Apr 16, 2020

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker COVID-19 Briefing Transcript April 16

Massachusetts briefing april 16
RevBlogTranscriptsCOVID-19 Briefing & Press Conference TranscriptsMassachusetts Governor Charlie Baker COVID-19 Briefing Transcript April 16

Governor of Massachusetts Charlie Baker’s coronavirus press conference from April 16. He said Massachusetts residence can expect a decision on updated stay-at-home advisories soon. Read the full transcript here.


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Charlie Baker: (00:00)
To ensure that people have the frontline protection and the personal protective gear that they need to be safe. The Command Centers helped distribute over 3.8 million pieces of PPE so far to hospitals, nursing homes, community health centers, public safety personnel, local boards of health and state agencies. That includes over 2.2 million gloves, over 850,000 masks, over 370,000 masks from the aircraft delivery, over 180,000 guns, and 380 ventilators. Yesterday, we announced that FEMA will be sending us nearly one million pieces of PPE, including masks and Tyvek suits. The ship is on route and should be arriving in the commonwealth shortly. Obviously, as I said yesterday, we will continue to chase PPE wherever we can get it. We’ve obtained and distributed significant amounts so far, but we know we will need to continue to do so because people will need the support today, tomorrow, the next day, next month, and the like.

Charlie Baker: (01:04)
As a reminder, a daily summary of the PPE distribution is available at mass.gov/covid19. The Command Center continues to monitor hospital capacity. Not only is the Command Center in constant contact with our hospitals, its medical advisory board includes several experts from the healthcare community here in the commonwealth. As of the end of the day, Tuesday, there are now a total of about 17,800 beds statewide. As I said yesterday, just over half of those beds are currently empty. That’s about 9,600 beds, includes 6,000 acute-care beds, and about 2,500 ICU beds, and about 750 beds that are available through our field hospitals. That last number, with respect to the field hospitals, will increase as we bring other field hospitals online.

Charlie Baker: (01:58)
We have seen, over the past few days, an increase in hospitalizations. Medical workers are working around the clock to deal with that influx of patients. They are keeping up, but every day, we continue to see more and more patients in very rough shape come into the hospital. The field hospitals that are currently in place are at the Boston Convention Center and the DCU center in Worcester. The three that are coming online… One is in born on the Cape. The second is in Dartmouth on the Southcoast. The third is in Lowell up in the Merrimack Valley.

Charlie Baker: (02:29)
Right now, the number of patients at the two open sites remain relatively low, but those sites are built to augment existing hospital capacity. We hope the surge is not so significant that it causes us tremendous problems or affects our hospital system’s ability to care for people, but we do want to be able to rely on those beds if we need them. As we said several times here, we are doing what we can to hope for the best, but we are absolutely planning for the worst. We plan to continue to pay close attention to this data as it comes in every day.

Charlie Baker: (03:05)
I also want to provide an update on unemployment. This morning, the new federal data indicated that over 570,000 Massachusetts residents have applied for unemployment since March 15th. That means approximately 100,000 people applied for unemployment benefits in the last week. I think everybody knows that the number of claims here is eye-popping given that for months, we typically saw somewhere between 7,000 and 10,000 new applications a week. It represents a variety of workers and businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19 and by many of the decisions that we’ve had to make in response to COVID-19.

Charlie Baker: (03:46)
As we’ve said before, this is about way more than numbers. We all get the fact that there are people behind those claims. There are families who suddenly face economic anxiety after losing a job through no fault of their own. It’s a situation we take extremely seriously. In Massachusetts, we are making progress to get checks out the door. As of today, the Department of Unemployment Assistance is paying unemployment compensation to over 315,000 Massachusetts residents. That’s a tripling of the number of people they were paying unemployment compensation to when the month of March began. As we’ve said before, our online unemployment system is one of the few in the country that didn’t crash, thanks to previous work we did to migrate the system to the cloud. We’re improving accessibility to that online system along the way.

Charlie Baker: (04:35)
This past weekend, we launched the new Spanish language online application form. More languages will be launched shortly. We’re committed to making sure that we help the many people who are having trouble get through the system, get their application processed, and get access to the benefits to which they’re entitled. The DUA has dramatically increased its call center staff turning a center that was 50 workers in their Hurley Building, about a month ago, into an 850-person, as of today, remote call center. As of today, those call center workers have made over 115,000 calls with constituents through that remote call center. I do want to take a minute to thank those call center workers, many of whom have come onboard in recent weeks to help us deal with this unprecedented demand. They’ve been connecting with claimants literally seven days a week for the past month and are working through the weekends to make sure they connect with everybody who needs our help.

