BAKER’S POPULARITY SAGS It looks like Gov. Charlie Baker’s approval rating took a hit during the coronavirus pandemic.

The rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine at the beginning of the year, in particular, hurt the governor’s standing among residents. Anonline survey from three universities

Harvard, Northeastern and Rutgers showed Baker’s approval rating for how he handled the pandemic dropped by 21 percentage points. Baker’sapproval rating

was at about 80 percent in April of last year, and by this February had gradually declined to 59 percent.

That tracks with a UMass Amherst pollreleased last week

, which showed the number of residents who thought Baker was handling the pandemic “very well” dropped from 36 percent in October to 15 percent in March. The percentage of residents who think Baker is doing “somewhat well” stayed about the same, around 45 percent.

The governors popularity is something of a cliche at this point just type the phrase Teflon Charlie Baker” into Google. But that also shows why a dip in his approval is eye-catching, and could give hope to Democrats waiting to see if the governor runs for a third term.

It’s no secret the vaccine has been a political sore spot for Baker the pace of vaccinations was initially behind other parts of the country, a much-anticipated website crashed on its first day, and lawmakers pressed the governor to apologize during a rare oversight hearing. Baker is expected to testify at another oversight hearing next week, according to the Boston Herald


But there are signs the rollout is turning around. Massachusetts got some love from one of President Joe Biden’s top Covid-19 officials on Sunday. Andy Slavitt, White House senior adviser for Covid-19 response, pointed to Massachusetts as one of several states that have vaccinated a significant share of the populationin a tweet


And separate from the vaccine, Baker may score a point in the fight to reopen schools. Dr. Anthony Fauci hinted that school distancing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could shrink from 6 feet to 3 feet,during an interview on CNN

. The Baker administration has insisted 3 feet of distance is enough for schools reopening this spring.

“The CDC is very well aware that data are accumulating making it look like 3 feet are okay under certain circumstances. They’re analyzing that, and I can assure you within a reasonable period of time, quite reasonable, they will be giving guidelines according to the data that they have,” Fauci said. “It won’t be very long, I promise you.”

NEW: BATES ENTERS BOSTON COUNCIL RACE Kelly Bates, of Hyde Park, is jumping into the race for Boston City Council. Bates is running for an at-large seat, and will launch her campaign today with anew website and video

. Bates is the president of the Interaction Institute for Social Change

This fall’s council race is likely to be quite crowded because of the high-profile race for mayor. City Councilors Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George, who both hold at-large seats, are running for the top City Hall job.

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TODAY The Kennedy Institute holds a St. Patricks Day celebration with Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Rep. Richard Neal, and former Rep. Joe Kennedy III.Rep. Jake Auchincloss, state Rep. Carole Fiola, and Mayor Paul Coogan tour the Fall River Industrial Park. Rep. Stephen Lynch and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh hold a press conference at Faneuil Hall.

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Massachusetts reports 1,508 new COVID cases, 30 deaths Sunday as state reaches 908,553 residents fully vaccinated, by Benjamin Kail, Massachusetts public health officials on Sunday reported that 1,508 more residents have tested positive for COVID-19 and another 30 have died from the virus. Since the pandemic hit the U.S. about a year ago, at least 568,616 Bay State residents have tested positive for the coronavirus and 16,311 have died, according to the state Department of Public Health



Baker seeks tax break for business owners, by Christian M. Wade, The Salem News: Gov. Charlie Baker wants to tax certain businesses to help their owners skirt a federal cap on deductions of state and local taxes. Tucked into Baker’s preliminary budget is a proposed workaround tax allowing pass-through corporations partnerships, limited liability companies, and S corporations to get around the $10,000 federal cap on deductions for state and local taxes


States housing assistance program posts big gains, by Sarah Betancourt, CommonWealth Magazine: The states emergency housing assistance program is upping its game, pushing more money out the door and helping more people struggling to avoid eviction. As of January 13, the program had dispensed only $22.6 million of the $100 million available. But now that figure has more than doubled to $48.4 million


Mass. Education Commissioner Reflects On A Year Of School Closures And Moving Students Back To Classrooms, by Paul Connearney and Bob Oakes, WBUR. Link.

