Apr 6, 2020

Gov. Charlie Baker Massachusetts COVID-19 Briefing Transcript April 6

Charlie Baker Press Conference April 6
RevBlogTranscriptsPolitical TranscriptsGov. Charlie Baker Massachusetts COVID-19 Briefing Transcript April 6

Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts held a press conference today on April 6. Read the full transcript of his updates here.

 

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Charlie Baker: (00:00)
News with respect to COVID-19. There are a hundred ventilators that we received from the national stockpile and those are being sent out to community hospitals and academic medical centers starting today. The distribution will be based on guidance that the command center got from its medical advisory group, and in this particular case that was led by Paul Biddinger from Mass General. Based on today’s testing results, we’ve now tested about 76,500 people in Massachusetts and 13,837 have tested positive. Tomorrow we’ll announce a new site in Lowell in partnership with CVS that we’ll conduct up to a thousand tests a day. That will be done probably on an appointment basis and we’ll work through a variety of communities such as first responders and others in public safety who we’ve tried to make these drive through test sites available to in other parts of Massachusetts. There’s another one that we’ll be going up probably later this week at the Big E in West Springfield.

Charlie Baker: (01:09)
Obviously without question, this public health crisis continues to be one of the most challenging events we in the Commonwealth have ever faced and I want you to know that I spoke many times yesterday with Boston mayor Marty Walsh about everything he’s doing to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Boston. I believe he’s doing a terrific job. We spend a lot of time talking to each other. Many people who work on his staff spend a lot of time talking to people working on my staff, and we fully support the initiatives and the policies that he is pursuing for the city of Boston.

Charlie Baker: (01:51)
I think in many respects, the overarching message that comes from many of the announcements that he made yesterday is a really simple one. If you don’t have to leave home, don’t. If you need to go to this store, if you need to shop at the supermarket, one person should be able to make that trip.

Charlie Baker: (02:10)
If you need to go for a walk, by all means go for a walk, but we’re not supposed to be gathering in groups. That’s been made very clear now for several weeks here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. We are not supposed to be playing active outdoor sports with each other and many of the initiatives that have been pursued by many of my colleagues in local government have been in direct response to this small portion of people in their community who aren’t following the guidelines that everybody else seems to have been able to adopt and this is especially true now more than ever as we head into what we all believe is going to be a particularly difficult period for many of our healthcare providers and many of our constituents. I can’t express how important it is that people take this stuff seriously and take it to heart.

Charlie Baker: (03:07)
I talked several weeks ago about the purpose that’s associated with all this. Many people had talked to me about the fact that as they no longer could go here or go there or do this or do that, they felt they had lost a significant part of their purpose and what I would say to all those people is something I’ve said before that there is tremendous purpose in all the issues associated with social distancing and all the issues associated with hygiene and all the issues associated with disinfecting and wiping down surfaces because with a virus like this one, that is contagious is this one and in many cases as invisible as this one can be, the most important and purposeful thing we can all do is abide by those rules and engage them in a serious way. No one really knows how many people will be lost to this virus, but if you just follow the conversation that’s taking place between public health officials, healthcare officials generally, and public health experts, the numbers are extraordinary and as I’ve said before, behind every one of those numbers is a person with a story and a family and a circle of friends and we should be doing everything we can as individuals and as communities at this point to recognize, appreciate and understand the value and the importance of social distancing, the value and the importance of staying at home and the value and the importance of recognizing and understanding that the best and most purposeful way to fight the virus is to not spread it to others and to give our healthcare community the opportunity that it needs to create capacity to deal with the surge and to ensure that we do everything we can here in Massachusetts to help people make their way through this.

Charlie Baker: (05:23)
I don’t think I need to say to anybody here or anybody who might be watching that. There are terrific stories of resiliency and grace that go on throughout the Commonwealth, whether you’re talking about the folks in our healthcare community, our emergency responder community, our public safety community, our transportation and public transportation and transit community or the folks who load the shelves and provide services and support to you when you go to the grocery store or answer questions for you when you go to the pharmacy.

Charlie Baker: (05:56)
Here in Massachusetts, we also have some of the most important players in the mad race to enhance and improve the quality, sophistication and speed of testing as well as deep research into possible treatment and potentially down the road, even vaccines to deal with this. All of those people are engaged in the same kind of purpose that we would hope and expect everyone in Massachusetts in their own way can engage in themselves.