Charlie Baker: (05:37)
The Department of Unemployment Assistance has also held 25 daily virtual town halls, in both English and Spanish, to guide people through the application process which as of today, have been attended by over 175,000 constituents online. As of last week, claimants are now receiving the extra $600 on top of their existing benefits, thanks to the implementation of the new federal CARES Act benefit. We’re also making progress in our work to build a new technological infrastructure that will allow us to process unemployment claims from workers not traditionally covered by the unemployment system, like the self-employed or gig economy workers. That system is being refined and tested so that we can launch it as soon as possible to get those workers the benefits that they need. We also look forward to sharing more information about that system in the coming days. The progress is not happening as quickly as any of us would like, but things are starting to move in the right direction. We’re going to continue to work this issue hard because we know that for many people, their economic livelihood depends on it. We’ve talked now for a couple of weeks about the fact that somewhere around the middle of April, we were going to enter the worst part of the pandemic. That part of the pandemic is here. I know it’s difficult for everybody to hear this, particularly given how significantly their lives have been upended over the course of the past five weeks. This virus obviously doesn’t work on a schedule. It can be killed when we all do our jobs to slow the spread. I know it’s been a long time, but letting up now would only result in greater harm.

Charlie Baker: (07:18)
All the available data we have shows that people have been staying home and adhering to the guidance that we’ve implemented to ensure social distancing. We know that’s been a significant disruption for everybody. On some days, it probably feels like we’ve been in this crisis for a lot longer than we actually have been. Please remember to take care of your mental and physical health. If you can take a walk, take a walk. Wear a mask if you go out and take a walk. If you need to go to the store, wear a mask, but go to the store. It’s important that people continue to access the pharmacy and their grocery store so that that sort of issue does not become a problem at home. Connect by phone, or virtually, with your friends and your family. Of course, if you need help, reach out. Remember that this is Massachusetts. One way or another, we will get through it. We are resilient. When we stick together, we do meet challenges. I now want to turn this over to Secretary Sudders from some updates from the Command Center.

Secretary Sudders: (08:26)
Good afternoon. Thank you, Governor Baker, Lieutenant Governor. Just a couple of updates from the Command Center to augment what the governor has said. First, on testing, on mobile testing in particular… We have tested at 279 facilities with 5,883 tests so far. Today, the National Guard is visiting another 11 facilities. We’ll complete 1,349 tests. In terms of the self-test kits that we send out to facilities, we have sent out now to 103 facilities for just under 11,000 tests. That’s actually 10,995 tests. We follow up with the facilities to make sure that they’re completing the tests and sending them back, so we can get the test results.

Secretary Sudders: (09:17)
We’ve added mobile testing at state-operated large congregate care centers such as two public health hospitals, one large Department of Mental Health hospital and two Department of Developmental Disability Centers, in addition to starting to roll out at 24/7 congregate care facilities that are state-operated or state-contracted. At this point, we have conducted more than 1,800 tests at 47 facilities. We will continue to roll that out across our 24/7 congregate care, state-operated, or state-financed facilities. In terms of ventilators, as you know, we’ve received a total of 400 ventilators from the Strategic National Stockpile. We procured an additional 50-

Secretary Sudders: (10:03)
… from the supply chain, and then we’re able to procure or get donated a number of nine, including the ones from Boston Children’s Hospital, for a total of 459 new. We established a ventilator working group that includes representatives from hospitals across the Commonwealth, that utilizes the daily reporting from hospitals to understand needs and demands, and to make recommendations fairly on ventilator allocation.

Secretary Sudders: (10:33)
Among other things, the working group looks closely at daily is the daily hospital reporting for the ratio of COVID-19 cases. And the total number of invasive vents available to the facility. So of that 459, as of this morning, 380 ventilators had been provided to 33 acute care hospitals. And today, an additional 57 ventilators are being allocated to 13 more hospitals. So, that is 439 of the 459 ventilators, to 46 facilities will have been delivered today. So with that, I’ll turn it back to the governor.

Speaker 2: (11:10)
[inaudible 00:11:19].

