Mar 23, 2020
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker Briefing Transcript Coronavirus March 23
Charlie Baker, governor of MA, held a news briefing on COVID-19 for March 23, 2020. Read the full transcript here.
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Charlie Baker: (00:00)
… these assets are properly maintained. This is essential for trucks to continue to supply our grocery stores and for medical personnel to get to where they need to go. But just because the T is open doesn’t mean we think it’s a good idea to take the train downtown to meet up with friends. By limiting the use of public transportation to essential services and activities, we can not only slow the spread of the virus, but better protect our healthcare workers, our grocery store workers, and others who are working every day to keep us safe.
Charlie Baker: (00:36)
Everyone is advised to stay home and limit all unnecessary activities, online or e-commerce will also continue to be available. And lastly, restaurants and other businesses that sell food may continue to offer food or take out and delivery as long as they follow social distancing measures. And as I said earlier, we’re publishing a specific list of categories that lays out all the details.
Charlie Baker: (01:07)
Again, we’re asking everyone to use their common sense, think about the impact this virus is having on the sick and the elderly and to limit their interactions with other people. This cuts down on the chances that this virus has to spread. All non-essential businesses are required to operate remotely as many have already done. Massachusetts is home to companies large and small that lead the world in technological advancement in so many areas. I know that we have the intelligence and the capabilities to make this work so we can come through this together and stronger.
Charlie Baker: (01:48)
These steps are of course difficult to take. These aggressive social distancing measures put in place today are designed to give public health experts the time they need to ramp up additional steps that must be taken to effectively push back the virus. Other parts of the world have shown that this is possible. It takes expensive testing capabilities, aggressive tracking, tracing and isolation measures, and developing surge capacity for our healthcare system.
Charlie Baker: (02:22)
And these are obviously profoundly difficult times. I’ve had numerous conversations with people who have lost their jobs and their businesses and others that are struggling mightily to keep their doors open as best they can and pay their workers. I also attended and spoke via live stream in two empty houses of worship, at temple Emmanuel and at Morningstar Baptist Church over the weekend.
Charlie Baker: (02:48)
As we drastically limit personal contact and force organizations and people to stop coming together, I also sense a loss of purpose. As we all know, purpose is what drives us. Purpose is what fills our souls. Many feel lost and I can see why. But here’s the truth. We all have a role, we all have purpose as we battle this disease. Protecting one another from the spread of COVID-19 by limiting physical and social contact and staying at home is profoundly purposeful.
Charlie Baker: (03:32)
Every single act of distance has purpose. Our first responders and emergency medical personnel, those who are essential to our success in battling this disease need us all to do everything we can to reduce the spread. Reducing the spread honors these orders, honors and protects them and you and your family. There is purpose in these drastic changes in the way we live. We must all embrace this new way of life and appreciate that here we can all find purpose as we battle this virus together. Questions.
Speaker 2: (04:18)
Charlie Baker: (04:23)
We think at the end of the day it’ll probably be enforced primarily at the local level because the locals obviously will be closest to what’s going on in their own communities and can rely on the order and the terms of the order to determine if people who aren’t considered to be essential are operating. It’s a graduated set of penalties, starts with a fine and moves up from there.
Speaker 3: (04:45)
Governor, in terms of how best people are to listen to advisory but not forced to stay home, I mean is there a difference there in part about not wanting to be in their home?
Charlie Baker: (04:55)
Well, the order is with respect to essential businesses. If you’re not an essential business based on this list that we spent several days based on the federal guidance and what other states have put together. If you’re not a business, it’s on that essential list, you basically need to close your doors with respect to your physical operation. And if you can operate remotely using technology, you can do that, but you can’t be open.
Speaker 4: (05:24)
Now what’s changed in the last 48 hours [inaudible 00:00:05:27]?