School superintendents call for suspending MCAS this year in opposition to federal edict, by Laura Crimaldi, Boston Globe: As public school systems statewide rush to meet new reopening deadlines, an association representing superintendents is urging the state to cancel MCAS and language proficiency testing this year, arguing that the spring exams threaten to steal valuable time away from efforts toward a healthy return


Governors evade sunshine laws to keep records from public, by Stephen Groves, The Associated Press: “Since last year, governors across the country have provided thousands of pages of emails in response to requests filed by The Associated Press, revealing how some pushed economic interests ahead of public health guidance as they battled the pandemic. But Noem and governors in five other states Arkansas, California, Massachusetts, Michigan and New Jersey have thwarted records requests by citing exemptions


Anti-Asian discrimination continues to surge amid pandemic, by Kami Rieck, MetroWest Daily News: Discrimination and attacks against Asian-Americans have surged in the past year in the United States since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, when former President Donald Trump referred to the coronavirus as the China virus. These anti-Asian racist incidents include Massachusetts


Twenty-one first-degree murderers set free under states new compassionate release law, by Shelley Murphy and Andrea Estes, Boston Globe: In all, 21 convicted murderers sentenced to life without parole have been released under the states three-year-old medical parole law, state records show. Most of them were released as COVID-19 swept through the states prisons.

Magic mushroom advocates following cannabis playbook, by Shira Schoenberg, CommonWealth Magazine: While the drugs are illegal under federal and state law, resolutions to make enforcing the laws a low priority for law enforcement have passed in Cambridge and Somerville. State Rep. Mike Connolly, a progressive Democrat from Cambridge, on Friday introduced a bill that would establish a task force to study the potential legalization of entheogenic plants, another term for hallucinogenic or psychedelic drugs



Boston opens vaccination site solely for citys public school teachers, workers Sunday, by Gal Tziperman Lotan and John Hilliard, Boston Globe: A vaccination site dedicated to Boston Public School workers opened Sunday morning in Mattapan, where scores of teachers and other employees lined up outside to receive their first doses of the life-saving inoculations. The site, opened by the city and the school department, will run from Sunday through Thursday over the next two weeks and is expected to offer about 200 appointments a day to educators and bus drivers, custodians and cafeteria workers


Nearly Half Of Revere’s Public School Staff Receive Vaccine Shots In One Day, by Edgar B. Herwick III, GBH News: The race to get Massachusetts teachers vaccinated ahead of mandated April re-openings for in person learning kicked into high gear this week. And on Friday, the city of Revere took a major step forward. Nearly half of Revere Public Schools entire staff received their first dose of the COVID vaccine at a clinic at Rumney March Academy, a Revere middle school, on Friday afternoon



It is surreal: Kim Janey, nearing mayoral history, reflects on her life in Boston, by Danny McDonald, Boston Globe: In City Hall, for the first time since the mayoralty was established in 1822, there will be a mayor who is both Black and a woman a doubly transformative moment for a city that has known only white men in the top executive office


‘Racism Is A Virus’: Bostonians Gather For Stop Asian Hate Rally, by Quincy Walters, WBUR: Nguyen, 18, helped organize Boston’s Stop Asian Hate rally, one of many held around the country following a year of increased attacks against Asian people during the coronavirus pandemic. Nguyen said he’s been following them all



The MBTA is making more cuts are the savings worth it? by Yvonne Abraham, Boston Globe: That glow at the end of the pandemic tunnel isnt bright enough to prevent the MBTA from cutting more transit services this weekend. Will riders still be there when those services return if those buses and trains return at all



Biden’s embrace of Warren World poses new risks for Wall Street, by Zachary Warmbrodt, POLITICO: Wall Street was relieved when Sen. Elizabeth Warren was passed over for the leadership of the Treasury Department. But now the financial industry faces another threat: President Joe Biden is enlisting a small army of her former aides and allies to run his government.