Charlie Baker: (11:22)
Answering the question about the curve really becomes a function of what you see every day. And we said for a while that we thought the curve would be somewhere between the 10th of April and the 20th of April. That continues to be generally speaking where we think we are. And under that scenario we would be what I would describe as sort of early to somewhere in the middle, but it’s the type of thing where we said many times that it’s an unprecedented novel virus. You can’t make huge assumptions and predictions because there isn’t a ton of historical data that you can rely on. But, our sense all along was that the middle to the end of April was going to be, for our hospital, our healthcare community, and for our Commonwealth, the worst of it. And that’s what we continue to believe.

Speaker 3: (12:24)
Governor, Governor Cuomo has extended his laws, are you expecting a similar announcement anytime soon [inaudible 00:02:35]?

Charlie Baker: (12:25)
When you say a pause, with respect to?

Speaker 3: (12:40)
Stay at home order.

Charlie Baker: (12:40)

Speaker 3: (12:40)
Governor Cuomo just extended it.

Charlie Baker: (12:45)
We continue to look at the data, we continue to talk to the folks in the public health and healthcare community about that. And obviously, know it’s something that’s on people’s minds. It’s on ours too. And we’re going to do what we can to give people guidance that they have enough time to plan.

Speaker 4: (13:00)
Governor, with the Small Business Administration being out of funds, is there anything the state can do, like reopen the recovery loan fund or any other resources available for small business owners?

Charlie Baker: (13:12)
The Commonwealth put two separate funds up for small businesses, which were oversubscribed. We were thankful that the federal government moved ahead with the small business assistance protection plan. I know there’s currently a discussion going on in Washington between the House and the Senate and the Republicans and the Democrats over extending that program. I hope they choose to, because I think the total value of what was done in Massachusetts, for Massachusetts businesses, I think it was north of $2 billion, wasn’t it? I mean that program has some legitimate, legitimate financial benefit. And I think many of us, and I know I speak for most of the governors, because we talk about this a lot, would like to see that program extended.

Speaker 5: (13:58)
Governor, officials and community leaders in Chelsea said they felt the state should have caught the outbreak there sooner, especially before they had sent a letter asking for help last week. Why didn’t the state move support there given the indication that that was ripe for an outbreak?

Charlie Baker: (14:14)
So we’ve been in contact with the leadership in the city of Chelsea almost every day for the past month. And when they ask us for stuff, we respond. And we have, when they’ve asked. The work we did to establish several isolation sites to deal with both COVID positive homeless and unsheltered individuals, as well as the work we did to establish isolation sites for family members who aren’t in housing that makes it possible for them to isolate, the work that we did with the expansion in food delivery and the testing expansion. We all responded to that within 24 hours of being asked by the city. And we’ve been in constant contact with city officials for the past four months. Practically every day.

Speaker 6: (15:08)
Governor, the Black and Latino Caucus is asking for more testing for communities of color. What are you doing to get more testing?

Charlie Baker: (15:14)
Do you want to answer that one?

Secretary Sudders: (15:24)
We continue to expand testing as we have swabs and regions and the tubes for all the testing, and we’re working hard through our community health centers to try to push out testing as much as possible. Because community health centers are obviously part of their communities, know their communities and are often in communities of color and in neighborhoods of disproportionality. So we are continuing to push out, particularly through Quest, because many of our community health centers use Quest as their other testing. So we’re trying to keep pushing, pushing and pushing, and mobile testing wherever we can get it out.

Speaker 7: (16:01)
Governor, President Trump, I guess, is going to be speaking to some governors this afternoon about new guidelines aimed at reopening the economy. Are you a part of that call? And are you expecting that [inaudible 00:16:14] ?

Charlie Baker: (16:16)
We’ve had calls every, I think we’ve had calls twice a week with either the president and the vice president and their team, or the vice president and some of the folks who are part of the task force for the last several weeks. And they’re pretty regular. I’m going to be on the call, I think along with practically every other governor. I was not aware that that topic in particular was on the agenda. I thought this was about some other stuff. And I thought the announcement with respect to their proposal on the economy was coming later today. Obviously, if that issue comes up it’ll be one that many of us will be interested in hearing their proposal on, but I’m not going to speak to what I think they might say, because there’s been a fair amount written already and covered by the media that would imply that it’s going to be something that respects the fact that different states are in different places with regard to where they are.