Charlie Baker: (06:27)
That’s part of what today’s about. We’re here to talk a little bit about the establishment of the Massachusetts COVID-19 relief fund. My wife, first lady Lauren Baker, is here with me today along with our friend Joanna Jacobson, who’s been involved in putting this together as well. The goal here is simple, which is to create a statewide fund that can support many of the local foundations and community assets that have been serving communities and people here in Massachusetts for years and years and years to help those who are going to have the hardest time working through and dealing with all of the economic consequence and public health consequence that’s associated with this particular virus make their way through. It’s launched with a $1.8 million anchor donation from Massachusetts own One8 Foundation and it’s joined by several other amazing philanthropists and we’ll start with more than $13 million available to distribute.

Charlie Baker: (07:29)
I do want to give a shout out to Bob rivers and the folks at Eastern bank. The relief fund will be powered by Eastern bank to be a critical conduit to direct resources as I mentioned before. They can put resources in the hands of many of the nonprofits who know these communities best and will be most able to provide people in those communities with the support that they need across the Commonwealth. The Foundation for Business Equity and the Boston Foundation will be the fiscal sponsors for the fund and we’re extremely grateful to have their support. Lauren, we’ll talk more about the fund but I do want to say how grateful I am to the One8 Foundation and all the other philanthropists and leaders here in the Commonwealth who have already stepped up and contributed and to the folks at Eastern Bank, not just for their leadership on this particular initiative. But on so many other community based opportunities that they have pursued over the course of many years.

Charlie Baker: (08:24)
If you have the opportunity to support this particular organization as you think about the people here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for whom this particular period of time is going to be most rough, I hope you’ll consider donating to the fund as well. With that, I’ll turn it over to Lauren.

Lauren Baker: (08:43)
Thank you. Good afternoon. There are a lot of communities across Massachusetts where even in the best of times people struggle and these are communities where families live paycheck to paycheck and they’ve been particularly hard hit by this COVID-19 health crisis. We founded the Massachusetts COVID-19 relief fund to help people in every corner of this Commonwealth access the resources that they need. This fund is going to support essential frontline workers and other vulnerable communities who face issues like food and housing insecurity and the loss of critical services. The Massachusetts COVID-19 relief fund will partner with a network of excellent community foundations and local nonprofits who have deep roots in their communities and boots on the ground to deploy these funds quickly and effectively. We’re really grateful in particular to the One8 Foundation for conceptualizing this fund and doing a lot of the…

Lauren Baker: (10:03)
For conceptualizing this fund and doing a lot of the groundwork that needed to be done to bring it to life, and for their incredibly generous lead gift of $1.8 million.

Lauren Baker: (10:12)
And to Eastern Bank for really helping to bring this fund to life. They’ve generously offered to administer the fund at no cost, which if you’re familiar with Eastern Bank, it’s perfectly in keeping with their long tradition of giving back to our communities. And to the Foundation for Business Equity and The Boston Foundation, thank you for agreeing to be fiscal sponsors for this fund. And to Mintz, Levin for invaluable advice and counsel. Most importantly we have to thank our generous donors who, through their generosity, have made it possible for this fund to launch with $13 million available to people in need.

Lauren Baker: (11:03)
The people of Massachusetts always step up. We’re resilient. We’re compassionate and strong. We have proven time and again that we will work together, support each other, and do whatever it takes to overcome any challenge. Well the COVID-19 crisis is probably the biggest challenge any of us have faced. But I know that the people of Massachusetts are going to work together, and support each other, and do their part to help their neighbors survive and succeed. And I know that if we all work together, we’re going to make it through this just fine. So I hope that everyone will take a minute to go to macovid19relieffund.org to learn more and make a donation. Every donation counts. Whether it’s $5 or $50 or $5 million, every dollar will go to serve people in need in every corner of Massachusetts. With your help and generosity, we can weather this storm and come through it stronger together. Thank you. Please visit masscovid19relieffundfund.org.

Lauren Baker: (12:25)
And now I’d like to turn it over to Joanna Jacobson from the One8 Foundation.