Charlie Baker: (05:29)
As I said in my remarks at the beginning, we’re in constant contact with other governors, other states, federal and local officials, healthcare experts and a host of other folks. And after those conversations and reading the guidance that was put out by the feds at the end of last week and reviewing some of the orders that have already been put in place, we felt this was the right time to do this.
Speaker 2: (05:56)
Charlie Baker: (06:03)
I mean, part of why we tried to make so clear in this order that people are not going to be forced to not go to the grocery store, we’re not going to say you can only go to the grocery store if you live on this street on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday and make clear that that is in fact an unimpeded right for people in Massachusetts and the grocery stores and all the entities that support them are part of our essential business criteria. We want to make clear to people that they will not lose under this or any other order access to food and medicine, period.
Speaker 5: (06:42)
What about food storage and their structures [inaudible 00:06:44].
Charlie Baker: (06:48)
Food and beverage operations, which would include package stores fall in as essential and that’s driven by federal policy as much as anything else and is in every single other order that we’ve read and every other jurisdiction that’s issued one, at the state level. Medical marijuana dispensaries are open, they’re treated for all intents and purposes the same way we treat healthcare operations for purposes of this.
Charlie Baker: (07:14)
Recreational dispensaries are not and the main reason for that is because Massachusetts is one of the few states in a big geographic area that has available recreational marijuana and a ton of traffic associated with that is coming from other states. We felt that in particular would need to be closed and would not be considered essential as part of this order.
Speaker 6: (07:37)
What’s your assessment of the number of new cases over the last couple of days over the weekend and how those numbers [inaudible 00:07:46]?
Charlie Baker: (07:48)
Well, we’ve said for a while now that as we wrapped up our testing activity we would obviously ramp up the number of people who would be found to test positive. The goal here is to get to the point where we are testing at a significantly higher level than we have historically every day. That that data is then being used as people test positive to connect with those people who test positive and to trace the folks they’ve been in contact with and to pursue isolation strategies.
Charlie Baker: (08:18)
That has been, for all intents and purposes, the most effective strategy that’s been used in other states to bend the trend on the growth rate here. But there’s no question that if you look at the location of a lot of the positive tests that have come up over the course of the past four or five days, that there has been significant spread in every county in Massachusetts and that’s part of the reason for issuing this order today.
Speaker 7: (08:45)
Charlie Baker: (08:52)
I think the guard’s role ultimately is going to be support cities and towns on a variety of issues and to support some of our state operated agencies. One of the things that guard’s currently in the process of doing is putting pre-screening operations outside of many of our 24/7 facilities so that they can then use those to test people in terms of what their temperature is before they enter to go to work.
Charlie Baker: (09:18)
There are some communities in Massachusetts that have reached out through MIMA to the guard and asked if the guard could supplement their first responder operations because they have people who aren’t sick or symptomatic, but who were exposed to somebody who was and they have to go into isolation for a certain number of days, taking them out of service and unavailable to work on behalf of their communities.
Charlie Baker: (09:43)
I see it much more as a way to supplement services that are provided at the local level as people go out and come back based on who they’re exposed to. And secondly, to provide support to a lot of state operations on a variety of things. But this order from our point of view is going to be enforced by folks at the local level.
Charlie Baker: (10:06)
Charlie Baker: (10:17)
That is the currently viewed as essential, but there is guidance that needs to be issued by the state with respect to what we would call safe practices with respect to ensuring that people do have sinks, that they do have warm water, that they do have sanitizing capacity there and that they are operating on the terms associated with social distancing.
Speaker 9: (10:40)
What are the greatest needs seem to be equipment and supplies with the hospitals? Has there been any improvement [inaudible 00:10:47] over the last few days? [inaudible 00:10:49].
Charlie Baker: (10:52)
So there’s sort of a three or four prong approach to this. Prong number one is to continue to chase PPE, personal protective equipment, through the federal stockpile. We’ve had direct conversations, I’ve had direct conversations with federal officials about this stuff and they’ve made commitments and we’ll see if those commitments actually happen over the course of the next several days. The second piece is to chase gear through US-based manufacturers. Can I call them confirmed orders?