Charlie Baker: (17:15)
And that there needs to be a pretty ambitious and aggressive testing program in place as part of that. And as I said in my remarks today, one of the reasons we put together this tracing initiative, it’s because we really do believe that to give people comfort and confidence that we’re doing all we can to contain the virus, we need to have a very significant contact tracing program in place that can ensure that we identify people who test positive, and that we can do all we can to identify the people they’ve had close contact with. And then create isolation strategies and supports for those folks. From our point of view, that’s a must do with respect to anything that looks like a reopening of the Commonwealth or a move toward reopening the economy.

Speaker 8: (18:01)

Charlie Baker: (18:03)
… I can’t hear you.

Speaker 8: (18:04)
Tenant healthcare to-

Charlie Baker: (18:07)
… I still can’t hear you. I’m sorry.

Speaker 8: (18:09)
Tenant healthcare is considering a furloughing nurses at Saint Vincent’s in Worcester, and a lot of back and forth. I just wonder what you think amidst all of this [inaudible 00:18:18] if that’s a concern for you?

Charlie Baker: (18:22)
Well, one of the reasons we put, it’s almost a billion dollars now, into the healthcare system since the start of this outbreak was to ensure that we could create financial stability for our partners in the healthcare community. And where we’ve had particular instances in some sectors, we talked about yesterday, the 130 million we were putting into the nursing home industry. We’ve acted accordingly. And we’re in pretty much daily contact with most of these folks through the command center. And if people have issues with respect to … with their ability to deliver for their communities, I would hope they would be talking to the command center about that, because that’s certainly what that sounds like.

Speaker 9: (19:03)
Governor, I don’t mean to circle back to Chelsea. I know you listed a few different things that you guys have done already. What more can or will the state plan to funnel there, to help, given that the hospital surge, and that remains maybe the biggest hotspot in the state?

Charlie Baker: (19:19)
If Chelsea needs more help, all they’ve got to do is ask.

Speaker 9: (19:23)
You don’t think the state should, proactively be funneling resources there?

Charlie Baker: (19:28)
There’s a number of things we offer to the city of Chelsea that they said no to. And we try to be respectful of what locals, the folks who are on the ground, who know their communities best, believe are the most important things for us to do. That’s been our policy for the past five years in the way we’ve dealt with communities on practically everything. The community health centers stuff obviously is just that, that’s us working with our colleagues in the community health center space. But generally speaking, if we offer stuff up to a community and they say they don’t want it, we are not going to give it to them.

Speaker 10: (20:03)
What type of things did you guys offer [crosstalk 00:00:20:07]?

Charlie Baker: (20:06)
We offered them a variety of things.

Speaker 11: (20:08)
Governor, [crosstalk 00:20:09] can I ask you about sports? PGA Tour announced today that they’re resuming their season. Fans can play their own [inaudible 00:20:17] in late August. Have you given any thought to maybe the Red Sox or the Bruins playing without fans? Are we any closer to seeing pro sports?

Charlie Baker: (20:31)
Honestly, I’m not really thinking about pro sports at the moment. I’m thinking about the surge, and I’m thinking about hospital capacity, and I’m thinking about field hospitals and COVID-19 specialized facilities, and making sure that our healthcare community is as financially viable as it needs to be, and that we have the beds that we have staffed appropriately, and that they have oxygen. I mean, I’m sure at some point there will be discussions about some of that other stuff, but that’s not what we’re focused on right now.

Speaker 12: (21:05)
[crosstalk 00:21:05] When are you anticipating making any sort of decisions about schools? We’re almost two weeks out now [inaudible 00:01:09].

Charlie Baker: (21:11)
Yeah. We’ll make a decision about schools sometime soon, too.

Speaker 13: (21:16)
Governor, I got two little nerdy type questions.

Charlie Baker: (21:19)
I’m sure that’s coming as a huge surprise to everyone in the room. Yeah.

Speaker 13: (21:23)
One is, we had doctor in the ICU [inaudible 00:21:30], quite a few of the COVID-19 tests he doesn’t trust them entirely. Maybe 15 to 20% are inaccurate [inaudible 00:21:41].

Charlie Baker: (21:41)
Because they’re false positives or false negatives?

Speaker 13: (21:44)
Well the example he gave was a patient he thought had Covid, had all the symptoms, tested twice and came back negative. And then finally, when it [inaudible 00:21:55], they got a really good sample, I guess, and he was positive. Three tests on one individual, just sort of curious, is this something you’ve seen in any of the data that there’s something wrong with the data, it’s not accurate all the time?

