Two Injured In Water Street Crash

Two men were injured after the Jeep they were in struck a home and several parked cars on Water Street late Thursday. The driver, who sustained life-threatening injuries, was partially ejected from the vehicle and had to be freed using the Jaws of Life. The passenger sustained non-life-threatening injuries. Photo courtesy Quincy Police Department.

By SCOTT JACKSON

Two men were injured struck after they were in struck a house and parked cars on Water Street in Quincy late Thursday night.

First responders were called to the scene of the crash at 115 Water St. around 11:10 p.m. Thursday, Quincy police said. Officers saw that a 2005 Jeep Liberty had struck a home, causing minor damage, and then several parked cars, the department said.

The operator of the Jeep, a 29-year-old male, was partially ejected from the vehicle and the Quincy Fire Department used the Jaws of Life to free him. The driver was taken to Boston Medical Center with what police described as life-threatening injuries.

The passenger of the Jeep, a 26-year-old male, was taken to South Shore Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Police continue to probe the crash. Anyone with information that may assist the investigation is asked to contact officer Lauren Lambert at 617-745-5736.

Fenway Park COVID Vaccine Site Moving

By SCOTT JACKSON

With the Red Sox set to open their home slate on April 1, the mass vaccination clinic at Fenway Park will be relocating before the end of March.

Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday announced a new mass vaccination site would open at the Hynes Convention Center, replacing the Fenway Park site. Vaccinations will begin at the Hynes Convention Center on March 18 and end at Fenway Park on March 27.

“These sites will overlap for a couple of weeks,” Baker said during a press conference in Lawrence. “All individuals that are vaccinated at Fenway Park and have a second appointment scheduled will be able to receive their second dose at the Hynes.”

Baker said any residents impacted by the transition would receive an email with more details from the organization who is running the Fenway Park site. There will be additional outreach efforts as well.

The governor said it made sense to move the site away from Fenway Park with the stadium set to host games and other baseball-related activities – and as businesses in the area open up on game days.

“To have ballplayers in the park at the same time you have people in the park who are there for a different purpose, we just felt was a little more complicated than we felt was appropriate for this. The Hynes is available and it’s not that far away and it will have the ability to scale,” Baker said.

“As the baseball season moves forward, they are going to open up some point some of the stuff on Yawkey Way. From our point of view, the Hynes was more permanent solution we could use on a go-forward basis.”

As of Thursday, 25,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered at Fenway Park. That number should grow to 55,000 before it closes at the end of March, Baker said.

“This month, new Hynes site will ramp up to do the same volume of vaccinations that are currently being done at Fenway Park, which is about 1,500 a day,” he stated. “Later this spring, if our supply increases, the Hynes has room to scale up to more than 5,000 shots per day.”

Fenway Park is one of seven mass vaccination sites in the Bay State. The others include the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston, the DoubleTree Hotel in Danvers, the former Circuit City in Dartmouth, Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, the Natick Mall, and the Eastfield Mall in Springfield.

There are some 170 vaccinations sites located throughout Massachusetts. Appointments can be booked online at mass.gov/covidvaccine. Those unable to use the website can call 2-1-1 and follow the prompts to schedule an appointment.

Quincy Police Charge Four With Fentanyl Trafficking

By SCOTT JACKSON

The Quincy Police Department arrested and charged four individuals with trafficking fentanyl Tuesday evening.

The department’s drug control unit was conducted surveillance in the area of Washington Street and McGrath Highway around 6:45 p.m. Tuesday when detectives observed two individuals pacing back and forth and looking up and down Washington Street while using a cellphone, police said.

Detectives then saw both individuals, a male and a female, enter a Mitsubishi Outlander that had pulled into a parking lot. The vehicle then drove around the block before dropping the two people off a short distance from they were picked up. Detectives were able to query the vehicle’s license plate and determined it was a rental from New York, police said.

Believing a drug deal had just taken place inside the car, detectives encountered both individuals on Elm Street. The detectives recovered three “fingers” of a substance believed to be fentanyl/heroin and eight small bags of a substance believed to be crystal methamphetamine, police said; a finger is street slang for 10 grams of fentanyl/heroin and is called that based on its packaging.

