Apr 28, 2020
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker COVID-19 Briefing Transcript April 28
Governor of Massachusetts Charlie Baker’s coronavirus press conference on April 28. Baker extended the Massachusetts stay-at-home to May 18.
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Charlie Baker: (00:15)
Good afternoon. Although it may seem like months ago, it was only on March 23rd which was 35 days ago, that we issued an emergency order requiring the closure of all non essential businesses due to COVID-19. For a little context, this was also the same day that the Commonwealth reported a thousand tests per day for the first time. Quest had just come online and we were ramping up to an ambitious goal of 3 500 tests per day.
Charlie Baker: (00:46)
We’re now reporting anywhere between eight and 10 000 tests per day and sometimes more, which makes us the number two test per capita performer in the country among the big states and obviously we think this represents progress, but sometimes it seems like a lot more than 35 days ago. At that time we directed the Department of Public Health to also issue a stay at home advisory. These two decisions were absolutely necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19 and coronavirus.
Charlie Baker: (01:19)
We know that those decisions have brought with them their own hardships. Kids out of classroom for the rest of the year, parents stretched to the breaking point and in a time where we need it most, people are separated from those they love. People have lost their jobs, their careers, and in some cases businesses they’ve worked on for many years. Not acting, however, was not an option. Without any effective treatments or vaccines and only a few weapons that we had to fight this virus, those decisions were made to save lives. Since we acted, we’ve avoided the humanitarian crisis that we’ve seen experienced in so many other countries and healthcare systems elsewhere around the world. The people of Massachusetts have definitely sacrificed and they’ve definitely played their part and together with our world class hospitals, medical workers, first responders, and emergency management response personnel, we have flattened the curve.
Charlie Baker: (02:24)
While, Massachusetts has avoided the spike in infections that would have broken our healthcare system, COVID-19 continues to very much be with us in many communities. Our overall hospitalization rates for COVID-19 patients have not dropped. They remain high, plateaued is the word I would use statewide. And many healthcare facilities are still relying on their emergency surge beds to treat patients.
Charlie Baker: (02:53)
There are still approximately 3900 people hospitalized for COVID-19 and we through our testing an additional 1500 new cases yesterday. And while many people talk about the fact that the vast majority of the people who have not survived COVID-19 where people over the age of 60, I just want to point out that the folks at mass general and the Brigham have pointed out to us that 44% of all COVID-19 admissions, 40% of COVID-19 days, and 44% of ICU days for COVID-19 are people between the ages of zero and 59. Yes, they may survive, but many of them have a very rocky and rough road to get from here to there. So today we’re extending the timeline for all non-essential businesses to keep the physical workplaces and facilities closed to all workers, customers and the public until May 18th and this day at home advisory also remains in place during this time.
Charlie Baker: (04:04)
We’re bringing every possible resource to bear in this fight to get back to the so-called new normal. And a lot of what’s happened in the past several weeks has headed us in that direction. We became the first state in the nation to want to tracing program that will serve as a powerful tool to spot and stop new cases. The mobility data suggests that our state’s efforts to close brick and mortar businesses and our calls for social distancing have played a significant role in stopping and slowing the spread of the virus.
Charlie Baker: (04:35)
We’ve also expanded testing and our daily average new tests this week, as I said before, have hovered around eight to 10 000. This far exceeds that goal, we set of 3500 tests a day, a very short while ago. We also expanded hospital capacity to create more space to treat COVID-19 patients and other patients in need of hospital care. And in some parts of Massachusetts like Western Mass and Cape Cod, we had seen a decline in hospitalizations over the course of the past five or six days.
Charlie Baker: (05:09)
Our hospitals are also reporting that more people are coming in to hospitals for treatment and medical care that’s not related to COVID-19. This is very good news, as people who need serious medical care, should feel safe and go see their doctors. At the same time, it’s also important that we begin formulating a plan to reopen our economy on a phase basis. When the data suggests the COVID-19 is diminishing, we’ll want to have that plan ready to start recovering the economic ground that we’ve given up during this fight. Today we’re announcing a reopening advisory board that will inform the administration strategies for reopening when the time is right. This group will work on a plan that occurs in phases. They’ll help industries navigate public health guidance and implement safety measures for the new rules of the road.
Charlie Baker: (06:06)
We’ve asked this group to produce their plan by May 18th. The advisory board will be led by Lieutenant governor Karen Polito and secretary of housing and economic development, Mike Kennealy. Along with a 17 member team, they’ll bring together public health officials with leaders in the business community and municipal government. We picked a fairly small group to ensure that this group could be productive in a short amount of time.