Charlie Baker: (22:14)
We have talked some with the folks on these calls about that. Do you want to speak to this? I mean, the answer I get is a lay person listening to the healthcare people talk about it is their general sense is that there’s no tests that’s 100% reliable 100% of the time, especially when you’re dealing with a virus like this one, that can be tricky. But but people, generally speaking, are pretty comfortable that the testing regimen virtually almost all of the time will give you an accurate read. I haven’t heard a lot of talk among the healthcare people that we talk to about huge issues, or even big issues, or significant issues with respect to false positives or false negatives. Yeah.

Speaker 13: (23:01)
And the other nerdy question was, on a nursing homes test, the [inaudible 00:23:07] is doing a lot, but I think some of the homes have done their own testing.

Charlie Baker: (23:10)

Speaker 13: (23:10)
So when you look at the number of tests and the number of deaths and positive cases, what’s the denominator? How many tests do you think nursing homes have done?

Charlie Baker: (23:22)
Well it would be the 4,700 … what was the number you gave, Mary Lou, for the number we’ve done on the mobile side?

Secretary Sudders: (23:35)
The numbers that I gave would not include nursing homes that have done their own testing. What we would have reported is the number that tested positive. But in terms of our numbers of what we’ve done, I can actually do this without my glasses on, 279 facilities, which was 58,883 tests, and then another 11 today for 1,349. You’ll have to do the math Bruce, because I can’t at the moment. And then we sent out to another 103 facilities for 10,995 tests. But in terms of facilities that have done their own tests, what would be reported to us would only be the positive cases.

Speaker 13: (24:20)
[inaudible 00:24:20] pretty astronomical on that test [inaudible 00:24:23].

Secretary Sudders: (24:24)
So Massachusetts is one of two states that actually has done mobile testing and really focused mobile testing in nursing homes. What we’ve tried to do is also for those nursing homes, as you know, that have sufficient staffing so they don’t feel overtaxed. So we send them the test kits, so that they can … Our nursing homes are, obviously, highly vulnerable 24/7 congregate care settings and we’re trying to do as much testing as possible, so that we can establish Covid positive and Covid negative wings, and establish Covid positive nursing homes in order to discharge people from hospitals when they’re ready for post-discharge care in a Covid positive.

Speaker 13: (25:05)
Other than that, [inaudible 00:25:12] do you know how many test positive [inaudible 00:25:12].

Secretary Sudders: (25:12)
I do. I don’t have it on this sheet, but I can definitely get that to you.

Speaker 14: (25:16)
[crosstalk 00:25:16] Secretary, with the nursing homes-

Speaker 15: (25:20)
One quick thing, on the website-

Secretary Sudders: (25:21)
One quick thing.

Speaker 15: (25:21)
I think it’s a quick one. You guys have been very good about reporting all sorts of numbers, but the total number of hospitalizations in the last few days has been absent.

Secretary Sudders: (25:31)
Right. So we took that off because of the number of individuals for whom, if you remember, there was hospitalizations, not hospitalized, hospitalized, and then how many were under investigation. And that number was so large, we felt that it just was not accurate data. And now what we have, and we’ve been reporting this week, the hospital data. The hospital data is very accurate. I mean, that is coming from the hospitals. So what we did was basically replace it with the hospital data that we’re now reporting in terms of number of hospitalizations, number of ICU’s, that is very accurate data. So it’s really just a replacement, because if you looked at it, it was like … I can’t remember what the number was, but it was probably two thirds were under investigation versus hospital and non-hospitalized. So we were able to work with our hospitals and now we report it federally. That hospital data that has been reported is very, very accurate data.

Speaker 15: (26:26)
Those are detailed by each [crosstalk 00:26:28].

Secretary Sudders: (26:26)
Right, deaths.

Speaker 16: (26:28)
Secretary, for the nursing homes that are eligible for more state money, you mentioned yesterday that they would have to submit an attestation. Can you elaborate on what that means? Are there guidelines that they have to abide by when it comes to furloughs, or hazard pay, or anything like that in exchange for the money?

