Apr 30, 2020
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker COVID-19 Briefing Transcript April 30
Governor of Massachusetts Charlie Baker’s coronavirus press conference on April 30. Baker provided details on efforts to reopen Massachusetts.
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Charlie Baker: (00:00)
So good afternoon. Today I’d like to provide another update around testing, tracing, hospitalizations, PPE distribution and the ongoing work of the Reopening Advisory Board. I also want to give a brief update on Federal disaster assistance. On testing, yesterday the Commonwealth processed 11,118 tests. We had 1,963 confirmed positive tests of COVID-19, which means about 17.7% of the tests conducted were positive. This positive percentage is an important piece of the data that we monitor, and that latest number of 17% is down from a previous high that was much closer to 30%, which is a good sign because we tested a lot more than we did a few weeks ago, and we’ve also tried to test in places where we were particularly concerned about the potential of community and organizational spread.
Charlie Baker: (00:57)
As I’ve mentioned, we continue to hold daily calls with leaders in the healthcare community and have been closely monitoring hospital capacity and hospitalization rates related to COVID-19 and other non-COVID-related issues throughout the State. As of yesterday, there were 3,856 patients hospitalized in Massachusetts for COVID-19, which is quite consistent with our data of the past few days. Meaning that hospitalization rates for COVID-19 have been pretty flat now for about 15 days in a row. The percentage of all cases that are hospitalized has also been pretty consistent. It’s at around 6%.
Charlie Baker: (01:32)
While we’re watching for that downward trend that many people talk about, not just here but in many other places with respect to monitoring and measuring the spread of the disease, the number of people needing hospital care here in the Commonwealth has stayed pretty consistent, as I said, for the better part of the past two weeks. Flip side of that is we haven’t seen an increase for about two weeks as well, which is also a good thing. We also suffered yesterday. I think many people know the largest single-day increase of COVID-19-related deaths here in Massachusetts, losing 252 people to this insidious virus.
Charlie Baker: (02:17)
We obviously track a lot of numbers to understand the presence and the trajectory of this pandemic, but the lives lost every day is one of those numbers that none of us is ever going to get particularly comfortable with. Behind those numbers, as I’ve said before, are people and families and lives that have been forever changed by the lethal grip of COVID-19, and our hearts go out to everyone who’s lost someone to this terrible virus.
Charlie Baker: (02:46)
Finally, we continue to chase every avenue that’s available to us with respect to PPE for healthcare workers and frontline workers. As of yesterday, we’ve delivered over 7 million pieces, including masks, gowns, and ventilators. With respect to contact tracing, I think most people know that earlier this month we announced the creation of a COVID-19 Community Tracing Collaborative in collaboration with the folks at Partners in Health, to mitigate the spread of the disease and to contain it here in Massachusetts.
Charlie Baker: (03:16)
We’re the first state in the nation to launch this sort of a program, and we’re fortunate to have a partner in this like Partners in Health onboard, an organization that has done this issue fighting diseases and outbreaks in many developing countries, and has battled Ebola and Zika and many other contagions in many parts of the world. And they have proven time and time again that their model can work, and in many cases in places that are far more challenging than they would be here in Massachusetts. We believe this tracing program is a key element toward not only stopping the spread, but also understanding where the virus is, who’s been affected, and how we can go about making sure that we contain it.
Charlie Baker: (03:59)
We launched this program earlier this month, and said that by the end of April we anticipated we would have about 1,000 people onboard working on this particular initiative. That is just about the number of people we have working so far. And to have stood up an organization in that period of time on a joint basis with Partners in Health was a terrific piece of work, but now obviously the really tough stuff begins, which is making sure we do all this stuff we need to do and that they need to do, to both identify people who test positive, support them in isolation, make sure we connect to their close contacts, and do what we can to support them as well.
Charlie Baker: (04:39)
This team is now supported by the way, by 80 local Boards of Health, who have stepped up to work alongside and to help the initiative, and to date this team, in a fairly short period of time where they’ve been hiring and setting up their call center operations, has made contact with about 5,000 people who are either COVID-19 positive or suspected to be close contacts of people who were.
Charlie Baker: (05:04)
Tracing is, as we’ve said before, is all about identifying and reaching out to the people that someone with COVID-19 has been in contact with. Our tracers can then tell those folks to monitor for symptoms and to self-isolate to prevent any further spread. Infectious disease specialists now believe this virus can go undetected for days, and some people who test positive actually never show any symptoms at all. Originally, when we first started putting this together, we projected that a person would have around 10 contacts that would then need to be contacted.