Speaker 10: (11:32)
We have confirmed orders for [inaudible 00:11:35].
Charlie Baker: (11:33)
Speaker 10: (11:35)
Millions of masks and [inaudible 00:11:38] confirmed.
Charlie Baker: (11:40)
Confirmed, but we need to actually see them get delivered. And we are also in the process of working with a variety of organizations who have contacts and relationships with suppliers and manufacturers in other parts of the world to see if we can get gear in from there as well. This remains one of our highest priorities.
Speaker 11: (12:07)
Can you talk about any shortages [inaudible 00:12:02].
Charlie Baker: (12:13)
You talked to these folks all the time, have you heard that?
Speaker 10: (12:15)
No. So I have weekly calls with the hospitals. They have not identified at this point shortages in pharmaceuticals. This one we’re obviously monitoring it very, very closely. And if we needed to take steps with the board of pharmacy, we would. But we’re not seeing that at this moment.
Speaker 12: (12:45)
Have you [inaudible 00:12:41].
Speaker 10: (12:57)
Right. So we need as many masks and PPE and swabs as we can get in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, serve an initial goal would be about 3 million across the supply chain that we would want. And as the governor said, we’re exploring international American manufacturers as well as today, which I think, I can’t remember what day we announced our collaboration with biotech. Actually today, MIMA is out picking up lots of equipment that has been donated through the biotech community and we will publish that so people can see what we’re bringing into the stockpile.
Speaker 13: (13:35)
Charlie Baker: (13:41)
The biggest issue with test results is geography. I mean the state lab is located here in Massachusetts. That makes it relatively easy for them to get a test in Massachusetts, execute on the test in Massachusetts and send it back to where it needs to go in Massachusetts. The commercial labs until very recently, Quest now has and is building out a lot more capacity in Massachusetts. That was part of the reason why the Lieutenant governor and the secretary and I were out visiting them in Marlborough.
Charlie Baker: (14:14)
But they literally took a part of their existing operation and said, we’re going to coordinate this part off and we’re going to turn it into COVID-19 testing for Massachusetts and for the New England in Northeast region and they are now ramping up their testing capability there. But before that, their tests were traveling to many parts of the country where they had existing COVID capability. And the same is true for LabCorp. Most of the testing that they do is not done locally, it’s done somewhere else. And that all by itself adds a few days to the turnaround.
Speaker 14: (14:49)
[inaudible 00:14:49] people might go to get tested if they feel like they’re experiencing symptoms or [inaudible 00:14:58].
Charlie Baker: (15:02)
I think the biggest thing we need to do to administer more tests is whether you call it a test kit or a swab, is to make available to the provider community as many of the swabs as they need to actually conduct tests. And we’ve been sort of sourcing those from a variety of places. One of the big confirmed orders we have with a US-based manufacturer is for a very significant number of swabs. But the big issue with testing generally for the last few weeks has been the availability of the test kit, the swabs to actually execute on the front end of the test.
Speaker 15: (15:43)
Governor, most of the [inaudible 00:15:47] sort of like the end date for schools. At what point do you reassess [inaudible 00:15:49]?
Charlie Baker: (15:53)
Would you be bummed if I said back’s on the ground? I guess what I would say is this, we’re constantly reconsidering virtually everything we do. And honestly there are daily conversations going on with other states, with local officials, with health experts, with folks in the provider community, with academics to gather and collect best thoughts and best ideas about how to process this unprecedented circumstance that we find ourselves in.
Charlie Baker: (16:29)
And I fully believe that part of the reason why we put end dates on these is to give people an answer with respect to how long it is absolutely positively guaranteed the last. But at the end of them, they all say something like unless further extended. And that’s because we want to make sure that we have the ability if we need to, to go beyond the timeframe that’s listed on them.
Speaker 16: (16:53)
[inaudible 00:16:53]. Obviously when you have a couple of digits [inaudible 00:00:17:03].