Secretary Sudders: (26:44)
So first of all, all nursing homes in Massachusetts get a 10% across the board rate increase. That’s no attestation, that’s just a 10% across the board rate increase and it’s retroactive to April 1st. That’s one. So it’s just a 10% across the board. For nursing homes that are setting up the COVID-19 wings or units within their facilities, there are certain things that they have to attest to. So one is, as we’ve said before, is we need to have staff in both distinct units. So if you’ve been to nursing homes or in hospitals, you know staff often float from unit to unit, ward to ward, or in a nursing home on the floors. And so what we’ve indicated is, in order to ensure that we can have Covid positive and Covid negative units and not contamination, is that we need to have staff distinct and who’ve been tested so that they’re negative working in the negative units, if you would.

Secretary Sudders: (27:51)
So that is very important and that is a change in nursing homes if you know how nursing homes are staffed. They’re essentially staffed by shift, and depending on who’s called in sick or who’s reported to work, people float. We can’t have that if we’re going to try to have Covid negative and Covid positive units. We also need to ensure that they have sufficient levels of PPE in their facilities. And as you know, I think we reported yesterday, nursing facilities have gotten the most amount of PPE in all of our shipments out and that is also posted on one of our websites. You can see it by nursing home, by hospital and other categories. We also want to ensure that their infection control protocols are really tight, are really perfect. In order, again, we’re trying to do everything positive in these nursing homes who set up Covid positive Covid negatives that they have the staffing, they have the internal controls, and the like, so that we can protect our nursing home residents. And that is the attestation.

Secretary Sudders: (28:58)
And then as you know, we have brought in two groups and that they have sufficient staffing. So we have brought in Paul Valentine’s group, who is a crisis management technical assistant, that if we needed to, we would send him in to help these facilities ensure that they’ve created the protocol that are important to do it. If they do that, they get the 15% over and above the 10%, because it’s more staffing and it’s more internal controls for them to have that. So does that help?

Speaker 16: (29:34)
[crosstalk 00:29:34] I’m sorry-

Secretary Sudders: (29:34)
I’m sorry?

Speaker 16: (29:34)
I was just wondering what that means for those nurses, whether there is any way for the state to … or if there are legal reasons why maybe the state can’t work with either hospitals or other healthcare facilities to figure out whether furloughs can be prevented or other pay is available?

Secretary Sudders: (29:53)
So one of the things we are trying to … So there’s 982 healthcare workers who actually have been furloughed in Massachusetts, and that data is, as of last Friday. And by being-

Secretary Sudders: (30:03)
… furloughed it means that the healthcare facility is paying people’s benefits and the like, and there’s certain protocols around immediately being able to access somebody back. If you’re furloughed, you’re still an employee of that hospital, so the hospital at any time can call you back from being furloughed and they’re paying your benefits. What we’re trying to figure out in the various laws and the regulations and the like is is there a way that we could match a furloughed person from Hospital A to perhaps work at Healthcare Entity B in a way that does not affect their benefits in that household.

Secretary Sudders: (30:42)
Actually, some ideas always sound easier than they are to actually implement. As you know, we’ve created a longterm care portal to match individuals who want to possibly work in a longterm care facility and announced that the Commonwealth would pay them $1,000 hiring bonus if they actually went to work at that longterm care facility and they stayed there for a certain period of time. We are doing our best to try to find ways of matching individuals to where we know we have the highest needs, as well as trying to figure out is there a way that we could match furloughed individuals to where we have need in a way that does not affect their employment status at their sort of home healthcare entity, if you would?

Speaker 17: (31:29)
Last question.

Speaker 18: (31:31)
Governor, the evictions and foreclosure bill could end up on your desk later today. You can sign that, review it. I think I know the answer, but what is your take on the compromise bill that they passed?

Charlie Baker: (31:43)
Well, as I’ve said for a couple of weeks now, the Lieutenant Governor and I have been anxious for the legislature to find a path to yes on this, and we hope that they do, but we, generally speaking, don’t comment on legislation that’s in process because it has a tendency to change.

Speaker 18: (31:59)
You had said before that because courts are closed because of the 90-day protective [crosstalk 00:02:03], the most urgent thing to get something like that place.

Charlie Baker: (32:06)
It’s been a pretty high priority for the House and the Senate and a pretty high priority for us. I mean, we would all like to see that get done.

Speaker 19: (32:12)
You said that the shipment was in route. Is it scheduled to arrive today?

Charlie Baker: (32:18)
I don’t think it’s going to arrive today. I think we’re probably going to get it … We might get it over the weekend.

Speaker 20: (32:22)
Had you ever thought we’d be at this point. We’re talking about the beds that are available, what the case count was going to be [inaudible 00:32:29]. How do we [inaudible 00:32:34]?