Charlie Baker: (06:32)
There are many important voices that they will need to hear from as part of the conversations that will be led by the advisory board. The strategy was to pick leaders in different spaces who are connected to like minded people statewide so that they can engage in that robust dialogue and report back the most critical information for the advisory group to consider in making their recommendations. One way I’ve thought of thinking about it is this group, while small has a lot of people on it who are very qualified and represent a lot of geography and a number of different business models here in Massachusetts. There are many business models in Massachusetts and we think this group will provide an opportunity for folks in different verticals to get together, talk to one another and then speak with one voice to this advisory board with respect to how they would pursue operating under the rules and guidance that comes from the advisory board.
Charlie Baker: (07:39)
This should make it possible for every voice to be heard, but at the same time, will create a mechanism that establishes organizing principles for different verticals and different business models to relate and communicate with this advisory board. We do anticipate delivering updates on the board’s work as time goes on. We’re pleased to have a few members join us today, including public health commissioner Monica Burrell and Lawrence Mayor, Dan Rivera, Lieutenant governor will provide more details on the advisory board in just a minute.
Charlie Baker: (08:13)
I’m confident this team will come up with thoughtful recommendations for how we approach a phased reopening, but our public health guidance and data from healthcare experts are ultimately going to lead this process. This includes monitoring information like hospital rates for COVID-19, the percentage of new cases and monitoring community hotspots. We’re all incredibly eager to move on from this phase of our lives, but if we act too soon, we could risk a spike in infections that could force our state to revert to serious restrictions again, and this scenario would be far worse for our economy and for our communities and for our people.
Charlie Baker: (08:52)
We’ll keep monitoring several data points to identify trends that indicate the rate of infection and we’ll continue to make decisions based on what we think is best for Massachusetts. As we navigate this process, we’ll also work with our neighboring states on strategies that make sense for us and for the Northeast region. As I said many times before, we need to talk to each other and stay in touch so that none of us does anything that unwillingly puts the others in a bad space.
Charlie Baker: (09:21)
Medical and infectious disease experts believe that the public’s compliance with our closure of non-essential businesses, our ban on large gatherings and our stay at home advisory has slowed the spread and helped our hospitals keep up. And based on these facts on the ground, these mechanisms all need to remain in place so we can soon do better than just keep up and actually start to get ahead.
Charlie Baker: (09:44)
So in addition to extending the closure on non-essential businesses, I’m also extending the ban on gatherings of 10 or more people until May 18th. We’re also extending the guidance to the executive branch employees of state government to make sure we keep providing key services to those who need it safely. I know pushing these dates back a couple of weeks is probably not what many people want to hear. And believe me, I’m just as frustrated as everybody else that I can’t visit my father or get many of the small businesses that I talk to all the time that are struggling to survive the okay to open up now. And we all look forward to stepping in front of this podium to tell you that we’re starting to open for business. I know we’ll get there soon, but we have to be smart about how we do it and recognize and understand that there are risks associated with going back too soon.
Charlie Baker: (10:41)
This reopening advisory board is a step in the right direction and they’ll do incredible work in the course of the next few weeks, so then when the data shows us that we’re getting ahead of this terrible virus, we can take swift, smart, and appropriate action. Let me just close with this. I know sometimes it can feel like we’ve been in this crisis for a lot longer than we have, and I know that everybody wants to get to whatever we can call the new normal. But the data shows us that our hospitalization rates, while no longer climbing at the rates they were climbing for have plateaued, have not started to fall. This is critically important to the decision making, not just here in Massachusetts, but to the guidance that’s been recommended in virtually every other state in the country and has come out of most of the major public health organizations.
Charlie Baker: (11:29)
The steps we’re taking now and what we’re able to begin planning with respect to reopening and how we carry out that process for Massachusetts is critically important and we think it should begin now. We’re moving in the right direction with respect to the virus, but we are not where we need to be. And I think most folks, certainly in my role in other states are using similar guidance to make decisions about their states.
Charlie Baker: (11:56)
The completion of the advisory boards planning work will mean Massachusetts is prepared to reopen in a safe and smart and phased way, as soon as the evidence on the ground with respect to the virus allows. Letting up too early on things we know are working, staying home, pausing business, wearing face coverings and practicing social distancing, is not the right way to finish this fight. We all know the drill and we all know what it does to slow the spread. We stick together and play our part, we’ll come out the other side stronger. We won’t suffer the relapse that so many of us are concerned about and we will be able to move forward on a phased opening. With that, I’m going to turn it over to Lieutenant governor Polito.
