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First snowfall of the season for many in Massachusetts could impact evening commute

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First snowfall of the season for many in Massachusetts could impact evening commute

It’s time to dig out your winter boots and snow brush for your car.

Wednesday will bring the first snowfall of the season for many across the Bay State, as meteorologists predict a widespread 1 to 2 inches of snow, with lower amounts along the coast.

While the light snowfall totals look to be minor, much of the snow will fall during the evening commute, so officials are urging people to plan for extra travel time and slow down on the roads.

“Not only will you be safer on snow if you curb your speed, you’ll have greater ability to stop if you need to,” said Mary Maguire of AAA Northeast. “Allow for more distance between your vehicle and the car in front of you. This will provide you with more stopping distance if you need to brake.”

The best chance for accumulation looks to be between 4 p.m. and midnight, and the best shot for higher snow amounts would be toward the Worcester Hills.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation advised people to clean snow off their vehicle, and to make sure their windshield wipers work and they have windshield washer fluid.

“So ask any Cop who has been on the job for few years which day normally has the most motor vehicle crashes? Answer: First snowfall of the year,” the Hanson Police Department tweeted. “Slow down, be safe, and keep your insurance rates down.”

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White House is set to put itself at center of US crypto policy

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White House is set to put itself at center of US crypto policy

The Biden administration is preparing to release an initial government-wide strategy for digital assets as soon as next month and task federal agencies with assessing the risks and opportunities that they pose, according to people familiar with the matter.

Senior administration officials have held multiple meetings on the plan, which is being drafted as an executive order, said the people. The directive, which would be presented to President Joe Biden in the coming weeks, puts the White House at the center of Washington’s efforts to deal with cryptocurrencies.

Federal agencies have taken a scatter-shot approach to digital assets over the past several years and Biden’s team is facing pressure to lead on the issue. Industry executives often bemoan what they say is a lack of clarity on U.S. rules and others worry that an embrace by China and other nations of government-backed coins could threaten the dollar’s dominance.

The White House declined to comment.

The Biden administration’s increased focus comes at a time of broad consumer interest in the volatile cryptocurrency market. Bitcoin, the biggest and most liquid cryptocurrency, fell below $37,000 on Friday, compared with an all-time high of nearly $69,000 in November.

The late-stage draft of the executive order details economic, regulatory and national security challenges posed by cryptocurrencies, said the people who asked not to be named discussing internal deliberations. It would call for reports from various agencies due in the second half of 2022.

One such study would come from the Financial Stability Oversight Council, a group that includes the heads of Washington’s top financial watchdogs, looking at the possible systemic impacts of digital assets. Another government report would look at illicit uses of the virtual coins.

Meanwhile, the directive would also require other agencies to weigh in — carving out roles for everyone from the State Department to the Commerce Department. Some of those tasks will be meant to ensure that the U.S. remains competitive as the world increasingly adopts digital assets.

The administration’s plan, including the directives in the order, could be further modified before it’s finalized, the people cautioned.

The administration is also expected to weigh in on the possibility of the U.S. issuing a government-backed coin, known as a central bank digital currency or CBDC, the people familiar with the talks said. But, according to one of the people, the administration is likely to hold off on taking a firm position, as the Federal Reserve is still considering the issue.

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Wilmington deadly train strike: MBTA says ‘human error’ is behind ‘heartbreaking accident’

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Wilmington deadly train strike: MBTA says ‘human error’ is behind ‘heartbreaking accident’

Police investigating the fatal collision of a Commuter Rail train into a vehicle last Friday say that “human error” is behind the horrific wreck that occurred in Wilmington.

The victim of the devastating crash was Roberta Sausville, 68, of Wilmington, according to the Middlesex County District Attorney’s Office.

Investigators say that Sausville was driving alone on Middlesex Avenue in Wilmington at around 5:51 p.m. when an inbound Haverhill Line train struck the driver’s side of her vehicle near the North Wilmington MBTA station. Sausville was pronounced dead at the scene.

The investigation remains active, but “human error is the primary focus of investigators from MBTA Transit Police, State Police and the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office,” MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said in a statement.

Less than an hour before the accident, a signal maintainer for Keolis — the Commuter Rail operator — was performing regularly scheduled testing and preventative maintenance of the railroad crossing’s safety system.

“Following the testing, our preliminary finding is that the safety system was not returned to its normal operating mode,” Poftak said. “This failure resulted in the crossing gates not coming down in a timely manner as the train approached Middlesex Avenue.

“Investigators have not found any defects nor any other problems with the various elements that comprise the infrastructure of the railroad crossing system,” he added.

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Minnesota COVID-19 patients face a lottery for monoclonal treatment that works against omicron

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Minnesota COVID-19 patients face a lottery for monoclonal treatment that works against omicron

Minnesotans who get a serious case of COVID-19 may face long odds of getting one of the life-saving treatments that can fight off the omicron variant because they are in such short supply.

State health officials had steadily increased the availability of monoclonal antibodies — a type of antibody infusion — to help high-risk patients avoid severe COVID-19 infections. Unfortunately, now only one monoclonal antibody formula, Sotrovimab, works against omicron.

“That is in very low supply nationally and in Minnesota,” Jan Malcolm, health commissioner, recently told members of the Minnesota House health committee.

The state has moved to a random selection process to decide who gets what monoclonal antibodies the state has on hand. This week it got just under 600 doses of Sotrovimab, a slight increase from the week before.

The state received larger allocations of the two new antiviral pills — Molnupiravir and Paxlovid — getting about 12,000 total doses of those newly approved pills since they became available in December.

The random selection process the state uses is a weighted system that identifies patients who would most benefit from monoclonal treatments. When treatments are scarce, patients who receive the medicines are picked through a lottery.

In some instances, the process could give consideration to front-line health workers who were sickened while caring for COVID patients. Many Minnesota health systems, but not all, follow the state’s guidance for distributing scarce treatments.

The guidelines do not take into account whether someone has been vaccinated.

The state stopped using race as a factor in that weighted system for allocating monoclonal treatments Jan. 12 after America First Legal threatened a lawsuit against the Minnesota Department of Health alleging racial and ethnic discrimination.

“These racist policies decide questions of life and death based on skin color and must be rescinded immediately,” Stephen Miller, the group’s president and a former adviser to President Trump, said in a statement. “No right is safe if the government can award or deny medical care based on race. End this horrid injustice.”

America First Legal filed a lawsuit Jan. 16 against the New York State Department of Health for a similar policy.

Throughout the pandemic, Minnesota Department of Health data has shown Black, Native American, Hispanic, Asian and multiracial residents have had higher rates of COVID-19 hospitalization and death than white residents.

When asked about the rationale for removing race as a factor, despite it being part of federal guidance, a state Department of Health spokesman said in an emailed statement:

“The State of Minnesota is committed to serving all Minnesotans equitably in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ensuring that communities that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 have the support and resources they need is critical and we are constantly reviewing our policies in order to meet that goal.”

Minnesota continues to experience record high caseloads of COVID-19 driven by the highly contagious omicron variant. The state is reporting, on average, more than 11,000 new infections each day and test-positivity is at 27 percent.

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