Charlie Baker: (05:37)
So far, the average number of contacts is actually only two. That’s a very good sign, because it means that the work all of you and we have done here in Massachusetts to stay home to separate, to socially distance, and to take seriously this idea that all of us have a role to in reducing the spread, has made a big difference. And if you check out the mobility data that’s popped up by Google and others with respect to how much people have been moving around since the sort of middle to end of March, the Massachusetts numbers track as well as any other region of the country. And that again is a good sign, because it means the stuff that we’ve put in place, the work that you have done to socially distance, limit your travel, and limit the number of people you’ve come in contact with, has had exactly the kind of impact on the rate of spread and the rate of growth in the disease here in Massachusetts that we hoped it would.
Charlie Baker: (06:40)
With respect to this Collaborative, if you receive a call from the Collaborative, please take the call, and provide the relevant information to the caller. What’s been interesting about this from the beginning, is as people have started calling folks who tested positive for COVID, the conversations have not just been about their close contacts. The conversations have been about what are the sorts of things that they and we need to do to help them isolate, and to support them as they go through the process of dealing with the fact that they’ve tested positive, and may or may not have already started to show symptoms.
Charlie Baker: (07:19)
And that outreach that we make to them, which is then followed by outreach to their close contacts, is in many respects about providing them with guidance and support. And the calls have actually lasted longer than people originally anticipated they would, because folks who are in this situation had a lot on their mind and really appreciated the chance to have a chance to talk to somebody about what their concerns were, what their questions were and how those concerns and questions could be addressed by the Commonwealth, and by the folks at Partners in Health.
Charlie Baker: (07:53)
The phone calls that you would get, if you were to get one, would come from an 833 or an 857 number, and your phone if you have Caller ID would say MA COVID Team. And the other reason why it would be important for you to take this call, is it does mean somebody you’ve been in close contact with has tested positive, and we think it’s really important for you to know what that means for you, and how we can help you make sure that you aren’t then somebody who ends up spreading the virus to somebody else. If you see MA COVID Team come up on your phone, please pick it up. It’s good for you, it’s good for whoever it was that recommended we called you, and it’s going to be good for the people that you’re in contact with on a regular basis, as well. This is frankly your chance to be part of the fight to both contain and push back against the spread and the virus.
Charlie Baker: (08:48)
With respect to reopening, which is certainly something that I think is at the forefront of everybody’s mind, including ours, the Advisory Board led by Lieutenant Governor Polito and Secretary Kennealy, has hit the ground running and has begun meeting with various employers, business organizations, and municipalities, to talk to them about what some of their issues are and how they see this potentially working for them. Their goal, obviously, is to hear from employers from across the Commonwealth, from trade unions, from frontline workers, and from others to gather as much data as they possibly can, and to work with the folks at the Department of Public Health and in the healthcare community, to make sure that we can offer up specific guidance to those who would like to find a way to reopen, and then to hear from them about how that guidance might translate into what their day-to-day would look like on the ground inside their organization.
Charlie Baker: (09:48)
The goal here is to try to make sure that as many voices as possible can be heard. They’re setting up feedback and listening sessions across the State. And as of Wednesday, they’ve talked to retailers, folks in the biotech industry, folks in the healthcare industry, folks in the technology industry, and obviously, those brick and mortar retailers in particular have been very hard hit, and they are of particular interest not surprisingly to a lot of our colleagues in municipal government, because they do in many cases, make up a lot of the main street activity that vibrant downtowns here in Massachusetts are all about.
Charlie Baker: (10:24)
And this work is obviously going to be critical to our ability to make sure that a smart and planned phase reopening can take place here in Massachusetts. And we’re glad that so many people are already stepping up, reaching out, and seeking to engage with the Advisory Board on what some of their ideas and proposals are with respect to how to safely resume operations.