Its Daylight Saving Time again, and Ed Markey wants to make your clock change permanent, by Lisa Kashinsky, Boston Herald: After you change your clocks forward on Sunday, Ed Markey hopes youll never have to set them back. The Massachusetts senator and a bipartisan group of colleagues reintroduced legislation this week that would make Daylight Saving Time permanent meaning sun-starved Bay Staters who suffer through 4:15 p.m. winter sunsets could enjoy extended evening daylight year-round



Rep. Katherine Clark agrees with Rachel Maddow, says: Blame the rollout, by Maddie Mortell, On Thursday, MSNBC host and Massachusetts resident Rachel Maddow took to Twitter to rebuke Gov. Charlie Bakers rebuke of local teacher union officials requests regarding vaccine distribution in the state



The moment has met us: Democrats prep for a battle to make relief benefits last, by Megan Cassella, POLITICO: Nearly $2 trillion in fresh relief benefits are expected to start flowing into Americans bank accounts within days. Now, Democrats are already looking to make some of them permanent


COVID rescue package gives failing pension plans a $86 billion bailout, stirring hope and criticisms, by Matt Stout, Boston Globe: In the shadow of stimulus checks and extra unemployment aid, Democratic lawmakers extended another hand in the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package: a long-sought bailout for failing private pension plans. The union-backed provision, touted for years by Representative Richard E. Neal, was signed into law Thursday by President Biden as part of the larger COVID-19 stimulus bill


House Democrats draw the line: No bipartisan cooperation with Republicans who questioned the election, by Leigh Ann Caldwell, NBC News: Freshman Rep. Jake Auchincloss, a Democrat, has begun turning to an unusual source when trying to decide whether he wants to work with a Republican he thinks makes a good point during committee hearings: Google



An Iconic JFK Portrait On Loan From The MFA Now Hangs Inside Biden’s White House, by Andrea Shea, WBUR: An iconic portrait of John F. Kennedy has made its way from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston to the White House.


Extended National Guard Contingent Being Drawn from 11 States, D.C., by Nancy A. Youssef and Alexa Corse, The Wall Street Journal: National Guard members from 11 states and the District of Columbia will provide security at the U.S. Capitol through the spring, a National Guard spokesman said, amid mounting objections among lawmakers and some military leaders to their deployment. Guard members from Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Washington state and Wisconsin, along with D.C. National Guard troops, will help secure the Capitol complex



Fauci: Pulling back Covid measures could endanger Biden’s July 4th prediction, By Maya Parthasarathy, POLITICO: Anthony Fauci on Sunday said President Joe Biden’s prediction that coronavirus vaccines can lead to relative normalcy by July Fourth is quite reasonable as long as states don’t prematurely pull back public safety measures



Rep. Katherine Clark on a vaccine clash between teachers unions and the Baker administration on WBZ’s “Keller @ Large” which aired Sunday: “I think that if we have not vaccinated our very most vulnerable populations at this point, we shouldn’t be blaming teachers, we should be looking at our rollout. And what we’re doing on the federal side with the bill we just passed, with a commitment from the Biden administration, is making sure we have an increased supply. But to me, if we are saying schools have to reopen in April, let’s make sure we’re protecting our teachers.” Link.

John Barros, candidate for mayor, on getting vaccinated during an interview on WCVB’s “On the Record” which aired Sunday: “I recently got called because there was a community center that had a vial that it was going to throw away. And so we brought my wife over and my wife got the last vial, and then they said, ‘Hey John, we’ve got one more, and we’re going to throw it away if no one got it.’ And I said ‘Yeah, I’ll get it.’ But we want to make sure that people who can get shots,get them now, and at the same time, we’re not wasting any vials. So I’ve got a sore arm to show and I’m asking anybody out there who can get a shot to get out there and get them.” Link.


Herald: RING THE BELL,Globe: Trump could play vital role, Fauci says,” “Compassionate, but to whom?


