Chamber News

Needham / Newton
January 29, 2021 Likes Comments

What we should be doing while waiting for vaccines

Yes, Massachusetts’ vaccine roll out has been inadequate, frustrating and messy.

Yesterday, Gov. Charlie Baker outlined steps state plans to take (including opening a call center next week) to improve the process.

Meanwhile, as we wait for supply to catch up with demand, it would be useful for the rest of us to turn our attention to the other, even more substantial, challenge facing vaccines: The hesitancy by many, especially among populations of color, to become vaccinated at all.

We need our federal, state and public health agencies to take the lead on setting up the infrastructure. But we – in our case the business and nonprofit community -- can play a big role in making sure our workforce is willing and able to become vaccinated when the time finally comes.

Here's a list of suggestions for how employers can play a pivotal role, according to MAPC. (With added material here from the CDC)
  • Be proactive about promoting factual information about vaccine safety to your employees, including data about vaccine efficacy and Massachusetts’ phased rollout plan.
  • Prepare to connect employees with vaccination sites when vaccines become available. Employers could prepare information about where to access vaccine clinics and consider setting up or accommodating a workplace vaccination site. Educate workers about the importance of getting both doses. Provide incentives to do so through be offering employee recognition and rewards.
  • Make sure that people in your workforce do not have to choose between getting paid and getting vaccinated. Employers can reinforce or create policies that protect wages and provide paid time off for vaccination. For example, employers can recognize the challenges for employees who have children, who rely on public transportation and who may be caregivers and facilitate vaccination during times that are both convenient and feasible.
We must all model what it is like to be part of the solution to ending the pandemic and getting people back to work faster and reviving our economy.

For more information or to share your company’s plan to encourage vaccines, email Barry Keppard, MAPC’s Public Health Director.

Climate bill comes back
 
That climate change bill vetoed earlier this month by Gov. Charlie Baker is back on his desk.
 
Baker vetoed the original bill, saying it was too late to make changes. This time, lawmakers would have a chance to respond to any amendments or another veto, reports Katie Lannan and Sam Doran at State House News.
 
The bill would lock the state into its goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, set interim emission reduction targets, establish appliance energy efficiency standards, authorize additional purchases of offshore wind power and codify protections for environmental justice communities, among other features,
 
Sen. Michael Barrett, one of two lawmakers who refiled the bill, said the law would not require restaurant owners to retire appliances early.

"[Restaurateurs] wanted to make sure that ovens and warmers and refrigerators could run to the end of their useful lives before these newly efficient appliances provided in the bill have to be purchased,” Barrett said. “… current equipment will not have to be retired early.”
 
Meanwhile, Tamara Small, the CEO of NAIOP Massachusetts, which represents commercial developers, told CommonWealth’s Bruce Mohl, that provisions calling for a net-zero energy code would “create immense uncertainty for our industry.”
 
“Aside from the costs associated with such a requirement, there are very serious hurdles to doing this, including electrification of thermal heating (distribution capacity limits), eligible renewable energy (currently scarce and very expensive under certain definitions), and challenges with different building types (lab vs. office vs. multifamily),” Small said.
 
If Baker ends up vetoing the bill again, both branches appear poised to surpass the two-thirds threshold required for an override.

Need to knows
  • J.P. Licks is running its second annual Sock Drive to benefit the residents of Rosie’s Place. Bring new socks into the Newton and Wellesley locations during the month of February and receive a $1.00 off coupon for your next visit to J.P. Licks for every pair you donate. JP Licks (chamber members, of course) collected over 300 pairs in 2020 and hope to collect 600 pairs this year.
  • On Tuesday (Feb. 2) at 11 a.m. Professor Leanna Farnam, chair of Lasell University’s Science and Forensic Science Program, will host “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About COVID-19 Vaccines But Were Afraid to Ask.” Join the webinar. Pre-registration not required.
  • Needham officials will share its rezoning plan for the parcels occupied by Muzi Motors and WCVB/Channel 5 along I-95 via Zoom next Weds (Feb. 30) at 7:15 p.m. Relevant materials are here. To view via Zoom use ID: 878-8270-9890.
Local companies ranked LBGTQ-friendly
 
Six employers in our region -- TripAdvisor, AthenaHealth, Bright Horizons, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Sun Life, Tufts Health Plan – were among Massachusetts employers earning a top score on this year's Corporate Equality Index, an annual report from LGBTQ policy foundation the Human Rights Campaign that ranks companies based on best practices for LGBTQ inclusion.
 
Biz grant program is the largest in nation
 
Another 1,100 Massachusetts small businesses will split $45.3 million in grants designed to keep them afloat during the COVID crisis, the Baker administration announced Thursday.
 
The fifth round of funding awards through Mass Capital Growth Corp pushes the total awarded to $277 million, writes Chris Lisinski at State House News.
 
The $720 million effort is the "largest small business grant program of its kind in the country," said Gov. Charlie Baker. “About a third of these grantees have received no other aid of any kind."
 
The deadline to apply has passed but more grant awards are coming.
 
Flex schedules sure, but what about Zoom?

No doubt when the time comes to return to our offices, things are going to look and feel different.
 
“We do believe workers across America will want to work from home on a part-time basis more frequently,” said Owen Thomas, CEO at Boston Properties was quoted as saying in this BBJ story. “We also see, with CEOs, the importance that they see in in-person work, and their strong interest in getting their employees back in the office.”
 
And then there’s the looming Zoom problem, developer Tom O’Brien recently told the CodCast.

O’Brien said, he has noticed the difference at meetings where some people are attending in person and some are there via Zoom.

“The people who are on Zoom during a meeting when people are there in person, it just doesn’t work. You can’t fully participate as a Zoom person while people are in the room. What’s going to end up happening is those sorts of awkward situations are going to drive this kind of return to the office process.”

Wait….there's going to be a Phase 5?

Back on May 18, Gov. Charlie Baker unveiled a 28-page, four-phase plan for reopening the state’s economy. Presently, business and nonprofits in the state are operating under Phase 3.

Baker has long said Phase 4 would come when we have either vaccines or effective therapies. Phase 4 includes bars, nightclubs, concerts, theater, festivals and pretty much all the other things we're all wistfully awaiting.

But, just as the weeks seem endless, could there actually be more than four phases?
 
Just might be, according to a comment Josiah A. Spaulding, president and CEO of the Boch Center, made an a panel on the performing arts yesterday.

“I remember the governor said to me, ‘You know, you’re in Phase 4, but I think there’s going to a Phase 5,” said Spaulding, who served on Baker’s reopening committee.

There was no word on just what might be in that additional phase.
 
Take good care this weekend. And hey, dude, cover that nose!

President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
617-244-1688
Your chamber is here when you need us.

P.S. The Town of Needham recently launched The Needham Mask Challenge. Here's a video that is part of the multi-media effort.

 

 

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