Charlie Baker: (10:53)
The team obviously has a tremendous amount of work to do in a very short period of time, but I’m looking forward to having an opportunity to present both short-term and medium-
Charlie Baker: (11:03)
… and final report findings from the group as they move forward. We also just want to let you know that today we did submit a request to FEMA for the agency to provide 100% reimbursement for eligible costs under the federal disaster declaration that we filed for and got approved by the president several weeks ago. Currently, Massachusetts expects to absorb about 25% of those costs with about 75% reimbursed by the federal government. To date, we’ve already incurred several costs, many costs actually, for responding to the pandemic. Talking just about PPE, some of the alternative care sites we’ve set up and the deployment of the National Guard on its mobile testing program. We obviously appreciate the support and the guidance we’ve gotten from FEMA over the course of the past several weeks and look forward to them reviewing our latest request.
Charlie Baker: (11:59)
Let me just close by saying this. I think we all know tomorrow’s May 1st and it’s a slightly different kind of May 1st than the one we’ve had typically over the course of the past few years. April obviously, was a very long and very hard month followed by or preceded by the month of March, which many people felt the same way about. I think what I would say to everybody is while these are challenging and difficult times, we have in fact, bent the curve. We did in fact, reduce the spread. We are now living with a plateau that I’m sure all of us would like to see dip a little bit so that we can move a little more quickly with respect to what an reopening strategy would look like. But we’ve now got a smart group of people who are getting together literally for hours on hours every single day to talk to their colleagues here in Massachusetts about what smart policies and procedures would look like with respect to that, and we’re obviously looking forward to having a chance to discuss those options and opportunities with all of you at some point down the road.
Charlie Baker: (13:02)
We do continue to talk on a regular basis with our colleagues around the Northeast region. Many of them are wrestling with the same kinds of questions and issues that we are here in Massachusetts. In some respects, those conversations are reassuring because it’s pretty clear that they’re thinking about and talking about a lot of the same things we are. But I think all of us understand and appreciate the fact that the best way to handle the reopening on this is to make sure we do it in a way that’s consistent with the data and the recommendations that have come from virtually every level of government and every country with respect to when it’s appropriate to reopen, to make sure that reopen when the time is right. We do it in a way that is safe and will be successful and that we don’t create a scenario in which this virus comes back at some point down the road. With that, I will turn it over to Secretary Sutter.
Secretary Sudders: (13:56)
Thank you, governor, lieutenant governor. Good afternoon. I’m just going to pick up a theme that the governor talked about May. May is Mental Health Month. As a social worker, former Commissioner of Mental Health, and as a family member who’s experienced the impact of mental illness on my family, it’s important to be aware of our personal mental health during this pandemic. I want to remind all of us that it’s reasonable to feel anxiety and stress right now. Fear and anxiety about a disease. A pandemic can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children, in all of us. COVID-19 as we all know has affected our daily life and it can affect both our physical and mental health. From loneliness and situational depression resulting from isolation, anxiety from the fear of contagion, grief from loss to worrying about economic security. These are all real and can affect our mental well-being and that of our loved ones.
Secretary Sudders: (15:10)
Nearly half of Americans report that the Corona virus has had a negative impact on their mental health, as reported in an issue paper by the Kaiser Family Foundation in April. If you or someone you care about, if you are feeling overwhelmed or if someone you care about is feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness or anxiety, there are resources out there. You can call to talk. C-A-L-L to talk is a resource available through our 2-1-1 line. In March, which may seem like a long time ago to all of us, we launched in the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Network of Care, a searchable behavioral health directory of services and organizations to preserve and protect your mental health. The website connects Massachusetts residents with information about mental health and behavioral health services and treatment in your communities, including more than 5,000 organizations. It’s searchable by keywords and zip codes.
Secretary Sudders: (16:13)
The website is managed by the Massachusetts Association for Mental Health and supported by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation, the CF Adams Charitable Trust, and the Metro West Health Foundation. The website is massachusetts. networkofcare.org. It can also be accessed through the mass.gov website. Some other tips. It’s important to take care of yourself, your friends, and your family, and it’s difficult to take care of others if you aren’t kind to yourself. No offense to my friends in the media, but take breaks from watching reading or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing or reading constantly about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting. It’s okay to turn things off. Take care of your body, take deep breaths, stretch, meditate, whatever helps you sort of calm down. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise, get plenty of sleep and avoid excessive alcohol and drugs.
Secretary Sudders: (17:26)
It’s okay to take a walk or sit outside in good weather, perhaps not today. It’s important to take time to unwind. Try to engage in some activities that have been important to you. Connect with others. Connection is what we’re about. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you’re feeling. Call your healthcare provider is stress gets in the way of how you’re feeling about how you get through your daily life. It’s very important as we get through this pandemic that we need to take care of ourselves both mentally and physically. Thank you. Governor.
