MBTA gets nearly $860M in federal coronavirus relief funds

AP National News
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BOSTON (AP) — The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is getting nearly $860 million in federal coronavirus relief funds to help maintain services and jobs as the pandemic drags on, federal transportation officials said Wednesday.

The funding for the Boston area public transit system is part of more than $30 billion for public transportation included in the American Rescue Plan Act, signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11.

“Public transportation has been a lifeline for communities and the American people throughout this pandemic,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement. “This funding from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan will help protect transit employees from layoffs, keep transit service running, and ensure people can get where they need to go.”

The T will use the ARP funds, along with previous relief funds, to balance its operating budgets into the beginning of the 2024 fiscal year, a T spokesperson said.

“The funds are necessary to plug the massive revenue shortfalls due to significantly lower ridership (and lower fare collections),” the T said in a statement.

Ridership on public transit systems across the nation have plummeted during the pandemic as people either lost their jobs or were asked to work from home.

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MEDICAL SCHOOL VACCINES

All faculty and staff at the University of Massachusetts Medical School will be required to get a COVID-19 vaccination, and those who don’t comply could lose their jobs, school officials announced Wednesday.

Workers must present proof of vaccination by Sept. 7, and if they fail to do so, their employee badges will be deactivated, the Worcester-based school said in a statement.

“Employees who have not received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 7 may be subject to employer actions up to and including termination,” the statement said.

The school had previously issued a vaccine requirement for students.

Expanding it to faculty and staff was driven by several factors, including the growing prevalence of the highly contagious delta variant.

Medical or religious exemptions will be considered for workers who can provide supporting documentation.

Even when vaccinated, staff and students still must follow COVID-19 protocols, including wearing masks indoors and participating in surveillance testing if they are on campus at least once a week.

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VIRUS BY THE NUMBERS

The number of new daily cases of COVID-19 increased by more than 1,300 Wednesday while the number of newly confirmed coronavirus deaths in Massachusetts rose by eight.

The new numbers pushed the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to 17,751 since the start of the pandemic, while its confirmed caseload rose to more than 683,600.

There were more than 340 people reported hospitalized Wednesday because of confirmed cases of COVID-19, with more than 85 in intensive care units.

The average age of those who have died from COVID-19 was 73.

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

More than 4.4 million people in Massachusetts have been fully immunized against COVID-19.

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