Kerry to Wall Street: Put your money behind your climate PR, by Zack Colman, POLITICO: Climate envoy John Kerry is prodding major U.S. banks privately to announce commitments for climate-friendly finance as part of the administration’s climate change policy rollout at President Joe Bidens Earth Day summit next month, according to people familiar with the conversations



Supporters celebrate Lucio Perez leaving sanctuary after 3½ years, by Greta Jochem, Daily Hampshire Gazette: After three and a half years, Lucio Perez can leave the First Congregational Church without the risk that he will be deported. Perez, a Guatemalan immigrant, began living in the church in October 2017 after a stay of his deportation was denied under the Trump Administration


Child care affordability, funding challenges concern Berkshire providers, state lawmakers, by Christian Metzger, Berkshire Eagle: For child care centers and families, the past year has been a difficult one. Many parents unable to afford child care during the coronavirus pandemic, especially women, have left the workforce to look after their children. And strapped by reduced class sizes and yearslong financial struggles, child care workers remain largely unvaccinated and with little pay


After receiving second dose, Yo-Yo Ma transforms waiting period into performance at Pittsfield vax clinic, by Amanda Burke, The Berkshire Eagle: After Yo-Yo Ma received his second jab of a COVID-19 vaccine at Berkshire Community College Saturday, he transformed his 15-minute observation period into a concert for the newly inoculated



Questions raised about homeless shelter, by Bill Kirk, Eagle-Tribune: Some city officials are raising questions about the continued use of the Days Inn as an emergency shelter for homeless people affected by COVID-19, saying that residents and business owners in the neighborhood have been complaining about conditions around the Pelham Street site


Attleboro joins other cities in effort to establish regional vaccination clinic, by George W. Rhodes, Sun Chronicle: The city is joining with four other municipalities in an effort to create a regional coronavirus vaccination clinic that would inoculate 750 people a day. Mayor Paul Heroux said Attleboro has partnered with Taunton, Fall River, Somerset and Swansea and jointly applied to the states Department of Public Health for the clinic


Cape Cod’s death rate for those with COVID-19 higher than state average, by Cynthia McCormick, Cape Cod Times: One year into the COVID-19 pandemic, statistics show that it has hit Cape Cod hard, with a case-fatality rate higher than the state average and a second wave of winter deaths that peaked higher than last year’s spring surge. The Capes older-than-average population likely has played a role in those death rates


St. Vincent Hospital strike day 7: Tensions high as nurses crossing picket line concerned about ‘bullying’ by striking workers, supporters, by Richard Duckett, Telegram & Gazette: Three nurses who have remained at work at St. Vincent Hospital during the weeklong strike by nurses affiliated with the Massachusetts Nurses Association, said Sunday they are concerned about instances of bullying and harassment that have made them fear for their safety


TRANSITIONS FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: Candidate for mayor John Barros announces new campaign hires: Mary Liz Ganley will serve as political consultant, Lizzy Heurich is campaign manager and Jacey Schank will be finance director.

Sarah Betancourt is leaving CommonWealth Magazine and joining Law360 as senior immigration reporter. Tweet.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Miles Weber, Susan Slattery and Lenny Alcivar.

NEW EPISODE: A YEAR ON THE CORONACOASTER On this weeks Horse Race podcast, hosts Jennifer Smith and Stephanie Murray discuss a CommonWealth Magazine investigation into a 2017 birth control law with Sarah Betancourt, and talk about the school reopening plan with Melissa Hanson of MassLive. Subscribe and listen on iTunes

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HAPPENING THURSDAY – PLAYBOOK INTERVIEW WITH CONGRESSMAN LEE ZELDIN: The GOP has not won a statewide election in New York in nearly two decades. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), an ally of former President Donald Trump, is one of several Republicans considering a challenge against embattled New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Join Playbook co-authors Tara Palmeri and Ryan Lizza for a conversation with Rep. Zeldin to discuss a potential gubernatorial run and how he is working with Democrats in Congress. REGISTER HERE.