Charlie Baker: (18:05)
I’m going to put a PS on that. I’ve tried for years to get my three kids to read books, wildly unsuccessfully, and my daughter and a friend of hers decided to create a book club because it would give the two of them plus a number of their friends a reason to chat every night and something to talk about. They have now been reading books for a couple of weeks, talking every single night about what they’re reading and the books that they’ve got. They even asked me what books I would recommend that they read and honestly, it was a really good thing and might be the only good thing I can think of that’s come out of all this.
Speaker 2: (18:52)
Is there anything that you’re suggesting on Netflix, Governor? Other than the pandemic [inaudible 00:08:00].
Charlie Baker: (19:01)
No, that would not be on my list. The one thing I would recommend to anybody on Netflix is the Biggest Little Farm, which it’s one of the best documentaries ever and it’s magical. It’s lyrical and it’s beautiful and it’s only 90 minutes. It’s not like you have to watch 14 parts to get to the end, but it’s about two people who lived in an apartment in Santa Monica. They got a dog from a pound. They love the dog, but every time they left the apartment to go to work, the dog would start barking and it would bark until they came home. They eventually got an eviction notice from their landlord and it was either the dog or they had to move. At that point in time, they decided that they would get a series of investors and go do something they always to do, which was create a natural farm, and it’s awesome. I would highly recommend it to anybody.
Speaker 2: (20:03)
[inaudible 00:20:03] watching?
Charlie Baker: (20:05)
I could only watch a few episodes of Ozark before I decided if I kept watching it, I was going to have to jump off the roof of my house, which would be bad for my mental health, yeah.
Speaker 1: (20:15)
On a more serious note, the governor of Maine is talking about starting the reopening process on Friday. What are some of your concerns given that Maine is so close to Massachusetts?
Charlie Baker: (20:26)
Well, first of all, as I said, we talk pretty regularly to our colleagues across the region and Governor Mills is talking about a phased reopening and she’s made very clear in most of her commentary on this, I haven’t seen all of it, that they’re going to do this in a careful and planful way. I can’t emphasize this enough. I mean, almost everybody who’s talked about reopening is talking about doing it on a phase basis and the way people choose to phase it varies a bit, but most people are looking to do things where they believe the most likelihood of people’s ability to actually succeed in not creating additional spread with a reopening is sort of first in line. That typically means parts of your economy that don’t have to deal with a lot of customers, right? There’s not a lot of face-to-face. Parts of your economy where people can create the distancing because of the nature of the work that they do. I think you’re going to see that be the approach that a lot of people take, which should limit in many ways, some of the concerns about the cross border stuff. I mean, one of the things, we’ve talked a lot-
Speaker 3: (21:40)
I’m sorry to interrupt, but they’re talking about golf courses. I understand state parks, barber shops, that kind of thing.
Charlie Baker: (21:42)
I don’t think anybody’s going to drive from Massachusetts to Maine to go to a barbershop. Maybe they will. I don’t know, but well, golf is another thing where I think people for the most part tend to go local. There are people I know who traveled from Massachusetts to other states in the region to golf, but they haven’t gone to Maine. They’ve gone to other places.
Speaker 4: (22:01)
Governor, I just heard Walmart recently had to …
Speaker 4: (22:03)
… close because a number of their employees tested positive. I know the board is working on protocols for businesses in the future. Is anyone working on more stringent guidelines for businesses that are open right now?
Charlie Baker: (22:15)
Well, we’ve put a whole series of guidance in place with respect to businesses that are currently open, and those guidances and advisories and in some cases orders remain in place until such time as they change. I know you’ve talked to Eric about the Walmart. Do you have anything you want to say about that in particular? Eric Dickson is the CEO of Worcester.
Secretary Sudders: (22:43)
Walmart was closed. I think it was 40 of their employees, 41 employees tested positive, and they made the decision to close Walmart, and they have like 400 employees. The guidance that we generally put out is if someone tests positive is to identify who their immediate contacts are, and then you identify the contacts, as you know. If it’s a broad contagion, some employers close and then do a disinfectant in order to reopen, so I don’t know the details. We don’t know the details of where the employees were working, but we’re working with UMass about whether to test all 400 employees before they reopened or not. That’s obviously a massive testing.
