Chamber News

October 28, 2020 Likes Comments

The shutdown drumbeat grows louder

The drumbeat to shut down more of our economy is, understandably, growing louder.

Among the experts calling for a pull back of indoor dining, casinos and other activities is Dr. Ashish Jha, the highly-respected dean of the Brown University School of Public Health.
 
“Whenever you get into a situation where you're starting to see acceleration, you want to put on the brakes," Jha tells Stephanie Murray at Politico. “We have been seeing acceleration in Massachusetts for many, many weeks.”
 
Others have suggested that it’s time, or past time, to return to Phase 2 of Gov. Charlie Baker’s reopening plan, which would mean once-again closing gyms, museums, movie theaters, outdoor performance venues and casinos.
 
But backtracking on a plan developed in May, when we knew far less about the virus than we do today, makes no sense.
 
Instead, any new decisions about what stays open -- or where we need to retreat -- should be made based on current data, not a prior, less-informed, road map.
 
If there are categories of businesses that need to take a step back, so be it. But let’s not do further harm to businesses and nonprofits that are playing by the guidelines where there’s little, or no evidence, of spread.
 
And that’s where contact tracing comes into play. And that’s why it’s frustrating that Massachusetts hasn’t been willing to share data by industry sector or other ways that would help us all understand where the risks are.
 
“First and foremost, I would make all the contact tracing data public, and really, we don't have a lot of it,” Jha said. “Really go after contact tracing, because you want to be as evidence-driven as possible on this.”
 
Yesterday Baker said his administration would begin releasing weekly “cluster reports,” as soon as Thursday.
 
It wasn’t clear how detailed those reports will be. But here’s hoping it allows us to make safe, smart, data-driven, decisions we can all support.
 
What else Baker said
 
Baker also had important things to say at yesterday’s press conference about Thanksgiving, keeping schools open; and the "significant increase" in the number of people under age 30 who are testing positive. (About 300 people under 30 per day have been diagnosed with the virus in recent days.)
 
But you should also hear what Baker had to say about work, and why he repeatedly deflects calls by Jha and others to pull back on indoor dining or other business sectors and keeps focusing on parties, socializing and other unregulated, often mask less, gatherings outside of the workplace.
 
“Work, for the most part, is pretty well monitored, pretty well investigated, and while there are isolated [COVID] incidents that show up that relate to work, it does not show up as the big driver [of infections],” he said.
 
“It’s important that we respect the people who are trying to do the right thing regarding work [and following protocols]. Whether they’re the worker, the supervisor, or the manger, or the owner... they are doing the right thing. They are only on an isolated incident basis part of the problem with respect to COVID. We need to let them work.
 
“But to let them work, a whole bunch of other people have to be willing, in their downtime, to avoid the things we've been talking about to avoid spread.”
 
Coming and not going at BC
 
Boston College will delay the start of the spring semester by nine days and cancel spring break, the Heights reports. Meanwhile, students who leave the state for the Thanksgiving break will not be allowed to return to campus until the start of the spring semester.
 
Aerospace company needs less space
 
To paraphrase the late Sen. Everett Dirksen, a million square feet here, a million square feet there and pretty soon we're talking about a lot of office space.
 
And wait until you hear what Waltham-based Raytheon is going to do to our commercial real estate market.
 
As part of its merger with United Technologies Corp. the aerospace and defense company had been planning on consolidating office space by about 10%, or about 3 million square feet.
 
But after learning to live with remote work, the company is now looking at a reduction closer to 20 to 25%, reports Lucia Maffei at the BBJ.
 
A reduction of 20% would take away 6.2 million square feet, while a reduction of 25% would mean 7.75 million of square feet. On the low side of the range, such a reduction would total approximately 107 American football fields, Maffei writes.
 
Raytheon declined to say where it will look to vacate over the next five years.
 
Today’s helpful bullet points
  • The U.S. Chamber (no relation to our chamber) has created this guide to financial assistance programs, resources, and advice to small businesses navigate the pandemic.
  • The Center for Women & Enterprise will host a free webinar today (Weds) at 5 p.m. exploring the Baker administration’s recently announced $50.8 million small businesses grant program. Learn and ask questions about eligibility and process. Register.
  • The Boston Globe is hosting a virtual program tomorrow (Thurs.) at 10 a.m. called “How COVID-19 has changed Boston's workforce.” Moderated by Globe business reporter Jon Chesto, a panel will discuss workforce development, especially in the Greater Boston region’s most marginalized communities. Register .
DCR proposes Arborway road diet
 
The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation is proposing a major renovation of the Arborway in Jamaica Plain that would convert multiple motor vehicle lanes to parkland and fill a missing link in the Emerald Necklace with new bicycle and pedestrian paths.
 
According to DCR officials, the project is aiming to improve safety, accessibility, and connectivity for all users of the Arborway – not just cars – and to better honor designer Frederick Law Olmsted’s historic vision for the parkland. StreetsBlog has more here.
 
New restaurants!
 
Brookline Booksmith in Coolidge Corner is moving forward with its expansion into food. The Novel Kitchen by Curds & Co. will be located in the former Verizon space next to the book store and is may open sometime this month, says Boston Restaurant Talk.
 
BRT also shares news of Café Yafa, a Mediterranean restaurant opening on Route 9 in Natick, featuring tabbouleh, stuffed grape leaves, hummus, falafel, baba ghanoush, kabobs, shawarma, and baklava.

And finally… our big DEI event
 
We’re opening registration this morning for our biggest event of the fall, marking the release of the first ever 50 Most Influential Business People of Color in the Western Suburbs.
 
In addition to unveiling the amazing women and men who made the list, we’re planning a panel discussion: “The ROI of DEI: Why diversity, equity and inclusion are essential to success in the suburbs,” will feature five leaders who’ve made the list.
 
It’s all happening Thursday, Nov. 12 at 10:30 a.m. via Zoom. Admission is free and includes an option to sign up to have a copy of our list mailed or emailed to you.
 
Be back tomorrow.
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
617-244-1688
Your chamber is here when you need us.

 

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