers can file workers compensation claims related to COVID-19 diagnoses but they must prove that the diagnosis was a result of their job or risk having their claims rejected by insurance companies.
At least 15 states have made changes to directly address workers' compensation coverage of COVID-19. But two similar bills have been stalled in the Legislature.
Most businesses are required to purchase workers' comp to cover lost wages and other expenses for employees who become injured on the job.
BBJ comes down hard on BC
In an edtorial published yesterday, the Boston Business Journal calls Boston College to task for “lagging behind its peers in controlling COVID-19 outbreaks and managing its community relationships.”
“The university has come under fire by neighbors, students and faculty alike for its insufficient testing, and, more recently, for its questionable choice to prioritize testing of athletes over frontline working students like resident assistants and dining hall workers,” editors write.
Nursing home rules relaxed
Yesterday the state OK'd resumption of indoor visits at nursing homes. Certain restrictions apply, including the standard social distancing and mask rules.
Visitors can have physical contact with the residents as long as hand sanitation is used before and after the contact. A “hug with faces in opposite directions” is also allowed.
Residents may also resume communal dining and indoor exercise, under social guidance standards. (CommonWealth story.)
Friday reminders
  • Today’s the deadline for Watertown’s businesses to apply for a microenterprise business grant. Grants of up to $10,000 for a commercial enterprise that has five or fewer employees can be used for emergency needs in light of the pandemic. Application is here. FAQs here. Questions? Email Gideon Schreiber.
  • And next Friday, Oct. 2 is the deadline to sponsor the Chamber's 50 Business People of Color list. Your company can join in our effort to bring awareness to those that have contributed to making our businesses and institutions more diverse, while building brand equity and loyalty as a leader among culturally diverse employees and consumers.
Work from home. Or, from a hotel, near home.
Need a friction-free place for that important Zoom meeting? A break from sharing your WiFi with a house full of remote-learning school kids?
AC Hotel in Cleveland Circle (a chamber member) has found a creative way to counter the drop off in the travel business. They’re offering to rent their rooms at a day use price. Contact Julia Greenwald for details 617-730-3660.
127 is the new 128
Yesterday, I predicted the potential for many lost drivers due to MassDOT’s plans to rename the current “Exit 17” on the Mass Pike (Newton Corner) "Exit 128."
The new exit numbers are part of a federal mandate to use a mileage based number system on highways and routes across Massachusetts. Turns out Exit 17 is just under 128 miles from the New York border, hence the new designation.
Thankfully, the folks at MassDOT, or somewhere, realized that having both Route 128 and (two exits away) an Exit 128, was likely to be super confusing (and info I had linked to on was out of date).
So rather than rounding up to 128, they’re rounding down: The soon-to-be exit formally known as 17 will instead become “Exit 127.”
We'll that's a relief. Take good care and shop locally this weekend. Go Celtics!
Be back on Tuesday.

President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
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