Speaker 5: (23:36)
Governor, could you speak to reopening businesses? We’ve gotten some calls from florists concerned whether or not they can do online orders. For example, many have been, but Winston Flowers was told they have to shut down. They planned to do this for Mother’s Day. What is the guidance and rules on that?
Charlie Baker: (23:52)
We’ll have more to say about that one in plenty of time for Mother’s Day.
Speaker 7: (23:56)
Governor, have you considered using smartphone apps for contact tracing, or as one report from Scientists to Stop COVID-19 suggested, for people to self-report COVID-19 symptoms once we reopen?
Charlie Baker: (24:15)
The answer is yes. We have talked about this, and we’ve talked to a lot of the folks who have the apps. We’ve also talked to Google and Apple about the way they’re thinking about this. The question has to do with the whole idea of does pinging phones, which obviously when Bluetooth is on in particular, tells people where you are. There are some confidentiality and privacy issues associated with this, but that’s an ongoing discussion that we’re having with the folks that are involved in it. What I said about this from the beginning is that I don’t see this as an either or. If it can be done in a way that doesn’t subtract from the importance of the credibility of our tracing program, I think it’s certainly something we should try and figure out how to use it if it can make it better.
Charlie Baker: (25:10)
The thing I worry the most about is this whole tracing program is ultimately going to be based on trust, okay? If you talk to some of the folks who were making these calls and talking to people on the other side, it is not a clinical conversation per se. It is a trust conversation. People ask questions. People are looking for information. It’s a much more free-flowing and open dialogue than I think a lot of the people who were doing this were expecting. For us, that trust, that credibility issue is going to be really important for the success of this program. That means if we incorporate something like the types of technology you’re talking about into this, we’re going to have to do it in a way that makes people comfortable that they’re not giving up some of their privacy and confidentiality because we incorporated an electronic app into the process.
Speaker 8: (26:11)
Governor, you mentioned you were testing. 11,000 tests yesterday. You said that’s really key to getting us back on track. In addition to seeing a reduction in hospitalizations, do you have a magic number in your head where you would like to see, I don’t know, 30,000, 40,000, 20,000 tests a day to have enough?
Charlie Baker: (26:29)
Well, there’s two questions around testing. One is what’s the rate of infection, right? I think that now on a three-day rolling average has been going down for a couple of weeks, hasn’t it? Even as we’ve been testing more and typically testing in places where we felt that was important for us to test, we’ve still seen, as I said in my remarks, a pretty decent sort of gradual trend down with respect to the number of positives. We are talking to the medical advisory board that the command center has on what a steady state level of testing should look like going forward.
Charlie Baker: (27:10)
I will say this. If you look at Massachusetts’ current testing per capita and you measure it against all the countries in the world, we’re like a top five player. I think the real challenge is not just how much you test, it’s where you test and what your strategy is with respect to certain populations. I think what you’re going to see us work on, while these folks are working on the reopening stuff, is what would be the appropriate strategy with respect to who to test and how often to test and how much on a go forward basis. Those questions are just as important.
Speaker 9: (27:57)
Governor, as you start to talk about-
Speaker 8: (27:58)
You had mentioned, Governor, that you were on the lookout for more PPE. [inaudible 00:28:02] testing done by MIT. Are you confident that the additional PPE you guys bring in will be higher quality than what’s been brought in before?
Charlie Baker: (28:11)
Well, keep in mind a lot of this stuff we brought in tested plus 90 and plus 85, and part of the reason we tested all of it-
Speaker 8: (28:13)
Charlie Baker: (28:18)
Yeah. And part of the reason we tested all of it was to figure out where it all landed, and anything that we bring in from this point forward obviously is going to get tested. That was the whole reason behind creating the program in the first place. Yeah?
Speaker 9: (28:29)
Governor, can you address childcare centers a little bit? As we’re starting to talk about reopening, it has concerned providers that they aren’t represented on the council about reopening, and they are held off until June 29th. Can you address how are they supposed to be dealing with this right now, and also to parents, how much are you thinking about their concerns? How are they going to get back to work if their kids are at home?
Charlie Baker: (28:56)
Yeah, so two things. One is the reason we created a group that was small was because we wanted, rather than creating a group of 50 and then trying to wrangle 50 people to some place on a whole bunch of issues involving a variety of verticals and business models and employer models, what we basically said is put together a group of pretty smart people that come from a variety of key sectors in Massachusetts, and then basically say to everybody else, “Talk within your community. Figure out based on broad guidelines and what you’ve heard from other parts of the country or other parts of the world how people in your space have reopened and worked safely, and then bring that one voice to our group and to talk to the advisory board about the way you would like to see your vertical, your business model open.”
