Chamber News

February 19, 2021 Likes Comments

We should know better than any state

“We should know better than any state, with our incredible health care system, how to do this and how to do it well.”

That was Congresswoman Katherine Clark speaking yesterday at our annual Women in Government event (watch her here).

Clark was talking -- of course -- about the ongoing frustration over the state vaccine rollout, which hit another major bump when the registration system couldn't live up to demand.
The Assistant Speaker of the House called on Gov. Charlie Baker to build a centralized vaccine booking system that would make it easy to book an appointment, even if it was months away.
"We have to be innovative about how we do it,” she said.
“People will feel better if they knew they had an appointment even if it was in April or May,” Clark added, referring to systems that do just that in  other states.
But Baker won’t do that
Speaking a little later on GBH radio yesterday, Baker emphatically dismissed that idea.
He said he won’t authorize long range advance booking without knowing for certain how much vaccine supply we’re getting from the feds.
"Right now, we only get one week’s notice."
So the state's booking system only schedules one week in advance, forcing anxious and angry vaccine seekers to spend hours and days, fruitlessly searching.
“If we were given three weeks [advance notice] we could would some certainty allocate, extend the enrollment period, more than one week,” he said.
Worse than 'hair on fire'
Even if you didn’t listen to the entire GBH interview, you've likely heard the sound bite of Baker saying “My hair’s on fire about the whole thing,” or how "pissed off” he was about yesterday’s vaccine website failure.
More interesting was the way the governor put the criticism he’s facing over his handling of the vaccine in perspective.
He said what he has to deal with is nothing compared to what some residents and businesses have dealt with over the past year.
"I have a job that's way more complicated than I thought it was going to be. And people have all sorts of thoughts about how well I'm doing it or how well I'm not doing it," he said.
"That is nothing compared to people who've lost everything just because they were on the wrong side of the COVID arc when all hell broke loose last March, and I think it's really important for those of us in public life to remember that."
“The agony and the pain and the suffering and the tumult and the crisis that COVID and some of decisions we had to make to deal with it has created for people makes any of the rockiness those of us in public life had to deal with feel like nothing by comparison.” Baker said.

Good news on vax front

But wait, there’s positive vaccine news too.
The virus death rate and case counts at nursing homes have significantly declined, a “very encouraging” trend that shows the vax working for the high-risk group that received it first, doctors tell the Boston Herald.
When the vaccine began being administered at Massachusetts long-term care facilities on Dec. 28, nearly 60 percent of coronavirus deaths in the state had been tied to these sites.
But over the 50 days since that vax launch, 33 percent of virus deaths have been connected to long-term care facilities.
“It’s a very encouraging trend,” said Dr. Asif Merchant, a Massachusetts geriatrician.
“This is what we’ve been hoping for — for the vaccine to give residents immunity to cut down on transmission and severe disease.”

Need to knows
  • The Needham Education Foundation wants to help Needham restaurants by offering takeout to participants of its sold-out virtual Trivia Bee event on March 11. Interested Needham restaurants should email Lindsay C. Gravin or call (917) 596-8742 for details.
  • A reminder that if you have an employee who tests positive for COVID-19, you are required to report this to and cooperate with your local board of health.
Life after work from home
As companies seek ways to balance in person interactions with remote working, regional office centers may have a central role in the future of workplaces.
That’s according to Jim Heppelmann, CEO at PTC, the former Needham tech company that relocated to Boston’s Seaport in 2019.
Like so many employers, Heppelmann is missing face-to-face interactions and thinking about when -- and how -- to bring workers back.
"What we're doing now has actually worked okay, but it's not sustainable. Because we started with a tight-knit group of people, and the knitting is coming loose as time passes, as we hire new people, and so forth. So I think we do need a hybrid," said Heppelmann, according to the BBJ’s Lucia Maffei.
That hybrid might be a series of "regional centers," where they could get together two or three days a week, or every other week.
"I don't think it works as well to have employees you never ever see, because they're too far away," he said.
Reading that, I couldn’t help but wonder if Heppelmann wishes he had maintained some presence here in Needham to supplement PTC's downtown home.
I’m sure we could help PTC find something, Jim.
Gabrielle Farrell, a spokesperson for PTC told Maffei the company is “open to office reconfigurations and consolidations… Any of these decisions will be determined by the experience that we want to create for our employees and customers."
Meanwhile, Charlie Baker said yesterday he is hiring an outside firm to study the post-pandemic impact of remote work, reports Jon Chesto at the Globe.
The guv is welcome to move back to Needham too.
Immigration forum this morning
Sen. Ed Markey, Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Sen. Angus King of Maine are among the speakers at the New England Business Immigration Summit, this morning (Feb 19, 11:30 a.m.).
The event will also feature Harvard University President Lawrence Bacow, Colby College President David Greene, Tyson Foods Vice President David Barber, Exelon Chairman Emeritus John Rowe and Alnylam Pharmaceuticals President Yvonne Greenstreet. Register here.

A way for individuals to support the chamber's advocacy and programming

Looking for a way to support the chamber’s advocacy and programming but you don’t work locally, or perhaps you’re retired?
Last year we created our Citizen Membership program for individuals who are not directly affiliated with a business or nonprofit organization but want to support our efforts.
The annual membership contribution is $95.
Citizen Membership does not include a business listing, marketing benefits, referrals and access to other tools designed to promote your company. But it’s a great way to stand up and say that you share our passion for the economic and cultural vitality of our communities.
Contact Tiffany Chen if you have questions.
Face masks: the new fleece vest

We're all waiting for the day when face masks become souvenirs, instead of survival gear.

But for now, branded masks, logoed hand sanitizer and even clip-on Zoom vanity light rings are the hottest commodities in the branded swag market, reports the Washington Post.

And those tastefully designed corporate face masks may be welcome once workers return to the office.

“A lot of employers would like people to wear something uniform and more professional, rather than coming in wearing elephants and rainbows on their face,” said one employer. “You may not want to walk out and see your secretary wearing a New York Mets face covering any more than you’d want her to be wearing a baseball cap” in the office.
That’s it for today. Need something to do while constantly refreshing the state's vax finder site? There's always "Pet the Dog."
Take good care this weekend. Be back on Tuesday.

President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
Your chamber is here when you need us.
Dine out. Take out. Shop locally. Mask up. And tip generously.


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