Karen Polito: (12:44)
Good afternoon. Thank you governor. It’s an honor to be here with secretary Kennealy, with commissioner Burrell, Jerry Sanders and mayor Rivera from Lawrence to talk about the advisory board and the work ahead of us as we launch this effort in conjunction with industry stakeholders, municipal leaders, and start to plan for the reopening of our Massachusetts economy. As the governor said, this is a process that needs to be smart, needs to be putting safety first, and needs to be phased. And when I think about the work that we are about to do, we do that in partnership with the voices that we need to hear, from local businesses, your small businesses, women and minority owned businesses.=, Your favorite of stops and shops in your neighborhoods, your downtowns, your main streets.
Karen Polito: (13:47)
The places that are so familiar to you that like all of us here, miss going to and miss the familiarity with the connections that we have with people in these places. And we’ll listen to them. We’ll listen to-
Karen Polito: (14:02)
… them. We’ll listen to the industry leaders that will advise us from businesses small and large throughout our Commonwealth. And as the governor clearly stated, this process must and will be guided by the public health metrics that we watch so closely every single day, to inform us what a safe reopening looks like here in our Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Karen Polito: (14:32)
So regarding the advisory board, all of us, as I said, government officials, state and local industry employees and customers will need to work together in order for this to be successful. Think about how impactful social distancing is here in our Commonwealth. We are recognized as a leader in people taking personal responsibility for that. And this will be no different in terms of how we operate, how we conduct ourselves in a reopened community in our Commonwealth. The board will bring a range of perspectives, as the governor said, including an understanding of workplaces and work forces, including insights into key areas like financial markets, education, local governance, manufacturing and transportation.
Karen Polito: (15:25)
The board will tap into the entrepreneurial spirit that has been a force for decades and many years behind our Massachusetts economy. That positive force will continue to propel us forward through this process. We’ll do a lot of listening to our main street businesses, our small business owners. We’ll listen to the best academic institutions, thought leaders and innovators from all over our Commonwealth.
Karen Polito: (15:54)
The 17 member advisory board is comprised of three public health officials, three municipal officials, and 11 leaders from the business community, including Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack. The board includes municipal leaders from different regions of our Commonwealth. We’ve always partnered with municipal leaders from all parts of our Commonwealth, rural, some suburban large and small cities, to help us as an administration do a better job of serving the people of this Commonwealth, and this task of the advisory board will be no different. Working with the Metro mayors, working with the local government officials statewide, from the Berkshires to the Cape and the islands.
Karen Polito: (16:43)
Their insight is key. A lot of the decisions that we will make need to be enforced and implementable at the local level. That’s why we’ve asked Lawrence mayor Dan Rivera, who knows firsthand how to reshape and reorganize and literally reignite a community, given his background in Merrimack Valley and what they have gone through. We’ll listen to people like the East Hampton mayor, mayor LaChapelle, and a smaller Western Mass community. We’ll listen to, obviously the mayor of Boston, who has been a strategic partner with our administration, and he’s asked his chief of staff, Kathryn Burton, to step up and serve as part of this effort.
Karen Polito: (17:28)
We have a wide range of industry experts, as the governor mentioned, bringing their diversity of thought and experience, as well as real time information around how they’re seeing their own workplaces, workplaces in other parts of the world transform into safer places for the workforce that they are connected to, but also for the people that they do business with in this new phase that our economy will enter.
Karen Polito: (18:01)
And importantly, the expert health officials. I’m so grateful that we have amazing people fighting and responding to the health needs of our communities during this phase of the response. But we’ll also need their thinking around the reopening of our Commonwealth. So we’ve asked the president and CEO of Baystate, Dr. Mark Keroack, to help us. We’ve also asked the professor of medicine and infectious disease physician at Harvard Medical School, MGH and Brigham and Women’s. You know her, and you’re familiar with her amazing work, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, to inform us. As well as a Commissioner Monica Bharel, who will inform the board’s planning efforts and allow us to really understand the public health metrics that will guide us to making smart, informed decisions for the safety and health and wellbeing of the people of this Commonwealth.
Karen Polito: (19:05)
Our first meeting will take place this afternoon. We literally are rolling up our sleeves, and we’re getting to work today. The advisory board members also very engaged, very available to helping us spend a lot of time over the next few weeks to organize this effort for our Commonwealth. And while we listen to the advice from our advisory board, we’ll continue to meet with stakeholder groups, from retailers to labor representatives to the construction industry, to restaurants, and a whole lot of different kinds of businesses and interested parties throughout this process. There’ll be a lot of give and take. We can’t do this alone without understanding the impact that our decisions have on the workplaces of our Commonwealth. And as the governor said, we will develop the planning tool that will be the roadmap for reopening in a phased, smart and safe manner, to be completed around that May 18th time period. The top priority remains the health and safety of the Massachusetts residents. And our plan to reopen will include guidance for things like sanitized shared spaces, realistic social distancing protocols for customers and employees, and expanded access to testing.