Charlie Baker: (29:55)
Part of the reason why these guys are literally doing three, four or five hours a day of Zoom calls with different business verticals and business organizations and employers is to get that sort of consolidated collaborative point of view from different folks who represent different interests. I’m sure the childcare community is on your short term list? Yeah. The YMCAs in particular, we’ve both talked about making sure that we talked to them, because they’ve turned out to be pretty good at this.
Charlie Baker: (30:32)
The second thing I would say is that I think as of right now we have about 10,000 available seats, and I think we have about 2,500 people who were actually on the ground and using those available seats. It’s certainly our view that … Remember, it’s a phased opening. It’s not like you sort of raise your hand and everybody goes back to work on the same day in the same way that they did before. As a phased opening, we would obviously want to see if we can figure out some way to ensure that the childcare community is working in concert with what’s going on generally with the increase in potential employment and the need for access. But as I said, we’ve got 10,000 seats, and we’ve only got 2,500 in at this point.
Speaker 9: (31:31)
Why do you think that is, Governor? Can you explain that, why there’s so little utilization of emergency childcare services?
Charlie Baker: (31:37)
I actually don’t know. We set it up with that level because we thought with the essential work community that we had out there that that would be the kind of number that people would be looking for. For the most part, and we’ve talked a lot to folks in the healthcare space and in other essential workspaces that we have available capacity, and for one reason or another, it hasn’t been accessed yet.
Speaker 8: (32:04)
Governor, [inaudible 00:32:04] parents-
Charlie Baker: (32:06)
Go ahead. Let me.
Speaker 10: (32:19)
I know you’ve got your hands full, but one of your signature initiatives, Transportation Climate Initiative, is that pushed to the back burner, or are you still pushing ahead with it to try to come out with a memorandum soon? How do you feel about that right now?
Charlie Baker: (32:28)
Well, I think most things appropriately have been pushed to the back burner for the time being. Secretary Sudders and I worked for almost a year to put together a healthcare bill that had a fair amount of momentum and a lot of positive response that would have dealt with a lot of important issues in Massachusetts around healthcare that obviously for the time being is sort of off the rack. I think that’s going to be true for a lot of stuff. If we can get to the point where, and this is an …
Charlie Baker: (33:03)
… “if,” where we create kind of the new normal that I think we’re all hoping we get to, I’m hoping a bunch of things, not just the Healthcare Bill, but housing choice. I mean, once upon a time we spent a lot of time talking about the fact that we don’t have enough workforce affordable senior housing here in Massachusetts.
Charlie Baker: (33:27)
There’s a bunch of things that have been sidetracked. And I guess I would say appropriately so, given the size and significance, and the danger associated with the virus. But I’m hoping that a lot of that stuff will find a way back into the conversation at some point, but it’s got to be after we get past what I would describe as the middle of the circumstances associated with this.
Speaker 11: (34:00)
Speaker 12: (34:00)
Governor, I’ve been hearing some parents of 16 year olds who were really eager to get their learner’s permit and can’t do that online. Is that something that you think maybe the registered motor vehicles could get that test online? There’s not a lot of traffic out there right now. A lot of parents would like to get or get their kids behind the wheel while there’s less things to hit.
Charlie Baker: (34:20)
It’s one of the things on the reopening to-do list. It is. In fact, I sent the LG note about the registry and some of the other services they offer today. Those are customer facing services though. So you got to figure out a way to do that, and that’s a close quarter, right? So you’ve got to figure out a way to do that that’s going to be safe.
Speaker 12: (34:39)
No, the test has been online.
Charlie Baker: (34:39)
I know, but the driving test is not.
Speaker 12: (34:44)
Well, there’s a driving test, but for the learners permit.
Speaker 13: (34:47)
Governor, you’ve mentioned we’ve hit a plateau, right? But there was a doctor who told us, from MGH’s Institute of Technology Assessment, that his model shows the state could actually see a peak of cases in ICU admissions in the next 10 days. I know you mentioned models are models, but have you heard that possibility at all? Where does that fall in the spectrum of what’s most likely versus what’s not likely?
