🤒 Your sick season primer

Plus: 🎫 Robot parking enforcement

It’s Thursday, Boston.

🚇 It’s not a slow zone, but it’s still not … great. Some Red Line riders had a particularly rough start to their day Wednesday when a “propulsion issue” forced an 8:15 a.m. train out of service and filled Harvard Station with smoke as they left. At least, this time, there was no actual fire.

👀 What’s on tap today:

  • Major Mass. college savings

  • Thanksgiving travel woes

  • Mass. ain’t cheap

Up first...


COVID Wild West

Illustration by Gia Orsino

Buckle up: We are now entering the first COVID winter season post-public health emergency and in the words of Taylor Swift: You’re on your own, kid. 

So with federal and state officials taking the training wheels off (and a large portion of the public taking masks off, too), we talked with two local doctors about navigating this sick season. Here’s what they said:

🎱 We don’t have a sick season crystal ball. It’s hard to give an overall snapshot of what this season is going to look like in severity, said Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, the executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission. But if she had to venture a guess, hospitalization numbers might look better this year because of new vaccinations and some patient immunity from past infections.

🤒 But no matter what: Don’t panic. Even though this season might seem like a free-for-all compared with peak pandemic days, cold and flu season is not new. “We have to remember that this is how most winter seasons in the past have been,” said Dr. Vandana Madhavan, MGH’s clinical director of pediatric infectious disease. The only really “new” factor is the addition of COVID to the mix, and we’ve all had plenty of practice in handling that. 

⚕️ COVID and the flu aren’t the only two viruses to consider. Enter: RSV a.k.a. respiratory syncytial virus. Although it’s a common respiratory virus, it caused quite a stir last year when cases of the virus surged in autumn. RSV mainly causes cold-like symptoms in young, healthy people but can be more serious in babies and older adults, so knowing who around you might be at risk for RSV is important.

💉 Your best protection is an injection. Luckily, there are vaccines available for all three viruses and nearly everyone older than six months is eligible for this year’s flu and COVID vaccines (which you should get right around now). You should also consider who in your family might be eligible for an RSV vaccine. “Waiting until you see symptoms isn’t the way to do it … now is the time to get fully protected,” Madhavan said. Check out Boston’s free COVID and flu shot clinics here

😷 This year, we have more tools in our belt than ever. We might not use masking and social distancing in the same all-or-nothing way we used to, but they’re still useful when we use them intentionally, Madhavan said. Simple actions, like avoiding big crowds for a few days if you’re going to see an immunocompromised person or masking up on the T if you have a cold, can be really helpful. Plus, the classics — washing your hands, disinfecting high-touch surfaces, and coughing and sneezing into your arm — actually work, so use ‘em. 

📱 Stay informed! For the latest public health info related to COVID, check out this page.

— Written by Gia Orsino


The secret is out, Boston 

💰 You could be sitting on a gold mine. The Massachusetts State Treasury has more than $3 billion in unclaimed property stashed away, and some of it might belong to you. With one in 10 citizens already finding lost money — totaling a whopping $787 million returned in the last five years — it’s time to check if you’ve hit the jackpot. Simply look up your name in under a minute to see if you have any funds from previously closed savings or checking accounts, forgotten checks, stocks, and more. You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. 


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Quick & dirty headlines

Image by Steve Leblanc/Associated Press

🎓 If you attend public college in Mass., you might save big. Gov. Maura Healey just announced the MassGrant expansion package, nearly $62 million dollars that will pay for tuition, fees, books, and supply costs (excluding room and board) for Pell Grant-eligible students at public community colleges as well as state colleges and universities. Plus, it will reduce out-of-pocket expenses for full-time, middle income students by up to half. All you have to do to qualify is fill out a FAFSA form, and if you already have, you’re all set. Find out more here

🎫 You might be able to sneak by a parking enforcement officer … But can you sneak by a robot? SafetySticks — gray, waist-high, cylindrical devices with small cameras — will launch in Somerville before the end of the year. The hope is that these little robots will catch drivers who make quick parking violations that enforcement officers tend to miss. Once launched, the devices will give tickets by taking pictures of violators’ license plates, and — once the violation is confirmed by a human — a parking ticket will be sent to their address. 

🚗 Thanksgiving travel is looking iffy. And that’s not just because AAA projects that this year will be the third busiest since the agency began tracking holiday travel in 2000, with 55.4 million travelers going 50 miles or more from home. Bostonians who travel Friday night into Saturday will likely be greeted by rainy and windy conditions, and a larger storm is expected to bring heavier rain to the East Coast on Tuesday and Wednesday, some of the busiest travel days. Keep your eyes peeled for more info.

💰 News flash: Living in Mass. ain’t cheap. A new report from RealtyHop lists the top 100 most expensive zip codes in the U.S. and Mass. made a few appearances. Tied for third place with New Jersey, four Mass. zips appeared on the list, and they probably won’t surprise you. The locales that made the cut are Back Bay (17th), Wellesley (77th), Newton (78th), and Beacon Hill (91st). But if you think that’s bad, New York had 16 zip codes on the list, and California had 61. Yikes!

— Written by Gia Orsino


Name a puppy

Illustration by Gia Orsino

Leominster Fitchburg Animal Control is being “inundated” with calls for the cutest reason. On Tuesday morning, they rescued a small dog who was left in a crate on the side of the road, and people are already lining up to adopt or foster her (we can’t blame them, she’s so cute! Just take a look).

Although she’ll need to be held for seven days before she can be put up for adoption, the department did ask for the public’s help naming her in a recent Facebook post. They’ll pick the name from the comments section, and some of the top contenders so far include Dobby (as in “Harry Potter”) and Amina (which means “tiny spirit”).

It’s unclear when exactly the name will be picked, so if you want to throw your hat in the ring, get commenting! 

— Written by Gia Orsino

🐶 Thanks for reading! Personally, my favorite suggestion was “Sweet Pea.” I think it suits her.

💜 Special Shoutout to today's sponsor, the Massachusetts State Treasury, for supporting local journalism and helping residents reclaim what’s rightfully theirs.

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