After those items were recovered, detectives who were trailing the Mitsubishi approached the vehicle while it was stopped at a red light at the intersection of Revere Road and Hancock Street. The driver and passenger were then removed from the car and placed under arrest.

Upon arriving back at police headquarters, detectives were able to field test the substances. The substance believed to be fentanyl/heroin was determined to be presumptively positive for the presence of fentanyl, police said; the substance believed to be methamphetamine was also analyzed and that test confirmed its presence.

Gerinson Tejada-Avalo, age 26, of Lawrence was arrested and charged with trafficking more than 10 grams of fentanyl, distribution of a class A substance (fentanyl), conspiracy to violate drug laws and unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.

Raissury Silverio-Fortunato, 30, of Lawrence, the passenger in the vehicle, was arrested and charged with trafficking more than 10 grams of fentanyl, distribution of a class A substance (fentanyl) and conspiracy to violate drug laws.

Megan Berchtold, age 34, and Robert Ball, age 35, both of Weymouth, were arrested and charged with trafficking fentanyl over 10 grams, possession with intent to distribute a class B substance (crystal methamphetamine), and conspiracy to violate drug laws.

Arraignment information on the four individuals was not immediately available Wednesday.

The department said anyone who suspects drug activity in their neighborhood should contact the drug control unit at by emailing anontips@quincyma.gov, by calling 617-328-4527 or using the MyPD smartphone app. Tips can be submitted anonymously.

Massachusetts Educators Eligible For COVID Vaccine March 11

By SCOTT JACKSON

Starting on March 11, K-12 school staff and early childcare workers in Massachusetts will be able to book appointments to get the COVID-19 vaccine, Gov. Charlie Baker announced Wednesday.

The governor made his announcement during a press conference inside the West Parish School in Gloucester, which on Wednesday marked its 101st day of in-person learning this year. Baker’s announcement came one day after President Joe Biden urged states to give educators access to the vaccine by the end of the month.

“We don’t want people to be confused,” by differing state and federal guidance, Baker said.

The announcement also came shortly after CVS made appointments available for educators on its website.

Educators had been among the essential workers who were next in line to become eligible to get the vaccine in Massachusetts, along with those who work in the transit, grocery, utility, food and agriculture, sanitation, public works, and public health fields.

Starting March 11, educators will be able to book appointments at any one of the state’s 170 vaccination sites, Baker said. Certain days, likely on weekends, will be reserved for educators at the state’s mass vaccination sites, which include Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium.

While educators will become eligible to book appointments starting next week, Baker urged patience as the supply of vaccine the state gets from the federal government is unlikely to increase until late March at the earliest.

“Everyone who wants a shot will eventually get one,” Baker said. “We will keep working to administer every dose we get.”

The state receives about 150,000 first doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines in total each week from the federal government, Baker said. It also received 58,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which requires a single shot, this week, but the governor does not expect to get any more of that vaccine until late March.

There are about 400,000 educators who will become eligible to book appointments starting March 11. One million residents –those over the age of 65 and those with two or more qualifying health conditions – became eligible for the vaccine in February, and about one-third of those have gotten their shots to date.

That means one million residents will eligible for the vaccine as of March 11, Baker said, and it could take a month or more for them all to book appointments unless supplies increase.

The governor last week announced he would seek to bring more students back for full in-person starting in April with elementary school students, though parents would still be able to opt out of in-person learning and keep their children participating in remote school.

On Wednesday, Baker said teachers would not need to be fully vaccinated before the state moves to bring more students back for in-person learning. Some schools statewide have been open for in-person learning since September, he stated, and the state is also offering districts the chance to participate in weekly pooled COVID-19 testing.

“The CDC’s own guidelines with respect to schools doesn’t require vaccinations before reopening,” Baker added.

The governor also emphasized that appointments remain available for those over the age of 65 and those with qualifying health conditions and said it is important for them to get vaccinated as they are at the greatest risk of death or severe illness from the virus.

“Vaccines remain available for older adults and those with certain health conditions,” Baker said. “They need to be vaccinated as soon as possible.”

Appointments can be booked online at mass.gov/covidvaccine. Those unable to use the website can call 2-1-1 and follow the prompts to schedule an appointment.

