Chamber News

October 30, 2020 Likes Comments

The source of spread, quantified.

The Baker administration has finally begun releasing data that can help us all better understand the source of coronavirus clusters across the state.

And the just-released numbers suggest that retail shops, office settings, restaurants, child care settings and other business locations, aren’t big drivers.
 
Other states have been releasing similar data for months, reports the Globe’s Kay Lazar. Louisiana publishes reports from its contact-tracing programs that specify the businesses, schools, or other facilities where outbreaks are occurring. Vermont and Colorado post the occupations, industries, or settings — such as bars, casinos, or food processing plants — with the highest number or percentages of infections in their states.
 
Yesterday, Massachusetts began doing something similar, including as part of its weekly data release a chart (on page 38 here) that breaks down the source of 2,945 clusters and 8208 confirmed COVID cases by setting.
 
By far, the largest identified source of spread over the past month was linked to households: 2,707 clusters involving 6,830 cases.
 
Nothing else comes close.
 
In contrast...
  • There were 19 clusters and 70 confirmed cases linked to restaurants and food courts.
  • Twenty-eight clusters and 70 confirmed cases in child care setting.
  • Just six clusters and 30 cases in retail and services.
  • And only two clusters and eight confirmed cases in offices.
“A large amount of transmission is occurring in households, a place where people let their guard down and feel safe,'' Tory Mazzola, a spokesman for the state’s coronavirus command center, told Lazar.
 
I don't claim to be an expert in understanding this data, its proper application, or knowing how accurate it is. But while our overall numbers are very troubling, this report seems to support Baker’s reluctance to pull back on the economy as well as his warning this week about Thanksgiving.
 
Fur won’t be flying in Wellesley
 
Wellesley just became the first U.S. community outside of California to vote in favor of a ban on sales of new fur products, according to the Swellesley Report.
 
The measure was approved (140 yes, 64 nos, 2 abstentions) by Town Meeting Wednesday, despite some merchants arguing that the rule could be financially “devastating” and really should done on the state, not local, level.
 
Others worried that banning new fur sales could be the start of a slippery slope that leads to bans on other products, such as leather. Merchants have one year to sell down any existing inventory before the ban goes into effect.
 
My Local MA gets a reboot
 
Remember the bruhaha surrounding the My Local MA campaign?
 
Back in August, Gov. Charlie Baker announced plans to launch a $2 million marketing campaign designed to encourage shopping “at local Massachusetts businesses and attractions, safely – in person, online, and using curbside pickup or takeout.”
 
Plans included print, television, radio, billboards and online ads through the end of the year -- all pointing to a highly-touted "Find My Local MA" website.
 
 
There was even a BBJ editorial calling for the state to modify the program so it lived up to the “Find My Local MA” name by helping residents actually find their local Massachusetts businesses.
 
This week the state did just that, rolling out changes in response to the feedback.
 
The campaign website’s URL has changed to lovemylocalMA.com to reflect the next phase of the campaign (and therefore removing hard-to-execute expectation that the site was going to be a search engine for finding local businesses). Now the focus is, appropriately, on the value and benefits for shopping locally.
 
There’s also an opportunity for local businesses to participate in on air messaging through iHeartRadio stations in November or December.
 
There will be a 90-minute Zoom workshop this Monday (Nov. 2) at 10 a.m. designed to explain how merchants can use the campaign to promote their businesses. Register here.
 
Today’s three need to knows
  • Here’s something we're not seeing a lot of these days: A brand new hotel. Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton is opening on Bond Street in Watertown and is a holding a job fair next week looking to hire for almost every hospitality position. Go here for details.
Lots of social distancing happening in offices
 
Office occupancy remains painfully low.
 
In an earnings call, Boston Properties said its offices in downtown Boston are reporting 9% occupancy as of this week, with suburban offices reporting at 5%. Which is likely why company, and others, are shifting its focus to life sciences, reports Catherine Carlock at the BBJ.
 
In a separate article, Carlock notes that the most recent Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s Beige Book shows that demand for industrial and lab space has reached unprecedented levels, while office and retail space is tracking among its worst stretches on record.
 
Similar trends exist nationwide, notes the Boston Real Estate Times. A study of office demand and rents in the 30 leading tech markets in the U.S. and Canada found that pre-pandemic office rents increased in all but one of those markets in the past two years. However, tech leasing activity declined by 46 percent in the second quarter from the 2019 average, in line with the 44 percent decline in overall U.S. office-leasing activity.
 
In New York, even TV studios are being converted into life sciences spaces.
 
MBTA wants our input
 
The MBTA is looking for input before making expected deep cuts to T, bus, rail and ferry service.
 
The cash-strapped agency will hold 11 virtual meetings in November and early December. The schedule is here. There is also this online survey to provide input.
 
Desperate times call for a pie pop-up
 
Here’s a great example of chamber member businesses collaborating to help each other.
Dunn-Gaherins Foods & Spirits in Newton Upper Falls is making its outdoor dining tent available to local vendors during the hours its non-peak dining hours.
 
The first to sign on is Newton caterer Better Life Foods which will be selling its amazing pies (just ask anyone on the chamber team), other baked goods, local honey and (a favorite in our house) Depot Spice every Thursday though Thanksgiving from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
 
“We would love to have other local vendors as well share the space to promote and sell their food related product or gift,” says Better Life Food’s Chris Osborn. Email Chris if you’re interested.
 
That’s all for now. Enjoy Halloween tomorrow; a holiday for wearing masks and eating chocolate, which, of course is the same thing most of us have been doing for the past seven months, except without a candy cannon.
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
617-244-1688
Your chamber is here when you need us.
Dine out. Take out. Shop locally. And tip generously.

 

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