Charlie Baker: (17:01)
You want to speak to that one.
Speaker 10: (17:07)
So there’s a few things on testing and tracing. One is, and you can see it in the daily numbers that we need to ensure that our commercial labs also report not just the positives which they’re required to, but also the total number of people that they’re testing so that we have a good sense in Massachusetts, right? How many people are tested as well as how many are positive. So that’s one. And you can sort of see some of the changes in the daily reporting. Plus we’re now putting out the age ranges. That’s one.
Speaker 10: (17:34)
Two. So we are putting together a cadre of individuals to actually help augment us to do tracing in support with the local boards of health. So on Friday, might’ve been Saturday, Friday, Saturday, and then again on Sunday there was a call with deans of the schools of public health in Massachusetts to see if we can use their students and others that are engaged with the public health community to help us do tracing. That’s one.
Speaker 10: (18:00)
Two, we’re talking to the deans of medical schools who now have their residents coming in, but they don’t actually start the rotations to June to help augment that with us. And third is there’s a core of what are called public health nurses to sort of bring them back to help us also. And we’ll be doing actually a more, it’s almost like, I don’t want to call it like an AmeriCorps kind of, but really folks who can help us do tracing. So it’s testing, tracing, isolation, right, and recovery is really the core of this.
Charlie Baker: (18:31)
You might want to tell them how you do the tracing because it’s not like you have to actually physically go to these people.
Speaker 10: (18:40)
Right. You can actually do it right by telephoning. It doesn’t have to be boots on the ground, it’s our boots on the phone and the like to do tracing, and I’m sorry if I didn’t say that.
Charlie Baker: (18:52)
Yes, they are essential under the federal rules. Yeah.
Speaker 2: (18:56)
On the slate of things, they were going to pass the election bill today [inaudible 00:19:01].
Charlie Baker: (19:06)
We’ve spent a lot of time with the legislature on the municipal bill. And unless it’s changed a lot since last Friday, I think we’re good with it, right. What was the second part?
Speaker 2: (19:21)
Charlie Baker: (19:22)
Tax day, we’re having a conversation about tax day as well. And the third piece, I mean first message, which I think most people reported on, we made very clear that you can’t just evict or foreclose on somebody in Massachusetts, you can’t. For evictions, you got to go to court. Court’s not open until April 21st and you still need 60 days of process and cure opportunity before you do that. Foreclosures on mortgages, same thing, 90 days secure. We will fully enforce those rules big time. And we are anxious to talk to the legislature about what else they think we might want to do there. But that’s a very high priority for us. Go ahead.
Speaker 17: (20:01)
Looking like at the terms of the unemployment [inaudible 00:20:03].
Charlie Baker: (20:10)
So it’s nice to see a representative. This is kind of a nerdy thing, but we made a decision about a year ago to move the UI platform off of sort of a state operated box and to put it into the cloud. We’ve been doing that with a bunch of different areas in government where there’s high processing capacity and sort of a big up and down with respect to how much capacity in need.
Charlie Baker: (20:39)
Honestly, that’s probably the most important thing we did with respect to being able to process UI in this kind of an environment. Because the cloud has the ability to expand to meet demand. And the answer is yes for the time being. But we’re obviously doing analysis on that sort of thing on a pretty regular basis. Yes. Christine’s question was do you have enough money? And the answer is yes for the time being. John, how about the last one?
It’s only people that may be out of work whenever you want to be [inaudible 00:21:13], is there any system [inaudible 00:21:16] connect them to a central services maybe if these people can be [inaudible 00:00:21:22].
Charlie Baker: (21:22)
The answer to that is yes. So do you want to speak to that?
Speaker 10: (21:26)
Yeah. So there are companies that are hiring, right? Like Amazon and others for example. And we’re creating on the platform a connection with opportunities for people if they want to connect through our workforce and labor development. Because it is an opportunity out of a challenging time. Thank you.
Charlie Baker: (21:49)