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Lawmakers weighing which emergency orders should become law

May 18, 2021 GMT

BOSTON (AP) — More than a year after COVID-19 upended Beacon Hill, Massachusetts lawmakers are scrambling to adjust to a post-pandemic world — and to decide what lessons learned from the past year should be enshrined in state law.

The two top Democrats in the Legislature — Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Ronald Mariano — said they have asked the Baker administration for a list of executive orders and emergency resolutions issued during the pandemic.

The two made the request after Gov. Charlie Baker announced Monday that all remaining COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted in Massachusetts on Memorial Day weekend, saying the state is on track to meeting the goal of vaccinating 4.1 million residents by the first week of June.

The Republican also announced that on June 15, he will end the formal state of emergency that has been in place in Massachusetts since March 10 of last year.

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Spilka and Mariano said they want to get their arms around the scope of the actions Baker took during the pandemic as the state emerges from the pandemic’s restrictions.

“Throughout the pandemic, the Legislature has adapted to the times and acted swiftly to provide protection, support, and relief to residents and businesses,” the two said in a written statement.

They added that they are looking forward to “working together with the Baker Administration as we seek to provide a seamless transition out of the State of Emergency and back to ‘new normal.’”

During the past year, Baker issued a slew of pandemic-related executive orders covering everything from the wearing of face coverings in public to shuttering many businesses in the pandemic’s early months to instituting mandatory 14-day quarantine requirement for travelers arriving in Massachusetts.

Individual lawmakers are already looking to adopt of those executive orders on a more permanent basis.

Democratic state Sen. Diana DiZoglio is pressing fellow lawmakers to write into law two steps that were taken during the pandemic to help struggling restaurants -- one that would cap the fees that can be charged by third-party delivery apps. A second bill being pushed by DiZoglio would extend restaurants’ ability to sell cocktails to go for two years.

“These measures were critical to helping our small businesses remain afloat in the face of the pandemic — and remain just as essential to them now, on the road to recovery,” DiZoglio said in a news release.

On Wednesday, state lawmakers are planning a virtual public hearing on several bills that would make COVID-19 related elections changes permanent, including expanding mail-in voting opportunities for Massachusetts voters.

Other bills would take other steps, like allowing same-day voter registration.

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VIRUS BY THE NUMBERS

The number of new daily cases of COVID-19 increased by about 360 Tuesday while the number of newly confirmed coronavirus deaths in Massachusetts rose by six.

The new numbers pushed the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to 17,419 since the start of the pandemic, while its confirmed caseload rose to about 657,500.

The true number of cases is likely higher because studies suggest some people can be infected and not feel sick.

There were fewer than 330 people reported hospitalized Tuesday because of confirmed cases of COVID-19, with about 90 in intensive care units.

The average age of those hospitalized was 55. There were an estimated 13,000 people with current active cases of COVID-19 in the state.

More than 7.2 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Massachusetts, including about 3.9 million first doses and 3 million second doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. There have been about 233,000 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine administered.

More than 3.2 million people have been fully immunized.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.