Karen Polito: (20:36)
And finally, I’d just like to close by acknowledging and speaking from a common voice, that we know COVID 19 has impacted every single aspect of our lives and our family’s lives. And it’s also impacted every facet of the business community of our Commonwealth. So it’s incumbent on us to listen to all those voices, from the biggest companies of Massachusetts to the smallest on our main streets, and in the neighborhoods of our communities, and to work together to address their concerns, but also support them with a safe reopening of their businesses, of their workplaces. To make them safe for their workforce, but also safer for the people coming into these establishments. There’s no question, as the governor said, people feel a longing for those familiar places where we find such comfort, and we receive such joy in visiting. Whether it’s going back to work or going to your favorite spots with your friends and your family.
Karen Polito: (21:50)
This effort will help us measure the data that’s available to us, make those smart decisions, do the right things at the right time to make it safer for people to return to work, and for also people to enjoy the pleasure of living in this great Commonwealth of Massachusetts. We can, and we will do everything in our power to get this right. And I guess looking forward is maybe a good way to describe this effort as we peek ahead to the next phase of this effort. Thank you. And I’d now like to turn it back over to the governor.
Charlie Baker: (22:35)
Speaker 3: (22:36)
Governor, how did you come to this date of May 18th, and if their plan isn’t due until then, our reopening plan, can businesses really expect to reopen?
Charlie Baker: (22:46)
Well, I think from our point of view, the goal here was to take a look at the fact that we have plateaued, but we’ve stayed at a very high level, with respect to hospitalizations around COVID 19, which is a key measure. And to put enough distance between where we are now, with respect to one of the key measures associated with what’s going on in Massachusetts, and where we could get to the point where we could start to do something on a phased basis. I think having this reopening advisory board get to work, and by the way, they’re going to be working every day, every day, right? Since we no longer have days, it’s just… They’re going to be working every day between now and the 18th to discuss both the larger issues associated with the regulatory framework, but also the operating principles and the policies around how to regulate and enforce and oversee, which is what we’re really interested in having our municipal colleagues help us think through.
Charlie Baker: (23:49)
So that when we get to the 18th, there will be guidance that we can make available to people. And remember, this is a phased opening. Phased. It’s not going to be everybody all at once. I’m sure many people would like to see it happened that way, others might not, but the bottom line is this is going to be phased, and it’s going to be based to some extent on those businesses that are most likely to be successful coming out of the gate, with respect to a reopening of some sort. I mean, that is exactly how, by the way, most other states are doing this.
Speaker 4: (24:18)
Governor, do you think there’s a chance you might have to extend [inaudible 00:24:21].
Speaker 5: (24:22)
Mayor Walsh says he spoke with you this morning. Can you tell a little bit about the conversation that you had with him, and also did that factor into your decision with coming up with the May 18th date?
Charlie Baker: (24:32)
No, but I talk to Mayor Walsh all the time about all kinds of things. And the May 18th date has a lot more to do with the running room we felt we needed, first of all to get this work done, but secondly, to recognize and understand that while we’ve gone up like this, we’d been like this for awhile, and we have not seen a downward trend yet on a number of those key metrics.
Speaker 6: (25:00)
[crosstalk 00:25:00] Do you think there’s a chance we may have to extend it again [inaudible 00:25:04].
Charlie Baker: (25:06)
The one thing everybody in public health, and everybody who’s been making recommendations and providing guidance on this has said, is that until you see some downward trends for some period of time, and it varies how long people talk about those downward trends. But the bottom line is, if you don’t see any downward trends, then you are running a terrible risk by walking away from what is known to be a very effective strategy to slow the spread, which is the distancing and the limiting in mobility.
Charlie Baker: (25:44)
And I get the fact that it’s hard, and it gets harder as the weather gets nicer and it gets harder as the time gets longer. And it’s especially hard if you’re out of work, or if your business isn’t able to operate. But there’s literally no one in the healthcare world or the public health world or the infectious disease world who thinks you can open the door and put people back into working environments if you haven’t seen any negative downward trend on a lot of those key measures. And right now we’ve basically flattened it, no question. But in terms of seeing the number move in a positive, negative direction, we haven’t seen that in most of the metrics that we’ve been looking at yet.
