Crashing to a halt. A four-legged octopus was a sign of the times in Massachusetts this week.

0
30

A four-legged octopus with a question mark hanging over its head is certainly not the image you want to see when you log on to book an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine.

But after months of waiting for protection from the deadly coronavirus, that’s exactly what Baby Boomers found Thursday morning — a quizzical cephalopod and a message that read, “This application crashed.”

Gov. Charlie Baker had announced just a day earlier that people 65 and older, or with two or more underlying health conditions, including asthma, could begin booking appointments. The signups would start at 8 a.m., he said. No need to stay up all night.

It felt hopeful. And then …

“My hair’s on fire about the whole thing,” Baker told GBH’s Jim Braude and Margery Eagan.

Yes, it was that kind of week. 

Another vaccine hiccup

Within a few hours, the site was back up and running, and though still frustrating to users, 60,000 people were able to book new appointments, the administration said Friday. But not even his singed follicles and a mea culpa from the state’s Maryland technology vendor PrepMod could clean up the fallout the governor was left with after another hiccup in the state’s roller coaster rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The concept of a politically damaging website failure is one Baker should be familiar with since he campaigned against Democrats on it in 2014 after the state botched its Health Connector launch. This newest technology setback also came at a time when the administration was in need of a win and trying to push the narrative that its vaccine distribution performance had been improving vis-a-vis other states. 

Massachusetts now ranks sixth in the country for first doses administered per capita, according to the CDC. But that was cold comfort to many lawmakers fielding calls from frustrated constituents desperate to get an appointment for themselves, their parents or a loved one.

“We need the next few months to go a lot smoother,” said state Rep. William Driscoll, D-Milton.

Paging Gov. Baker

Driscoll and state Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, were recently appointed by Speaker Ron Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka to chair the new Committee on COVID-19 and Emergency Preparedness. The oversight committee didn’t have to look far or wait long to find its first subject.

Driscoll and Comerford will convene a hearing on Thursday to explore what’s gone right and wrong with the state’s vaccination program, and they’ve invited Baker to take the hot seat. 

The oversight role is not one the Legislature tries to play often, and when it does it can sometimes be an uncomfortable fit. But Baker is not the only one whose hair has been on fire lately, and Mariano may have helped set the tone as he went on the Sunday show circuit last weekend criticizing the vaccine program.

Not only did Mariano say he thought the companion policy made little sense, but the former public school teacher said teachers should be moved up the priority ladder. Teachers happen to be in the next grouping.

The governor’s office has not said if he will accept the invitation to testify, but the committee has also asked Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders and top public health officials to appear.

Testing, 1, 2, 3…

Baker said in a speech to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce that he thought it was “appropriate” and “absolutely necessary” that MCAS exams, even modified tests, be given to Massachusetts students this spring.

The governor’s comments came as a collection of education and civil rights groups, including the two major teachers unions, wrote to lawmakers pleading for them to push the Department of Education to seek a federal waiver to cancel the tests this spring.

Baker didn’t seem at all open to the idea, describing the exams as necessary to get a sense of if and how far students had fallen behind over the last year. 

Pointing to the substantial amount of money for K-12 education that would be headed to Massachusetts if President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan passed, Baker said he’d like some of that money to be put toward summer school and programs to help students make up for lost school time. And that would be harder to do if educators don’t know where students must catch up.

They said it…

“We always said, ‘Jules is here to make it delicious and Sam is here to make it beautiful.” — Jules Remenar, co-owner of the Dulce D Leche bakery in Framingham and Ashland, recalling the impact his wife and business partner, Samantha Amenta-Stavar, had on the business. Amenta-Stavar was found dead last week. She was 47. 

“I am prepared to defend my actions as proper and legitimate, although it seems clear that a majority of the Board already has arrived at negative determinations prior to hearing from me and before any investigation occurs.” — Milford Police Chief Michael Pighetti, in a letter to the community this week addressing his decision to pull over a vehicle that ran a red light. On Feb. 8, the Board of Selectmen voted to put Pighetti on paid leave, pending an investigation into “allegations he exercised unauthorized and unnecessary police powers.”

Contributors to the Political Notebook this week include Deputy Director of Multimedia Dan O’Brien and the State House News Service.

Share!
Loading Facebook Comments ...