Joanna Jacobson: (12:35)
So just as the governor said, it’s time for all of us to do our best. And by doing our best, that’s our purpose. We are so lucky to live in a state where people step up time and time again. The generosity of the donors who have already given has been overwhelming. And we invite all the corporations, leaders, other philanthropists and donors, and all the individuals. We know how hard it is for everyone who’s at home, who wants to help, but they can’t leave their homes to help. Your donation will make a difference no matter how much it is. And we look forward to establishing this fund and working in direct collaboration with local community foundations, so that we can drive the dollars to existing nonprofits who serve people best.

Joanna Jacobson: (13:25)
We are fortunate to have a state filled with a lot of people who want to help. I think that in many times we think about our neighborhoods in small areas. This is the time to think about the entire state, to think about our neighbors across the state: Fall River, New Bedford, Holyoke, Springfield, Worcester, Lawrence, Lowell, Chelsea, all over. We need to help. We need to be there for everybody. And I join the first lady, who it’s been an honor to work with, to say that this $13 million is only a small beginning to a fund that can really help make a difference. It will not be the magic answer to everything. But if we do this well, if we do this together, we can have an impact.

Joanna Jacobson: (14:13)
I’d like to pass it over to Bob Rivers at Eastern Bank.

Bob Rivers: (14:20)
Well good afternoon. First of all, I want to thank both the governor and the first lady for the kind words about Eastern.

Bob Rivers: (14:29)
Governor, I have to tell you, thank you so much for your leadership, particularly during these extraordinary times. That comes not only from me, but it comes from my mom, who was in tears last night telling me how thankful she is to you for everything you’ve done.

Bob Rivers: (14:48)
A really special thanks to our first lady for all the work, the positive energy, spirit that you bring to bringing this to life and making this happen. Thank you. Thank you so much for your leadership.

Bob Rivers: (15:05)
Thanks also to the One8 Foundation for your lead donation, and to Joanna for your vision and your efforts in bringing so many of us together in our philanthropic community to get us started with such an incredible initial collective commitment. Thank you.

Bob Rivers: (15:26)
At Eastern we’re very thankful to be in a position to help, and really honored to be asked. In addition to making a financial contribution from the Eastern Bank Charitable Foundation we are helping in ways that we best can, by providing our technical banking and administrative services to enable people to make donations in a safe, easy, and reliable way. I’m grateful to our partners at the Foundation for Business Equity, and [inaudible 00:05:53], led by the president and CEO of the Eastern Bank Charitable Foundation, Nancy Stager. We recognize that this is bigger than any of us alone, and I am so thankful for your teamwork and your fast response.

Bob Rivers: (16:11)
Once again, endless thanks to our governor and our first lady and for all those involved in this fund for what you are doing and providing a way for all of us across the Commonwealth to be involved in the relief efforts.

Charlie Baker: (16:31)
Lauren, why don’t you see if people have questions specifically on this.

Lauren Baker: (16:33)
Does anybody have questions on the Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund?

Press Corps: (16:40)
Do you guys have a goal in terms of what you hope to raise over time, or through the pandemic [inaudible 00:06:46]?

Lauren Baker: (16:50)
I think it’s fair to say that we have no idea where this is going to go, but that we know that the need will be incredible. So we’re incredibly grateful to be able to launch this fund with $13 million, and I think the sky is the limit for how much we’re we would like to raise. The more money we can raise, the more money we can push out into communities where there is significant need and make life better for people.

Lauren Baker: (17:23)
Anything else?

Lauren Baker: (17:28)
Want to take over? Questions for the governor?

Charlie Baker: (17:30)
The one other thing I would say about this, and this is sort of a tip of the hat to Joanna and to Lauren: rather than creating a single entity that would collect and distribute from a central location, they basically did some work on what the existing playing field look like across the Commonwealth. And there are some really terrific community-based funds and foundations that know their geography and the people in their geography extraordinarily well. But if you look at how much money they currently have on hand, when you look around at most of them, the resources that they have available to them is just simply not going to be what it’s going to take to try and serve a lot of the folks who have been displaced by this particular double whammy of the public health crisis and the economic downturn.