Third COVID-19 Vaccine Cleared For Use

By SCOTT JACKSON

Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday said the introduction of a third coronavirus vaccine should “dramatically boost” vaccination efforts in the Bay State and elsewhere.

The Food and Drug Administration this weekend granted an emergency use authorization to the new vaccine, which is manufactured by Johnson & Johnson. Two other vaccines – manufactured by Moderna and Pfizer – had received emergency use authorizations from the FDA in December.

Baker welcomed the introduction of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after touring the Morning Star Baptist Church in Mattapan, which is being used as a vaccination center.

“The introduction of that vaccine over time will certainly dramatically boost our vaccination efforts here and the vaccination effort in so many other places as well,” Baker said.

“As people know, we have a lot more capacity than we have supply. While demand will obviously be much more significant than supply, the good news here is having another effective vaccine for all eligible residents produced by a third manufacturer should mean a big increase in the number of vaccines that are available…here in the commonwealth.”

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires a single shot, unlike the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, which require two shots given three to four weeks apart.

“It’s a single-dose, which for a lot of people is a really big deal in terms of how they think about this generally,” Baker said. “It also creates far more capacity within the system.”

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine also has less stringent storage requirements than the other two.

“It doesn’t require the deep freeze, so it is much easier to make it available in far more locations,” the governor said. “You can just use it in a lot more settings that are not really built or structured to deal with some of the complexities with managing a vaccine that requires a deep freeze, a thaw and a general understanding of how many doses you are going to get out of the thaw and whether or not you have the people to vaccinate according to the number you thaw.”

At several points during his remarks, Baker reiterated comments made over the weekend by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s chief medical advisor, who said Americans should take any one of the three vaccines if given the chance.

“I can’t emphasize enough what Fauci said over the weekend, which is they are all completely effective against hospitalization and death,” Baker stated. “He said all three of them work and people really need to keep that in mind.”

Johnson & Johnson is expected to ship 4 million doses of its vaccine this week, and 20 million total by the end of March. Some of the doses will be allocated to states, while the federal government will send others directly to pharmacies and community health centers.

Baker said he anticipates the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be available to Massachusetts residents next week.

“The information on the J&J vaccine at this point in terms of volume is a little bit up in the air,” he said. “It is likely we will get, for next week, a shipment and that shipment will probably be distributed pretty evenly across what we think of as the vaccinating community we have here in Massachusetts.”

The federal government has said most doses arriving in the state over the next few weeks will be from Moderna or Pfizer, Baker added later.

“The message has been you will get a little bit of a supply [of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine] based on production that has already been done shortly and then basically you should expect the next few weeks will probably be Pfizer and Moderna,” the governor said.

“At some point, toward the end of the month…as J&J ramps up its production capability you will start to see a lot more of them come into the mix.”

Massachusetts had received 2 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines through Sunday, Baker said, 1.7 million of which had been administered. That includes 1.2 million first doses and 550,000 second doses.

$2.1 Million Sought For Emergency Town Brook Repairs

By SCOTT JACKSON

Warning that it is in danger of collapsing, city officials are seeking $2.1 million to make emergency repairs to an underground section of the culvert that carries the Town Brook.

The council will consider Mayor Thomas Koch’s request for that money, which would come from the sewer and drain rehabilitation fund, at their meeting Monday evening. The meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. and is being conducted remotely via Zoom.

City officials say a section of the Town Brook culvert is in need of repair and could potentially collapse. Photo courtesy city of Quincy.

The section of the Town Brook culvert in need of repair lies between Bigelow Street and Washington Street in Quincy Point. Al Grazioso, the city’s commissioner of public works, said a recent inspection of the culvert found numerous structural deficiencies.

“Repairs are required to correct the noted deficiencies to maintain the functioning of this important waterway and to maintain public safety,” he wrote in a memo provided to councillors.

David White, an engineer with the firm Woodard & Curran, warned that the section is question could potentially collapse if the repairs are not made.

“These structural deficiencies pose a public safety hazard therefore restrictive safety measures are being put in place over these sections of the brook,” he wrote in a separate memo. “Due to the potential for collapse, we recommend these sections of the brook be repaired immediately.”