Charlie Baker: (32:34)
Well, keep in mind that when we all started this exercise a little over a month ago, I’m guessing the average occupancy rate of hospitals in Massachusetts was somewhere between 75-85%. Okay? So one of the reasons why the money issue has become so important is because we worked with them to do whole bunch of things to basically empty out significant parts of their operation, which is why today, as we enter the surge, hospital occupancy rates are, on a statewide basis, on average in the 50s, okay? That’s a huge change in 30 days with respect to how many beds had people in them, how many beds were staffed, how many beds had people actually serving and taking care of people as recently as 30 days ago, but that was part of the exercise. The elimination of elective surgeries and a whole bunch of other measures that we took were designed to shrink the amount of activity that was going on in hospitals so that they could make the changes they needed to make to deal with the surge associated with COVID-19 patients. I think much of the reason why we put significant resources into the healthcare community and why we’ve been so aggressive about working with them to understand exactly what was going on every day and get to the point where we’ve got daily reporting on ICUs and hospital beds generally is to make sure that we, and they all understand where we have beds, where we don’t, where we need them, why we need to build up capacity in certain places, all based on this idea that we’re going to plan for the worst. Okay?

Charlie Baker: (34:20)
We certainly hope we don’t end up there, but we did not want to be in a position where we didn’t have enough capacity to serve people if we needed it. That’s why we’ve been so aggressive about creating additional capacity, creating step-down capacity, creating COVID-only skilled nursing sites and really focusing on all the things we need to do to manage the surge, the throughput and the demand. But there’s no question that part of that was about reducing, in a pretty big way in a pretty big hurry, the number of other kinds of elective procedures that were going on in hospitals.

Speaker 18: (35:03)
Governor, the-

Speaker 21: (35:04)
Oh, sorry. Governor, homeless advocates are saying that while a lot has been done to slow the spread in shelters for individuals, family shelters are not seeing the same kind of support. What’s being done to make sure we don’t see the same spike in cases that we have seen in shelters for individuals?

Speaker 18: (35:21)
That’s more of a Mary Lou question than a Charlie question. You should talk some about the individual stuff though, just …

Secretary Sudders: (35:30)
Okay. Let me start with the individuals, and I’ll move to the families. As you know, in the individual shelters, because there is particularly as you know, some of the shelters, the ability to have social distancing is very, very challenging. We’ve been working with the shelters and with municipalities around creating social distancing within individual shelters for the obvious reasons, and have done several things. We’ve worked with a number of municipalities to create alternative sites.

Secretary Sudders: (36:00)
I’ll use Brockton as an example. We worked with the mayor, with Father Bill’s, and the Brockton Health Center to create alternative site in order to create community distancing, social distancing for shelters. Then we in the state, we’ve set up isolation hotels for individuals who test COVID-19 positive. We have almost a thousand beds now. I think it’s 1,256 beds when you also include the 500 beds at BCEC, which are meant to be for individuals who are homeless who are COVID-19 positive until we can ensure that they’re not so that so on. So communities working at local communities, working with them to create spread capacity for the individual shelters, and then we’ve set up these isolation hotels across the Commonwealth. They continue to open up.

Secretary Sudders: (36:58)
On the family shelters. We’ve been working through Housing and Economic Development to give guidance to the family shelters around infection control, how to mitigate spread, testing available and the like. It’s one of the areas that I think we’re spending some time thinking of the strategies. If you’re a single parent and are tested positive and don’t have a crisis plan, so if you were single mother, tested positive, were hospitalized, and your children, obviously there’s the Department of Children and Families who would come in and take custody. But can we help you create like a crisis plan of someone that you would trust to care of your children while you are hospitalized? A number of hospitals actually, it’s referred to as social admission for children. ( silence).

Speaker 18: (38:29)
Secretary, I have a question about Belmont Manor, the facility in Belmont. They reported they now have 27 deaths, which has doubled from just a few days ago. Are you guys aware of the situation or how it got that [inaudible 00:38:43] of deaths very quickly through there?

Secretary Sudders: (38:45)
One of the things we know about nursing homes is it can spread very quickly. Belmont Manor, can’t remember what day. National Guard has conducted testing at Belmont Manor, and we are actually sending in our technical assistance SWAT team to help them figure out what they need to be doing at Belmont Manor.

Speaker 17: (39:12)
Thank you. (silence).

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