Beacon Hill Update: Monday, February 22nd, 2021February 23, 2021
“Monday, February 22, 2021:
- As of Sunday night, DPH reported a total of 539,644 cases of COVID-19.
- The state reported 1,316 new confirmed cases.
- The state has now confirmed a total of 15,508 deaths from the virus.
- The House and Senate both meet in informal session today at 11am.
- After the frustration and chaos of the Thursday morning failure of the state vaccine appointment website, the Baker administration said 60,000 appointments were booked after all and passed along a statement in which a vendor whose technology has caused problems elsewhere took the blame.
- In an unsigned statement, PrepMod, a Maryland-based online clinic management and appointment scheduling system, said it took “full responsibility” for the website problems and vowed that it would not happen again.
- The cause of the problem, the company said, was “a sudden and unprecedented surge in traffic to the site.”
- The Baker administration said PropMod addressed the issues and the state was pressure testing it to check the vendor’s work.
- PropMod, which said it is “the state’s biggest online appointment vendor,” has been blamed for problems with vaccine distribution and appointment scheduling in other states over the last month and a half.
- This week a legislative committee has invited Governor Baker to testify before the panel at the first oversight hearing of the new Committee on COVID-19 and Emergency Preparedness.
- Sen. Jo Comerford, who is co-chairing the committee with Rep. William Driscoll said that she doesn’t know if Governor Baker will accept the invitation to testify this Thursday.
- The committee has also invited Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders, Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel, Assistant Public Health Commissioner Jana Ferguson and Assistant Public Health Commissioner and Director of the Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences Kevin Cranston.
- In addition, three other committees, Health Care Financing, Public Health, and Racial Equity, Civil Rights and Inclusion, have been asked to assemble expert panels to present to the oversight committee.
- The Joint Ways and Means Committee scheduled the first virtual hearing to consider Governor Baker’s $45.6 billion fiscal year 2022 budget proposal for March 2, where technology will be a focus.
- The committee plans to hear testimony from Administration and Finance Secretary Michael Heffernan, constitutional officers, the state inspector general, and the Executive Office of Technology Services and Security.
- Technology has emerged as a bigger issue in the pandemic era, with wide swaths of business shifted into remote settings, website crashes slowing the state’s vaccine rollout, and cybersecurity threats always looming.
- In August 2020, Governor Baker signed a $1.8 billion information technology bond bill to invest in the state government’s digital infrastructure.
- Governor Baker’s budget proposes slightly more than $50 million in spending on the Executive Office of Technology Services and Security, a slight increase over the $48.4 million projected for fiscal 2021.
- Lawmakers this session also convened a new Committee on Advanced Information Technology, the Internet and Cybersecurity.
- Governor Baker proposed reducing overall state spending by about $300 million, or 0.7 percent from FY21.
- His budget proposes using about $1.6 billion from the state’s “rainy day” savings fund amid fiscal and service challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Just over a month before its report is due, the Legislature’s panel investigating the deadly Holyoke Soldiers’ Home coronavirus outbreak is getting a new co-chair.
- Sen. Michael Rush, a U.S. Navy Reserves officer, was subbed in by President Karen Spilka on Thursday as Senate chair of the joint special committee.
- The House is keeping as its co-chair Rep. Linda Dean Campbell, an Army veteran, who led the probe along with Sen. Walter Timilty from the time it was established last July.
- Campbell and Timilty have continued holding oversight hearings this year ahead of a March 31 deadline to recommend reforms at the Holyoke facility.
- At least 76 veterans died there last year in a disastrous COVID-19 outbreak that ultimately led to the resignation of Veterans’ Services Secretary Francisco Urena.”
by David Gauthier