Speaker 7: (26:29)
[crosstalk 00:26:29] Massachusetts open sooner, because you did mention earlier that on the Cape and in Western Massachusetts, we were seeing downward trends for at least the last couple of days.
Charlie Baker: (26:37)
Yeah. You know, we’re a pretty small geography, and small enough that New Hampshire and Vermont both spend a lot of time, and Rhode Island and Connecticut, talking to us as we do with them about issues and decisions around this sort of thing. Because none of us is really very far away from the other, and I think you’re likely to see us try to act in as coordinated a policy as we possibly can. And under those types of terms, I don’t anticipate that we’ll choose to single one region out over another. I’m glad, since Western Mass was one of the first areas to be hit hard by this thing, I’m glad to see the numbers there moving in the right direction. I would hate to do anything to screw that up.
Speaker 8: (27:20)
Governor, [inaudible 00:27:21] some concerns with the KN95 masks that they received from the state. Did the state know when they purchased those that they were not to the same standard as N95 masks?
Charlie Baker: (27:33)
Well, first of all, in the absence of a federal strategy around masks generally, we made a decision to pursue procurement of PPE through a whole variety of channels. And over the course of the past 35, 40 days, we’ve purchased millions of pieces of PPE, and probably millions of masks at this point, too. And we had them tested at MIT, and based on the results of those tests…
Charlie Baker: (28:03)
… we distributed the information that was available on those tests to all the organizations that are part of the PPE distribution community, and basically gave them guidance based on what the test results said and what the folks at Public Health said about which ones could be used for which purposes.
Charlie Baker: (28:22)
But I’d start by saying that when we started distributing this stuff, people had nothing. And I think in many respects, from our point of view, testing them, figuring out what the results of those tests were, sending the data associated with those results out to people and giving them guidance with respect to how they should be used and what purpose they could be used for was an appropriate thing to do, and that’s why we did it. But like I said from the beginning, I fully expect that states are going to be on their own with respect to PPE far into the future.
Charlie Baker: (28:56)
And I’ve been asked at this briefing, many times, how much PPE is enough? And my answer to that all along has been, there’s no such thing as enough because this is going to be something that we’re going to have to continue to own, and I think we’ll continue to test if we get different kinds of stuff in.
Charlie Baker: (29:18)
One of the things we noticed as we started buying this stuff is there were a lot of different brands that came in under certain kinds of generic categories, and that was one of the reasons why we went and did the testing, and I think the testing was useful.
Governor, was there a frustration with the general public, did you do too much and if they’re enough, and is there a magic number you could relay to them of what you’re looking for to make sure that we are in that safe zone? And are you using any sort of technology, such as a simulator, to discuss scenarios [crosstalk 00:29:54] to effectively-
Charlie Baker: (29:56)
So Anne Klibanski, who’s the CEO of Partners, at one of these briefings I thought described that beautifully. She said, “Models are models are models,” and you need to accept that and recognize and understand that they’re useful as a point of reference, but they certainly shouldn’t be deemed, I don’t think ever, as gospel on this stuff because people are constantly changing their models. We’ve seen that happen ever since this began and we’re dealing with a virus that we’ve never seen before. So to some extent, there isn’t a long history on this like there is with the flu.
Charlie Baker: (30:37)
What I would say is that everybody has said, “You need to see downward trends. Downward trends.” On one of the key measures, one of the ones I pay the most attention to, and I know most of the folks who are a part of our team pay attention to which is, hospitalizations for COVID-19 and ICU use for COVID-19. Yes, it’s flattened out, but we have not seen a downward trend there, and that’s a really important measure about what’s going on out there in the community generally.
Governor, [crosstalk 00:31:12] businesses learned over the last six, eight weeks that some can successfully have their employees working remotely and it’s been working for them. Now, should those businesses be thinking maybe voluntarily to keep at that for the long haul here and maybe use some more [inaudible 00:31:30]?
Charlie Baker: (31:34)
So that’s a great example of the kind of question and the kind of issue that we would like some of these verticals to come talk to these folks about. I think we have 18,000 people in the executive branch who’ve been working remotely, and it’s actually worked out pretty well. So we’re going to have to have a conversation with ourselves about that. I think a number of other countries, and this is where these conversations with the advisory board are going to be so important, because a lot of the businesses that will be talking to them and the business groups that will be talking to them, now have real world experience in other places around the world. Several other countries have put staggered work schedules in place, and I don’t know if those are mandatory or voluntary. I think they’re voluntary, but people have done things to change the nature of the way they manage those and it’s turned out to be pretty effective.
