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Formerly the Newton-Needham Chamber

State issues new return to work, testing, guidelines

Our chamber sent letters to the Needham and Wellesley Boards of Health yesterday, urging both communities to adopt temporary face mask mandates in all indoor public spaces, such as, but not limited to grocery stores, retail stores, restaurants, event spaces and salons.
(Our other two Charles River Chamber communities, Newton and Watertown, currently have indoor mask mandates in place.)
Both Needham and Wellesley have done a good job educating the public about the need to wear masks properly, as well as the latest thinking on proper masking materials. 
In our letters to both boards we acknowledged that the science of COVID is changing rapidly. We also recognize that masks can provide a false sense of security, especially with the rapidly spreading Omicron variant.
However, our board of directors believes a temporary mask mandate achieves several things that the mask advisories currently in effect in Needham and Wellesley do not: 
  • It provides a safer and more comfortable work environment for our workers and their families. While both communities enjoy 95% adult residential vaccine rates, many employees live elsewhere.
  • It takes the onus off our businesses and their employees to enforce their own mask polices and the difficult conversations that can accompany those conversations.
  • It gives customers who believe strongly in the value of face coverings (and anecdotally that appears to be the vast majority of residents in both towns) an added degree of comfort when shopping or dining locally.
Consumer confidence is low. Workers are exhausted and fearful. Employers are struggling with absentee rates never seen before.
The chamber believes a short term mask mandate in both communities -- coupled with stepped up safety protocols and education, continued advocacy of vaccines, etc. – would help foster a more comfortable and safer workplace for all.
Brookline's indoor vax mandate begins Saturday too
Brookline is joining Boston in mandating proof of vaccines for a variety of indoor businesses and venues starting Saturday, WCVB reports.
Boston’s mandate includes indoor dining, indoor fitness and indoor entertainment (and, you bet, some business owners are anxious.) Proof of vaccination is not required when entering a restaurant to pick up take out or use the restroom.
Brookline’s vax mandate is similar, but also includes outdoor dining.
And here's what we don't know: Will the mandate mean customers who might have dined at say, the Street in Newton, now go to dinner to Brookline or Boston? And will unvaxed Brookline/Boston restaurant goers head in our direction?
State issues new return to work, testing guidelines
The state Department of Public Health (DPH) unveiled updated guidance this week on when we should get tested for COVID-19, what kind of tests we should use, and when workers who’ve been infected can return to work.
They recommend seeking COVID-19 tests when exhibiting COVID symptoms, or five days following a known close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID.
The new isolation protocols do not require a COVID-19 test to exit isolation after having COVID. This general rule also applies to childcare and K-12. 
The new quarantine protocols recommend, but do not require, all exposed individuals get a test five days after exposure. Exposed individuals do not need to quarantine in the following circumstances:
  • If fully vaccinated and not yet eligible to receive a booster OR
  • If fully vaccinated and have received their booster OR
  •  If they had COVID and it is less than 90 days since they were diagnosed. Details.
DPH advises that a positive COVID-19 rapid antigen does not need to be confirmed with a PCR test.
DPH recommends individuals that have COVID symptoms and test negative with a rapid antigen test should isolate and either repeat an antigen test or get a PCR test in 24-48 hours if they continue to exhibit symptoms.
Employers, schools, and child care should not require a test as a condition of returning to work or school.
Still have COVID testing workplace questions?
The state Office of Housing & Economic Development is hosting a webinar tomorrow (Jan. 14) at 2:30 p.m. specifically for employers with questions about CDC and DPH testing guidance.
Here’s the Zoom link. Passcode: 364462
Wells Park complex has new owners
If you’re one of the 29 companies located at the Newton office complex known as Wells Park, you now have a new landlord and you’re going green.
Boston-based Taurus Investment Holdings has acquired the three-building portfolio at 7-57, 75-85-95 and 199 Wells Ave. from Angelo, Gordon & Co. and Jumbo Capital Management for $92 million.
Taurus said in a statement that it plans to transition Wells Park to a low-carbon, energy efficient office park by replacing the existing natural gas heating with highly efficient air-source heat pumps, installing roof-top and carport solar panels and LED lighting retrofits, and energy management system upgrades.
The portfolio – a total of 377,696 rentable SF --is currently over 93% leased.
Tenants include Sally Mae Corporation, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Karyopharm Therapeutics, Ascensus and Adviser Investments.
Other need to knows 
  • The Massachusetts Health Connector's open enrollment period closes Jan. 23. State residents are eligible to enroll in health insurance coverage through the Connector for the first time. Existing members can shop for a new health insurance plan that meets their needs. Details.
  • WY has published this list of four recommendations for nonprofits looking to evaluate their DEI efforts in 2022. (via Mass Nonprofit Network)
  • Dozens of business executives are urging US Senate leaders to change the filibuster to pass voting rights legislation (The Hill)
  • Newton is now limiting NewMo rideshare service trips to two passengers instead of three, due to the recent COVID surge. The city is also adding a seventh vehicle to its NewMo fleet, reports John Hilliard at the Globe. The public cost of a ride is $2. Businesses and other organizations also have the option to cover the cost of rides for employees or customers.  Details.
  • The MetroWest Daily News will soon be a little less daily. They're eliminating their Saturday print editions starting March 5 (BBJ)
Learn more about the export business
Massachusetts Export Center’s virtual Export Expo on Jan. 27-28, will focus on the challenges and developments in the global trade environment, including the continued impact of regulation, policy and the pandemic on global trade operations. 
Critical issues such as global supply chain challenges, tightening export controls, trade with China, tariff policy, stepped-up enforcement and more will be addressed, with a focus on helping companies to navigate a dynamic and increasingly complex global trade environment. Details.
From rags to recycling
Newton and Watertown residents are eligible for curbside pickup of clean, dry, and bagged clothing and fashion accessories through HELPSY, the largest clothing collector in the northeast. 
HELPSY has collected nearly 3,000 pounds of clothing during the first month of curbside pickup in Watertown, according to the Watertown News. Schedule a pick up here.
Pizza at your price
Finally, this morning, here’s a nice story from Laura Daley for the Globe about a pizza joint that has found a unique way to stay afloat while helping those in need.
Since March 2020, family-run Pan’s Pizza in South Hero, Vt., has been offering a pay-what-you-can system, based on what they call their boat model of payments.
Customers who choose the “green boat” pay full price. Those who choose the blue boat identify as being “impacted by financial hardship due to COVID-19,” and pay 75 percent of their order. Yellow boaters self-identify as being able to pay 50 percent. Those in the orange boat pay 25 percent. White boaters have been “seriously impacted” and pay nothing, writes Daley.
Nearly two years in, Pan’s owners say they haven’t lost money, nor has anyone abused the system, 
That’s today’sNeed to Knows unless you need to why French dressing is now pretty much whatever you want it to be.

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