Charlie Baker: (18:25)
And I think by raising funds through an organization like this, and then making those resources available to entities across the Commonwealth that already have pretty solid footprints and really know the best way to bring support and hope to those communities, is a really clever way of trying to leverage the central fundraising activity of a statewide entity by getting the absolute best in terms of knowledge and capacity to deliver regionally and at the local level. And to both of you I just want to say, that’s a very unusual way to go about establishing a statewide approach to this, and I think it will be far more effective to those who give to have organizations that really do have history, knowledge, and understanding of what it takes to actually help people in different parts of Massachusetts, making those on-the-ground decisions about how to deploy and put those resources to work. So kudos to you guys for that particular arrangement. I’ve not seen anybody do that before, and it was a great idea.

Press Corps: (19:29)
Governor, organizing a private fund raising effort, going to China to get masks with the help of [inaudible 00:19:37], do you feel like the federal government is letting us down here?

Charlie Baker: (19:43)
Well we just got 100 ventilators from the federal government, which we desperately need, and we have a commitment for them to work with us to see if we can build on that number over the course of the next few days and few weeks. I think this falls … For me, this whole thing falls into the category of you need to …

Charlie Baker: (20:03)
Thing falls into the category of you need to play the hand. Okay. You just have to play the hand. And as I said, when I talked about the way the whole initiative associated with the N95 masks happened after we lost that BJ’s Wholesaler mask shipment that we lost at the port in New York, I just started calling people. And in Massachusetts, we have a lot of people who are global citizens and in the arts, in academia, in medicine, in research, in business, in government. We just have a lot of those kinds of people. And many of those kinds of people are the support kinds of people who have stepped up to help kickstart this fund.

Charlie Baker: (20:49)
And I think the way I see it is you play the hand as best you can, and I’m not much on excuses.

Speaker 5: (21:01)
Governor, are there any parameters for [inaudible 00:21:02] anything about citizenship preparation size?

Charlie Baker: (21:11)
I should probably let these guys answer it. But my understanding is it’s for people who live in Massachusetts. And other than that, it’s just people who need help. But do you want to … Either one of you want to speak to that?

Speaker 6: (21:25)
I think the governor pretty much nailed it. It’s for citizens in need in every corner of Massachusetts and that will include newcomers. It’s going to largely be decisions made at the local level and we’re happy to support. Did I get it right?

Speaker 7: (21:50)
Governor, I wonder if you could explain to me. I’ve been struggling [inaudible 00:21:55] numbers that come out every day.

Charlie Baker: (21:57)
Which ones? There’s a lot of them.

Speaker 7: (21:59)
The ones that come out at four on the website. Two things that puzzled me. The number of deaths in Berkshire County and [inaudible 00:22:08] County relative to the population is extraordinarily high. Is there an explanation for that? Do you have any sense of it or am I making it up or is it just an anomaly? The other question I have for you is, we’re heading into this surge, the last couple days there’s been a downturn in some of the numbers. Is that just an anomaly too or is that something that’s going on?

Charlie Baker: (22:34)
So I feel smarter answering the second question than I do the first one. I may ask Mary Lou Sutter is to reach out to you on the first question. I tend not to want to put too much into the dailies. I mean it’s important that we put them out there and people care a lot about them and they want to see them every day. But I think it’s a mistake to draw big conclusions about whether or not a day number is a trend or even a two day is a trend. And I know people want to look for trends in this, especially positive trends given the anxiety that’s created by the presence of the virus in the first place.

Charlie Baker: (23:18)
But I think the best way to look at this is over time. And we’ve said for a while that we need to do three things to reduce the rate of the growth of the spread. One, dramatically limit business activities to what we call essential businesses. Two, do everything we possibly can to encourage people to stay home and not to travel around. And number three, to engage in all the activities associated with hygiene and social distancing and disinfecting and everything else. And I do believe if you follow the trend line for Massachusetts, you can see it’s starting to bend a little in terms of the cases.

Charlie Baker: (24:07)
But I think we should all be very careful about drawing too many conclusions from small points of data. We’ve believed …

Speaker 7: (24:17)
To rely on what’s going on two weeks ago.