Charlie Baker: (35:13)
Models are models are models, okay? And the great thing about being a modeler is nobody goes back to see if your model actually worked. What I would say is what we’ve said before about this, which is this is a novel virus. It’s not something that has history. It’s not something that you can look at five, 10, eight, 20, 50 years worth of data on and draw a lot of conclusions about how it’s going to work.
Charlie Baker: (35:43)
And just think about in the past 40 or 50 days, how much information about what people once thought was true about this thing is not true anymore. The one I’ve talked about before when I’ve been here is in Januaryish, people said it takes three or four days, maybe five, before you actually start to show symptoms. So therefore, there are going to be some people who are going to look asymptomatic until they are symptomatic.
Charlie Baker: (36:14)
And then, toward the end of January, people start saying, “You know, it might be there’s 5% or so who’s just never going to show symptoms.” And then, by the time you got into March, people were talking about, “Well now maybe as much as 10,” and now people are saying that perhaps as much as 40% of the people who contract the virus and our carriers are in fact never going to show symptoms. And that’s just in 60 days.
Charlie Baker: (36:38)
So I think the really hard part about this is predicting much of anything that gets too far down the road beyond whatever your experience is. Now, our ICU numbers have, over the course of the past 15 days, kind of gone like this. While the hospitalization numbers look kind of like an umbrella, like this, the ICU numbers have gone like that.
Charlie Baker: (37:07)
And the other thing I would say about the ICU numbers is there’s a lot of people under the age of 60 in those ICU numbers, a lot. And I think sometimes people look at the awful and tragic death data and they think, “This is really only an issue for older people.”
Charlie Baker: (37:29)
But you know, the Mass General and Brigham people and most of the other hospital folks will tell you that somewhere between 40 and 50% of all of their hospital days for COVID and their ICU days for COVID are people under the age of 60. So they do spend time in the hospital. With respect to the ICU piece, I mean it’s literally been like this, right?
Speaker 14: (37:55)
It’s a sawtooth.
Charlie Baker: (37:56)
Yeah, a sawtooth. Better.
Speaker 15: (37:57)
Can I ask you about contact tracing very quickly, Governor? Governor Cuomo announced today, I think, in conjunction with Mike Bloomberg, that they’re going to do contact tracing. I know you say we’re ahead of the curve on it. How’s it going? Are we keeping track of whether it’s successful?
Charlie Baker: (38:14)
Well, the way you ultimately measure success on something like this is does it succeed in reducing the spread? Are you able to help the people who you’re trying to isolate, isolate, and are you actually connecting with the people you’re calling? I mean, we literally spent most of the month of April standing this thing up, and I would say that the early returns are good, but we have a long way to go here and we’ll have a lot more to say about it in the coming weeks.
Speaker 16: (38:49)
Are you finding people can isolate at home, or are people saying, “Hey, this is impossible for me to do. I need to go to an isolation center.” And is there a plan in place for those people?
Charlie Baker: (38:57)
We do have hotel capacity available for people if they can’t isolate at home, yeah.
Speaker 16: (39:02)
Is it being used?
Charlie Baker: (39:03)
Speaker 17: (39:05)
Governor, the short-term borrowing bill that you filed has been held up in the House while they take their internal rules with [inaudible 00:39:11]. Just how time sensitive is that bill? By what date will you want to see that back on your desk?
Charlie Baker: (39:19)
So this is the legislation we filed that would make it possible for us to issue revenue anticipation notes before the end of the fiscal year. The reason we want to issue revenue anticipation notes before the end of the fiscal year is we moved the final tax filing to July 15th and not April 15th. And the reason we moved the filing from April 15th to July 15th is we felt it would be a hardship for a lot of people to have to file their filing.
Charlie Baker: (39:51)
And when you get closer to April 15th not surprisingly, more people are paying at that point then getting refunds. I mean, a lot of the refunds come in and go out the door in January and February because people, obviously, who are going to get a refund usually file earlier.
Charlie Baker: (40:07)
We talked about trying to get this thing done by May 1st because that would be a good symbol and a good signal to send to the rating agencies that we would be, in fact able to go into the markets, access the revenue in anticipation of all those tax filings in July, and use that to close out the fiscal year. I think it really needs to happen sometime in the month of May, so that we have the month of June to actually execute on the transaction and be in a position by the end of June to say that we’ve done what we needed to do to deal with the transition associated with moving the final tax filing from April to July.