Charlie Baker: (32:35)
One of the places where this will get very important, which is why Stephanie Pollack’s on this work group, is transportation. I mean, a number of the places that have gone to staggered work hours did that specifically to make it possible for their public transportation systems to be able to create distancing, which obviously in that space matters a lot.
Governor, [crosstalk 00:32:59] what about childcare? The Senate president this morning suggested that daycare centers need to open before a lot of businesses go back to work, but those are closed until June 29th. Could childcare centers open early or are we actually talking about June 29th for any meaningful reopening?
Charlie Baker: (33:14)
I think that’s a good question and it’s one that the advisory board’s going to take under consideration.
So you could open up daycare centers earlier than the 29th?
Charlie Baker: (33:22)
It’s going to depend a lot on the conversation with the daycare community generally and what we get from the business community and how phased in the phase opening actually is.
Governor, in some states, you see governors and mayors at odds. Governors have wanted to reopen, some mayors have not. Ultimately, in our state, who’s decision will it be?
Charlie Baker: (33:42)
Well, what we’ve said for a long time, I would say for five years, is we try to create a framework and then if locals believe that within that framework they need to do something different, as long as it’s not a violation of state law, we’ve been reasonably supportive and have tried to be accommodating.
Charlie Baker: (34:05)
If you look at the rulemaking around masks or face coverings, we have an advisory out there around face coverings. There are a bunch of communities that have turned that advisory into an order at the local level and are enforcing it. We’ve put advisories out on a number of issues where, I think from our point of view, we thought we were too far away from the actual action on the ground to be the enforcement authority and where the enforcement authority would probably be better suited at the local level than it would be at the state level.
Charlie Baker: (34:40)
Part of the reason we have three municipal officials serving on this fairly small group and an ongoing conversation with the MMA, the Metro Mayors, the MAPC, the Western Mass Mayors, I mean, there’s a bunch of groups that we talk to on a pretty regular basis here, is to try to make sure that we do sync up to the extent we can on how we make this decision.
Charlie Baker: (35:06)
As a general rule, I don’t think public disputes between state leaders and municipal leaders help people who are trying to figure out how to comply with or engage around what is for all of us, new ground, is very helpful. I mean, we would much rather try and figure that stuff out through conversations with these folks and advance so that doesn’t happen.
Governor? [crosstalk 00:35:35] construction then [crosstalk 00:35:37] a lot of construction statewide, but there’s some [inaudible 00:35:40] that want that to happen and shut it down. So I guess that’s where the question is is, whose decision is it?
Charlie Baker: (35:47)
Well remember, what we basically said was, we established original guidelines around construction based on the feds. The feds changed their guidance. When they changed their guidance, we changed ours. We also put a set of criteria in place with respect to safety standards around construction that was permitted, but then we said to the locals, “If you want our help to actually inspect projects in your district because you don’t have the people power to do that, that’s fine. And if you do have the inspectional capability and you don’t believe these projects are living up to what you consider to be safe standards, you can shut them down.” And some people did, most didn’t. I think that’s the way it should work.
[crosstalk 00:36:32], are you disappointed by the minister at the [Adam’s Center 00:00:36:36] Baptist Church in Wooster? I guess he had a service Sunday. He asked people to wear a mask and observe social distancing, when you do have this order, no 10 plus [inaudible 00:08:47].
Charlie Baker: (36:54)
So I think I speak for both the lieutenant governor and me when I say that denying houses of worship the opportunity to gather and practice their faith would be right up there on a list of things that were very dismaying with respect to putting this order in in the first place. And I spoke in empty houses of worship on a live stream to congregations that were watching from home, and it is a weird thing to do, to be in these big, beautiful, empty places, speaking into a box that’s smaller than that one and hoping that somehow you can create the same sense of community that you get from being in the same place, and I’m sympathetic to that, but I’m also very sympathetic to the fact that there’s lots of data from around the globe in places where people didn’t put constraints around houses of worship, where the virus went all over the place.
Charlie Baker: (38:08)
And from my point of view, houses of worship are another example of the kind of entity that we expect will engage with this reopening committee and talk to them about how they would go about doing this. But in the meantime, the order’s in place and the city of Wooster did the right thing by enforcing it.
Governor? Governor, there’s a MGH simulator that suggests that the state could see as many as 26 or 27,000 deaths if the state were to reopen as early as May 25th, minimal restrictions. How does that compare to the models that you’ve been relying on with the advisory group?