Charlie Baker: (24:21)
Of course. I mean and all you can do here, and I said this before as well, is make your assumptions about where you think you’re going to be based on what you know about where you’ve been and every time you add data to that equation you can get a little smarter about it. But the thing I keep need to remind people is that first of all, this is a new virus. So it’s not like many others where there’s been years and years of research and people have a general idea about … I mean people are still debating whether or not if you’ve had it once, you can have it again.

Charlie Baker: (24:53)
Right? People know you will have developed antibodies because that’s been demonstrated by some of the antibody testing that’s gone on in other parts of the world where this has happened sooner than it happened in the US. But I think what we know is what we’ve learned from both the experience of other places and from the guidance we’ve gotten from the experts in the public health world, which is distancing and hygiene are really important when you’re dealing with something that involves droplets, which is the primary way through this gets spread and especially something that involves droplets that hang around on surfaces.

Charlie Baker: (25:34)
And that’s one of the reasons why all those issues with hand washing and hand sanitizing are so important because we put our hands on surfaces, doorknobs, counters, faces, and the more we can do not to do that, the less likely we are to be part of the spread. But, I think what we’ve been doing in Massachusetts is basically working with our colleagues in local government and elsewhere to encourage people to distance. And if you follow the Google data, which admittedly is a rough estimate, but a tool that a lot of people pay attention to, we’ve seen a 60% drop since March 7th or so when we put the emergency order in place to begin with.

Charlie Baker: (26:22)
And in both park activity and in retail and recreation, it’s a big drop. I think many of the measures that you can use to sort of draw big conclusions about this are still in the developmental stage. And I think people should be careful about drawing too many conclusions out of small pieces of information. And what I do know is we need, as I said in my remarks, we need to continue to take all the issues associated with distancing and slowing the spread seriously. And I believe that people in Massachusetts are doing that based on, with small exceptions, what we see.

Charlie Baker: (27:07)
Part of the reason why we banned parking at the beaches is because there is a clear evidence that a small group of people weren’t taking seriously the issues associated with distancing, so we closed the beaches. And I know some other communities closed the parking at the beaches and other communities followed up on that as well. The first part of your question, I’m going to need somebody like Mary Lou to get back to you on, but you’re right, there is some variability there.

Speaker 8: (27:37)
There’ve been [inaudible 00:27:39] your advisory council or any other partners you’re working with have considered the possibility that the surge and the timeline may vary from one [inaudible 00:27:54] to the next [inaudible 00:27:55].

Charlie Baker: (27:56)
I do think there’s a constant conversation going on about all of these issues and I think what I’ve said to our folks and most people agree with this is if you’re going to be dealing with a surge, it’s better to be too early than it is to be too late. And I think part of the reason why we’re trying to get most of the stuff we’re doing, especially with respect to additional capacity up by the end of this week, is because April 10th is around the time that we expected this thing would start. If it ends up taking a little longer to get here, that just gives us a few more days to engage in preparation activity.

Charlie Baker: (28:34)
But I have said many times that I don’t know exactly what the slope of this line ultimately looks like or how far out it goes, but what I do know is based on all the modeling that our folks had done by April 10th we need to be in a position to presume we’re going to see a fairly significant increase in hospitalizations. And that’s been the goal that we’ve been shooting to build our excess capacity for. And if it turns out that the slope of the line ends up being flatter and longer, then that’s the way we’ll play it. But again, this is not something that people have seen before.

Charlie Baker: (29:19)
Okay. This is new. And because it’s new and because it’s not something we have lots of historical history that people can rely on when they make judgment calls about how exactly to expect it to play out, you have to be willing, as I’ve said several times, to be nimble about this and to be willing to adapt based on collected data and information and the best advice you can get from people who are in a position to support and help our decision process.

Speaker 9: (29:52)
Why not order a lockdown since we could be going into a surge, at least for the next two weeks?

Charlie Baker: (29:57)
Well, as I said before, we’ve been pretty aggressive about our messaging associated with essential-

Charlie Baker: (30:03)
… Aggressive about our messaging associated with essential and nonessential work activity. We’ve been pretty aggressive with our messaging and our advisories around staying at home, and we have seen a very dramatic drop and across almost every measure you can think of with respect to mobility and gatherings. And if we see circumstances and situations where people aren’t abiding by these rules like we saw with some of this stuff around the beaches, we acted on it, and we’ll continue to do that.