In other business Monday, councillors will hold a public hearing on an ordinance that would create a definition for affordable housing. That public hearing begins at 6:30 p.m. and will be followed by a committee meeting on the same subject.

Ward 4 Councillor Brian Palmucci said he introduced that ordinance to spur a wider discussion about affordable housing in the city.

During the 7:30 p.m. meeting of the full council, councillors will also honor the city’s Department of Veterans’ Services as COVID-19 Heroes; consider a home rule petition from Koch to add two new members to the Quincy Retirement Board; and consider a request from Koch and Ward 6 Councillor William Harris to rename a section of Glover Avenue in North Quincy in honor of The Very Rev. Cornelius Heery.

In addition, Councillor Anne Mahoney plans to introduce two resolutions that night. One seeks an update on Quincy College’s enrollment and finances and the second seeks an update on land purchases the city is making in anticipation of the construction of a new public safety headquarters on Sea Street.

Members of the public can watch the meeting on Zoom. The meeting ID is 813 5698 5598. The call in number for audio only is 646-558-8656.

The meeting will also air live on QATV Channel 9.

Baker Touts Pooled COVID Testing Program

By SCOTT JACKSON

Gov. Charlie Baker said the pooled-testing program that is now available to school districts statewide is key to allowing more in-person learning amid the coronavirus pandemic and to “whatever the next normal is going to be here.”

Baker highlighted the pooled-testing program during a Friday morning visit to the Nock-Molin Middle School in Newburyport to see the initiative first-hand.

“This pooled testing program which we are here today to take a look at is something that got launched as a first-in-the-nation demonstration a few months ago basically to add a key tool to school districts and to schools, which was the ability for some sort of pretty consistent, relatively uncomplicated, weekly surveillance program around testing,” he said.

School districts began piloting the pooled-testing programs earlier this school year and the program has expanded in recent weeks. More than 950 schools statewide are now participating in pooled tests, Baker said, meaning up to 300,000 students and staff could be tested each week.

“To get to the point where this thing is really starting to rock and roll is a real pleasure, I think, for all of us who were looking to find a relatively uncomplicated way for schools to implement a weekly surveillance program,” the governor said.

Newburyport was among the first communities to utilize pool testing, Baker noted.

“In some respects, your enrollment in this pool testing initiative is a big part of how we keep kids, faculty, and staff safe as we move forward with all we can do to try to make sure that kids have that personal and professional and physical opportunity to spend time in schools,” he said.

Baker’s visit to Newburyport came days after Jeff Riley, the state’s education commissioner, announced he would seek permission to bring more students back to the classroom full-time by ending districts’ remote and hybrid learning models starting in April with elementary students. Parents will still be able to opt their children out of in-person learning and keep them enrolled in remote programs.

The governor said pool tests are key to bringing students back.

“While we have certainly made progress with respect to vaccination and mitigation, we really need to continue to find ways for schools to be operational, for kids to be in school, and for everybody to feel like we are doing all we can to make sure folks know what is actually going on on the ground,” he said. “That is many respects why this program in particular is so important.”

Newburyport Mayor Donna Holaday shared the same sentiment.

“This pool testing…is another tool that will help us advance and bring more children back to in-person learning,” she said.

The pooled-testing program means multiple nasal swabs are collected in a single tube and then tested at the same time. If a pool tests positive for COVID-19, those individuals in the pool are then tested individually using a rapid test to determine who has the virus and then their close contacts can be identified. If a pool tests negative, the individuals in it are all presumed to be negative for the virus.

The state is paying for the first six weeks of pooled testing in each district. Districts would be able to keep the program after that, provided they pay for it. Riley on Friday suggested communities could use federal aid money to cover those costs.

Pool testing began this week within the Quincy Public Schools. The program is being offered to students and staff in grades one through three, who are now back in the classroom five days a week.

School officials said about 150 students and 50 staff members have signed up for the program so far and are optimistic that number grows as the initiative continues.

Fans Allowed Back At Massachusetts Stadiums March 22

By SCOTT JACKSON

Massachusetts will allow spectators at its large indoor and outdoor stadiums starting on March 22, after those venues had been closed to fans for more than a year.

Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday announced the state would enter phase three, step two of his four-phased reopening plan effective March 1. It will enter phase four, step one, on March 22, provided public health metrics support doing so.

The move to step two of phase three on Monday means indoor performance venues such as concert halls and theaters can reopen at 50 percent capacity with no more than 500 persons in attendance. Indoor recreational spaces – including laser tag, roller rinks, obstacle courses and trampolines – can also reopen at 50 percent capacity.

All other sectors that are already open, like retail and offices, will see their capacity increase from 40 to 50 percent. Restaurants will no longer have a percent capacity limit and will also be allowed to host musical performances. Six-foot social distancing rules will still apply in restaurants, as will limits of six people per table and the 90-minute time limit.

The move to step one of phase four on March 22 means large stadiums – those with over 5,000 seats, including Fenway Park, Gillette Stadium and TD Garden – can reopen at 12 percent capacity after they submit health and safety plans to the state. The move comes with the Bruins and Celtics in the midst of their seasons and the Red Sox set to open their home slate on April 1 against the Orioles.

“Opening Day is in our near future,” Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said Thursday at a press conference in Salem.

Gathering limits will increase to 100 people indoors and 150 people outdoors for event venues and public spaces on March 22 as well. Gatherings limits for private residences and backyards will remain at 25 people outdoors and 10 people indoors.

In addition, dance floors will be allowed at weddings and other events; exhibition and convention halls can reopen subject to gathering limits and other health protocols; and overnight summer camps will be permitted to operate.

Other phase four businesses, including bars and nightclubs, will remain closed.

During the press conference in Salem, Baker noted public health data continue to trend in the right direction. COVID-19 hospitalizations were down from 2,428 on Jan. 4 to 875 on Wednesday and the seven-day average of percent positivity on COVID-19 tests stood at 1.89 percent.

“The drop in hospitalizations and cases overall is really good news,” he said.

“Today, thanks to everybody’s commitment to wear masks, to distance where appropriate and to do their part to stop the spread, we can move forward with the reopening plan.”

The governor also noted 65 percent of residents over the age 75 have now received the COVID-19 vaccine, as have 90 percent of residents who live in skilled nursing homes and 70 percent of nursing home staff.

“We chased a whole bunch of folks early on – and got pretty decent vaccination rates out of them – who are among those who either work with people who end up getting hospitalized or who run the risk of getting hospitalized themselves,” he said.

“As we continue to vaccinate people, we will take additional risk associated with the health care system off the table.”

The state is currently using Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium as mass vaccination sites. It is uncertain whether they can be used for vaccinations once games begin.

“We’ve talked to both Fenway and Gillette about this and I don’t have a hard answer for you on that one today,” Baker said in a response to a reporter’s question. “Obviously they are important players in this vaccination effort, and we are going to try and figure that one out.”

Baker Expects ‘Significantly Better’ Performance For State Vaccine Website Thursday

By SCOTT JACKSON

Massachusetts residents who visit the state’s website Thursday morning to book an appointment to get the COVID-19 vaccine should see significant improvements over last week, when the site crashed amid high traffic.

Some 50,000 appointments will be made available Thursday morning on the state’s website, mass.gov/covidvaccine. Those include appointments for the state’s six mass vaccination sites – Boston’s Fenway Park, Foxborough’s Gillette Stadium plus locations in Danvers, Dartmouth, Natick and Springfield – as well as other locations.

Speaking at a press conference Wednesday at the Natick site, Gov. Charlie Baker said users’ experience on the website should be better this week than it was last week, when residents over the age of 65 and those with two or more comorbidities first became eligible for the vaccine.

“We certainly expect the site’s performance tomorrow to be significantly better,” Baker said.

The state has worked to bolster server capacity to handle the high volume of traffic expected Thursday when the appointments come online. In addition, Baker said the state is implementing a “digital waiting room” to prevent outages.

“Some users might be placed in the waiting room. The page will display more information about when you will be allowed to proceed, but it’s basically the equivalent of creating a line,” Baker said.

“It’s designed to basically keep the site running and operating and to make sure people can get through and have a smooth and uninterrupted experience.”