Charlie Baker: (38:49)
So Anne Klibanski: “Models are models.” Can we start there? I don’t think anybody’s talking about the kind of opening that was proposed in that simulator. I mean, that simulator was basically, as you point out, minimal restrictions. That’s not going to be the way this works. I mean, there’s now enough evidence, not just in conversations with our colleagues in the US, but there’s evidence from around the world at this point about the kinds of things that need to be part of any sort of a reopening with respect to distancing and sanitization and face coverings and all the rest, and disinfectants. I fully expect that whatever happens here is going to be built on a lot of the work that’s been done elsewhere, and I will be shocked if anybody opens up anything with so-called minimal restrictions.
Governor, you said [crosstalk 00:39:44], first of all, you said many times, that realistically to the public, [crosstalk 00:39:49] state based on [inaudible 00:39:52] start to act on what the lieutenant governor wants [inaudible 00:39:54] because you guys are just going to go upstairs and start talking about it, but realistically, what are we going to probably see?
Charlie Baker: (40:03)
I think one of the reasons why we both said in our remarks that we’d be making regular updates on the work of the advisory board, was to be able to give people some insight on that stuff, but I want them to start talking before we start sharing stuff like that, once they actually develop some key themes, which is what I think you’re looking for.
Governor, how [crosstalk 00:40:24]-
Governor, will you give us an update on the percentage of nursing home and long-term care residents and staff that have been tested, how you’re addressing obstacles?
Charlie Baker: (40:47)
Do you want to talk about that?
Speaker 9: (40:47)
Can you just repeat? I’m sorry.
Looking for a specific percentage of how many, if you have it, long-term care, nursing home, residents and staff, have been tested and how you’re addressing any obstacles.
Speaker 9: (41:00)
So we put out that data in the backpack every day in terms of the number of facilities that have been tested, so I didn’t bring that with me. In terms of the, when you say the issues that we’re seeing …
Just the obstacles of trying to get everyone tested.
Speaker 9: (41:20)
Yeah. So as we said, when we first started this out, when we first started testing the mobile testing program for nursing homes, it was nursing homes requesting to test symptomatic patients. We changed the guidance about 10 days, whenever we changed it about, it might be two weeks ago now, that through the MAG, that you could request that, but we highly recommended, in fact, it was sort of pushy, that we wanted to test everybody, all residents in nursing home and staff.
Speaker 9: (41:52)
The information we put out the other day, the $130 million as attached to phase two for the nursing homes, is dependent upon a nursing facility having all their staff-
Secretary Sudders: (42:03)
… and residents tested. So that is an extra measure here for the $130 million that we put out the other day, that in order to be eligible for those funds, you have to have everybody tested. That’s not an option because we think it’s very important in our nursing homes, our longterm care facilities, and we how how fatal COVID-19 is for individuals who are older that we need to have a baseline in order to create the separate wings, the separate units, have staff and the like. So it just seemed to us an imperative to do.
Speaker 11: (42:39)
Secretary, following up on that, how long do residents and staff at the nursing homes needs to be tested and re-tested as this program goes on or can the National Guard handle this?
Secretary Sudders: (42:52)
Yeah, so the National Guard stepped up last week. They’ve now actually doubled the amount of testing that they’re doing in our nursing homes. So we do expect that they’ll do that. Also, as I’m sure you know, some nursing homes actually have done their own testing of their residents and staff, and so to be eligible for the $130 million going on a go forward basis, it is possible that if they have done that and demonstrate to us that they have done that testing that they will be eligible for that funding. This is baseline and obviously going forward. So nursing home X, we do the baseline and then we see a resurgence, additional number of cases, we would come back and re-test people again. Because one of the things, and if you look at, so John Hopkins came out with a report the other day and I was going through it, we’re doing all the things in that guidance around Hopkins and one of the things Hopkins talks about is to also inquire about your staff who work in multiple jobs.
Secretary Sudders: (43:52)
So one of the things we need to do is also ensure individuals who work part time in a nursing home and work part time elsewhere, those individuals will be testing more frequently because obviously the potential of exposure for them is greater.
Speaker 12: (44:09)
Secretary, with a few parameters with the phase two funding and the additional resources you announced yesterday, do you think it would be-
Secretary Sudders: (44:17)
Was that just yesterday?
Speaker 12: (44:18)
I think so.
Secretary Sudders: (44:19)
Speaker 12: (44:21)
Do you think it would be feasible for part of the mobile testing program that involves ordering test kits with simple step testing, conducting tests themselves, would that be able to resume anytime soon?
Secretary Sudders: (44:32)
I have a lot of faith. We’re obviously examining what we would need to do to allow for the test kits to go back out to nursing homes, but given the experience that we had, we have a lot of confidence in the National Guard’s ability to test. And so I’m sort of staying with tried and true at the moment as well as, as you know, we have expanded the number of clinical resource teams that are available for homes. And so if I have 12 teams of 10 and if those individuals are in a home, I might actually be able to have them do the testing.