Charlie Baker: (30:31)
But I do believe that if you look at the measures we’ve put in place and the work we’ve done in conjunction with our colleagues in local government, I think … And if you look at the survey data that’s been generated by many of the organizations that have been talking to voters and residents of Massachusetts, the overwhelming message coming from there is that people get the fact they’re supposed to stay at home. People get the fact they need to socially distance and people get the fact that this is a very dangerous and insidious virus and that they need to play by the rules. That has been clear in all the data I’ve seen

Speaker 11: (31:08)
You mentioned [inaudible 00:31:09] pretty aggressive stance that he’s taken. Have you considered at all a curfew or asking people to wear a mask when they go for a walk?

Charlie Baker: (31:20)
Well, I support the CDC recommendation, which is basically … First of all, when they talk about it, they’re talking about a mask to protect … As much to protect others from you as to protect you from others, because as we said before, if you believe the guidance that’s been given here, some pretty significant percent of the people who get infected with this virus may never develop symptoms, maybe as much as 20, 25% so that mask, if you can’t create social distance, if you’re not going to be in a situation where you’re able to create distance, the CDC recommendation is that you wear a mask and I think that makes sense. Both for you and for the other people that you’re not going to be able to distance yourself from.

Charlie Baker: (32:10)
The one thing I would say is that the CDC has a whole series of recommendations associated with dealing with this of which the mask is one. They also talk incessantly, as do I, about hand washing and hand sanitizing and disinfecting and wiping down surfaces and wiping down places where hands go. Because, again, this is spread primarily by droplets and droplets are on surfaces and on your hands and when they get on your hands that’s where they can create a significant … One of the things they say that makes masks particularly effective is you can’t put your hand on your face.

Speaker 11: (32:55)
But on curfews you would leave those to the locals?

Charlie Baker: (32:55)
Well, it’s a recommendation but it’s a message, right? There’s a message in the recommendation. The message in the recommendation is that if you don’t need to be out at night, don’t, which I think is a perfectly appropriate message, and I would echo that same message.

Speaker 12: (33:15)
[inaudible 00:33:15] are you considering expanding your construction ban at all?

Charlie Baker: (33:25)
We spent a bunch of time talking to many of the folks in the construction industry and built what we consider to be a very robust set of safety protocols for anybody who’s working on construction. And we also narrowed in a pretty big way the number of construction activities after we got some additional guidance from the federal government that would be considered to be essential. And, at this point, I think the guidance and the safety protocols we have in place are appropriate.

Speaker 13: (33:56)
Governor, [ inaudible 00:00:33:59].

Charlie Baker: (34:02)
Say again?

Speaker 13: (34:04)
[inaudible 00:34:05]?

Charlie Baker: (34:05)
Yeah, the ones we have are working. They are. The big issue is we’re going to need to get more of them.

Speaker 12: (34:12)
Are you going to be revising your budget given the anticipated [inaudible 00:34:16] shortfall, or are you going to leave it up to the legislature?

Charlie Baker: (34:18)
No. I mean, we’re in a pretty active and ongoing conversation with the legislature about the budget both for this year and next year. And honestly, part of the reason why it’s an active conversation as opposed to a declaratory one is this is very hard to figure out. And the house has talked a couple times about the fact that they may not have a budget out by the time … Their budget usually comes out right around the end of April. Right? And the speaker has said on a couple of occasions that they may or may not make that date. I’m very sympathetic to that, given the difficulty associated with projecting both the year end and next year. I Mean, March 7th was … That’s like three and a half weeks ago. Okay? Most people I know says it feels like three and a half years ago. I mean we just published the … We just published the March tax revenue numbers at the end of last week. Right?

Charlie Baker: (35:26)
They basically showed that year to date through March, fiscal year to date through March, which for the commonwealth fiscal year ends June 30, so this is three quarters of the year through March. March actually came in over benchmark and we’re all kind of scratching our heads about what the last three months of this year are going to look like and the beginning of next year is going to look like. The other thing that makes doing the budget piece really difficult, we have no idea whether or not there will be support for another federal stimulus, and if there is what it might mean for a lot of the stuff that state and local governments fund. Thanks everybody. It’s nice to see you. Say hi to Joy, okay?