The governor said residents should remain patient, however, as the availability of appointments is constrained by the number of doses the state receives from the federal government.

“When you have 50,000 appointments and somewhere around a million people who will be looking for them, we anticipate they will go fast,” Baker said. “As we have said before, the whole issue here requires a certain amount of patience. I know everybody would like to get vaccinated immediately if they qualify…but until we see in increase in federal supply, that is simply not going to happen.”

Any eligible resident who is unable to access the internet can also call 2-1-1 to schedule an appointment and follow the prompts to do so.

In addition to the 50,000 doses appointments available at the state-run sites, pharmacies including CVS and Walgreens are expected to administer more than 20,000 doses next week.

State officials on Wednesday also announced the creation of 11 regional collaboratives that will begin offering the vaccine next week. Those collaboratives are: Barnstable County; Berkshire County Boards of Health Association; Franklin County Regional; Harrington Hospital; Heywood Hospital; Lawrence General Hospital; Marshfield-Plymouth; Northampton and Amherst; Avon, Holbrook and Randolph; Rutland; and Worcester.

Each collaborative must be able to administer at 750 shots on daily basis, seven days a week. They must also be open to all eligible Massachusetts residents, though they can focus outreach efforts towards those who live and work in their communities. The collaboratives must also provide links to vaccine appointments on the state website.

Massachusetts Leaders Want More Students Back In Classrooms Full-Time

By SCOTT JACKSON

Massachusetts officials are pushing to bring more children back to the classroom on a full-time basis in April, starting with elementary school students.

Education Commissioner Jeff Riley on Tuesday said he would ask the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to give him permission to begin ending districts’ remote and hybrid learning programs.

“If I am granted this authority, I would take a phased-in approach to returning students to the classroom, working closely with state health officials and medical experts,” Riley said at a State House press conference.

“My focus would be on bringing back elementary students first, with the plan likely extending to middle school grades later in the school year and possibly high schools as well. Ideally my initial goal is to bring all elementary students back to in-person learning five days a week in April.”

Parents will still have the option through the end of the school year of keeping their children home where they would learn remotely, Riley added. Districts would also be allowed to seek waivers to continue remote or hybrid learning models if needed.

At Tuesday’s press conference, Gov. Charlie Baker said 80 percent of school districts currently offer in-person learning either full-time or on a hybrid basis. The remaining 20 percent of school districts, home to 400,000 students, are fully remote.

Students are eager to get back to the classroom, the governor said.

“We’ve seen the repercussions of prolonged remote learning for our kids. Their social, mental and emotional wellbeing has been significantly impacted,” he said.

“Kids want to be in school learning alongside their friends, their classmates and their peers. They want to have a chance to engage their teachers in-person time and time again and especially when they have challenges understanding the material.”

Baker said health experts – including Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical advisor – have stressed the importance of bringing children back to school.

“The science is pretty clear on this one,” Baker said. “There are now dozens of reports from all over the world that it is safe to be in school and doctors and public health experts, including Dr. Fauci, all agree that getting kids back in school needs to be a top priority.”

The governor brushed off the suggestion, made earlier in the day by the leader of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, that the renewed push for in-person learning was an attempt to deflect attention away from the state’s vaccination efforts.

“We’re number one in the country for first doses per capita among our peer states that have more than five million people – that’s 24 states that are basically our size or bigger,” Baker said. “I would hate to distract from that information, because that is a really good story.”

Baker and Riley said guidance in place for school districts, such as those for distancing, face masks and hygiene, would remain in place. Riley said the state will continue to require at least three feet of spacing in schools, though greater distances up to six feet are preferred.

“In Europe, in Asia and in many states in this country, people are at three feet or less,” Riley said. “We are sticking with our guidance, which is three feet, and if you can do more, please do so.”

Many school districts have already begun making plans to bring elementary students back for full in-person learning, Riley said.

First through third grade students in Quincy who had been enrolled in a hybrid learning model previously began full in-person learning this week. Supt. Kevin Mulvey previously told the School Committee fourth and fifth grade students currently enrolled in the hybrid program could potentially move to full in-person learning as soon as March 22.