Charlie Baker: (45:13)
[inaudible 00:45:13] answer on this, which is testing. One of the other big and critical elements of this $130 million proposal is infection control. Part of the reason people test is because they’re concerned about infections. A big part of the push associated with the things people must do that’s attached to this $130 million is to work with a team from Hebrew Senior Life, which has a lot of credibility on this infection control piece, to get in place in all of our longterm care facilities, a validated, delivered proposal and protocol around infection control because if you’re doing that then the testing remains important as a surveillance issue, but the goal here is to reduce the rate of infection spread. So one of the major elements of this thing is to, I think, it’s a requirement, isn’t it? It’s a requirement that everybody’s got to step up, understand, and execute on the guidelines and the guidance that they’re going to get from Hebrew Senior Life about infection control.
Speaker 13: (46:44)
I was curious, I appreciate the fact that you’re going with the data in doing this extension, but a week ago you could have looked at time is pretty short for [inaudible 00:04:58], seemingly, your body language you were holding out hope that something was going to happen. What were you thinking? Because it was pretty obvious that we weren’t going to go [inaudible 00:05:09].
Charlie Baker: (47:15)
We’ve basically been flat for 12 days. We’re flat at a high level, but 12 days. You’re not going to find that in 13 days counting today. You’re not going to find a lot of other places that just sit like this for 13 days.
Speaker 13: (47:30)
You mean on hospitalizations?
Charlie Baker: (47:35)
On both ICUs … ICUs have been a little bumpier but basically COVID-19 hospitalizations and ICU.
Speaker 13: (47:41)
So the new positive cases going away up during this period didn’t really phase you?
Charlie Baker: (47:48)
Well, you pay a lot of attention to that but remember we do tests in places where we think we’re going to find positive cases. But the other thing I would say there is if you look at that data over the course of the past 10 days or so, you look at the three day moving average because there is some noise in there, if you look at the three day moving average over the last 10 to 14 days there, it actually has started to go like this, as a percent. So while we’ve had days where the number of positives have gone up a lot, we’ve also dramatically increased the number of total tests that are being done. So, I mean, some people might look at that trend and say, “That actually is kind of a positive trend.” You’re doing more testing, you’re testing the places where you think you have concerns, but the percentage of positive tests you’re getting has actually gone down. In the last couple of days, it was around 14%, wasn’t it? 15? 17?
Speaker 14: (48:42)
Charlie Baker: (48:42)
Speaker 14: (48:42)
It’s come down from 25.
Charlie Baker: (48:48)
Apparently, I’m not paying as much attention to that number as I thought it was.
Speaker 15: (48:54)
Governor, how confident are you that we’ll be able to run the marathon [inaudible 00:48:58]? Not you personally.
Charlie Baker: (49:03)
I feel I’m running a marathon now. I would say that that’s a good example of something where we’ve got to get a lot farther down the road. And I think you asked me about the 4th of July, Sharman, I mean, that’s a great example of something we would never make a decision on without talking to the city of Boston about it.
Speaker 16: (49:21)
You talk about your dad a lot, how you’re not able to [crosstalk 00:49:22].
Charlie Baker: (49:25)
Speaker 16: (49:25)
A lot of people are in that position right now or in that situation, as you talk about weighing the potential of reopening, when do you think people are going to be able to visit their elderly relatives?
Charlie Baker: (49:36)
That’s a really good question and it’s one that we’ve tried to make other means of communication available to people, and I think are going to continue to pursue that. I mean, one of my brothers actually showed my dad how to use his, my dad’s always had a cell phone, but he never really uses it, okay? But one of my brothers showed him remotely how to actually turn on FaceTime on his cell phone. And so I actually had a FaceTime conversation with my dad on Saturday. And honestly, I was surprised by how much it meant to me to see his face. I don’t know if he gave a hoot about seeing my face or my daughter’s face or my wife’s face, but it was a reminder to me of how big a deal some of these limits on connection really are because all it was, he was holding it like this far away from him, which is a little troubling.
Charlie Baker: (50:50)
But the bottom line is seeing his face on that phone was a really big deal. And I think one of the things we’ve talked to a bunch of folks in the longterm care community about generally is what kinds of electronic communication might we be able to work with people to make available so people can at least get a face to go along with the voice. But I think we should all be really careful about that community in particular when it comes to the virus, because the virus has clearly demonstrated that is a community that it can do terrible damage and in a very short period of time.
Speaker 17: (51:29)