May 14, 2020
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker COVID-19 Briefing Transcript May 14
Governor of Massachusetts Charlie Baker’s coronavirus press conference on May 14. Baker lays out state’s COVID-19 testing targets for July.
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Charlie Baker: (00:05)
So good afternoon. Today we’re going to talk a little bit about our longterm plans for COVID-19 testing here in Massachusetts, and some new announcements to make testing more accessible for people. And we’ll also talk about some significant shipments of personal protective equipment that have recently arrived in Massachusetts, thanks to some very hard work by members of our team and many others.
Charlie Baker: (00:28)
But first, we’ll provide our daily update on testing cases and hospitalizations. As of yesterday, we’ve conducted over 410,000 tests with over 8,500 new tests reported yesterday, there were 1,165 new positive tests reported, which represents a 14% positive test rate for all tests that came back yesterday, and that’s certainly within the range we’ve been seeing over the past few days. And as we said before, that positive rate has come down significantly from where we were a month ago, where the percent of positive tests were just hovering in the twenties and in the thirties.
Charlie Baker: (01:05)
We saw 26 fewer hospitalizations for COVID-19 yesterday, but we still have over 3000 residents in the hospital due to COVID-19 that are in need of serious medical care. But fortunately our hospitals have been able to withstand the surge and continue to be able to care for everyone who is seeking medical attention. Massachusetts, however, still remains one of the hardest hit States and while many data points have been declining, which is a hugely positive development for which the people in Massachusetts deserve enormous credit for watching these numbers very closely because they do move day to day.
Charlie Baker: (01:40)
Another number we report on daily is our distribution of personal protective equipment. And as of yesterday, we distributed around 10 and a half million pieces of PPE, having never distributed a single piece of PPE 65 days ago. There’s a lot of work that goes into getting frontline workers, the PPE that they need, and in a few minutes, I’ll talk about the significant effort our administration and many others have put forth to procure several large shipments.
Charlie Baker: (02:09)
But first I do want to talk a little bit about our plans to continue on ramp up testing. With over 410,000 tests conducted to date, Massachusetts is currently a top five testing site per capita, and we’re going to continue to expand our capacity where we can. As I said yesterday, Massachusetts, currently has the lab capacity to process about 30,000 tests per day, and labs are continuing to utilize test processing for about 10,000 or 12,000 tests per day. That’s good progress, but we need to do more.
Charlie Baker: (02:41)
Earlier today, CVS announced the launch of 10 new COVID-19 drive through testing sites at CVS locations across Massachusetts. CVS has been an early partner in the Commonwealth’s work to expand testing, launching drive through test sites, as we were beginning to ramp up our testing process. These new sites are part of CVS is first rollout of its national testing expansion program, which is starting in just a handful of States. The 10 drive through sites will be at CVS locations in Charlton, Wister, Raynham, North Hampton, Bridgewater, Carver, West Springfield, Danvers, Westport, and Wellesley. Individuals who meet testing criteria will be able to register in advance at cvs.com starting tomorrow, to schedule an appointment. Patients will be required to stay in their cars and directed to the pharmacy drive through window where they will be provided with a self swab test kit and given instructions. Tests will then be sent to a lab for processing and results will be available in approximately two or three days.
Charlie Baker: (03:48)
In addition to these new accessible sites, we’re also expanding testing in our community health centers. Last week, we expanded our testing partnership with quest diagnostics and 18 community health centers throughout the state. As of today, quest has shipped out more than 20,000 tests to community health centers throughout Massachusetts. We’re grateful to CVS and Quest and to our community health centers for their continued partnership on expanding testing across the Commonwealth.
Charlie Baker: (04:16)
And as we’ve made more testing available and accessible, we’re also planning for the future of COVID-19 testing in Massachusetts. Important groundwork has been laid to expand lab capacity and testing infrastructure. Now we need to build on that foundation as we continue to fight the virus for the longterm.
Charlie Baker: (04:35)
The federal COVID-19 legislation that was passed by Congress on April 24th, includes testing resources for States. To access these funds, States must submit plans to the federal government, outlining their testing strategy. We plan to submit our plan later this month. It will ensure that we can do even more, especially as we begin the reopening process, but many pieces of this will need to be signed off on and supported by the feds. The plan calls for boosting overall capacity to 45,000 tests per day, by the end of July, that would be over 16 million tests a year. And 75,000 tests per day by the end of December, that would be over 27 million tests per year. With the goal of decreasing our positive test rate over time to less than 5%.
Charlie Baker: (05:25)
We also plan to help labs expand their processing capacity in part to prepare for a potential surgeon testing in the fall. We also plan to make sure that we have testing capacity to test workers who are often found in regular contact with COVID-19 positive patients, as we go forward. The state will continue to expand our testing for residents and patients in high risk congregate settings, like state hospitals, group homes, and correctional facilities as well. And we’ll set guidelines to offer testing for individuals who are symptomatic or who are close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases or whose employment places them at high risk.
Charlie Baker: (06:11)
We also want to support randomized testing for surveillance purposes, which would be built on the work being done by the community, tracing collaborative, to track the virus and understand what communities are seeing infections. The plan also calls for faster turnaround times on tests, so healthcare providers can make same day or next day decisions based on results. In implementing the new testing that’s part of this plan, we’ll focus particularly on communities with low testing availability, hotspots, where we’re seeing high positive rates and high density areas. In order to meet these goals, we will need support from the federal government, but thankfully the cares act offers a funding mechanism and a program model for States to apply through and they plan to have the results back within 30 days. Expanding testing is critical to opening workplaces in businesses, I think we all know that, our testing plan will improve our ability to rapidly identify new cases of COVID-19, so individuals can quickly isolate seek treatment and limit their exposures to others at home or at work. This week, the department of public health expanded testing criteria to include both symptomatic individuals and close contacts of confirmed cases. And while that’s a significant testing expansion, we’re not pursuing universal testing for every person because our healthcare experts agree that testing does have its limitations and should be more strategically applied. This expanded, but targeted approach is both attainable and recommended by our medical experts. There’s no path currently to achieving what many referred to as universal testing, which has its own limitations, and it’s frankly too far off to rely on for our reopening.
Charlie Baker: (07:57)
It’s a valuable tool testing, but it’s not the only tool that we have to fight back against the virus, as we began to phase in our reopening of the economy. That’s why the mandatory workplace standards that we released this week have a heavy focus on things like social distancing, hygiene, face coverings, and disinfecting. Employees who exhibit any sign of illness at work should obviously go home. And employers must implement flexible policy. So employees who do test positive for COVID- 19 or who are identified as a close contact, stay home and work remotely, if they can.
Charlie Baker: (08:37)
It’s critical that employers implement these workplace standards to be prepared for a possible COVID-19 outbreak in their own facility. A single positive case or symptomatic worker could result in a significant number of employees being quarantined at home or testing positive. We’ll have more to say about the role of employers and the role that they must play as we go forward. But it’s important to remember that we need every tool at our disposal, and that includes more testing, face coverings and responsible workplace practices to keep people safe.
Charlie Baker: (09:14)
Next, I want to share an update on some of the work our administration and others have done to secure significant amounts of personal protective equipment for frontline workers. There are a lot of moving parts associated with efforts to get PPE here and there have been some challenges in the past with securing and finalizing the shipments that we’ve procured. The process has made much more complicated by the fact that much of the equipment that we’re seeking is not made in the United States, and certainly not at the volume that we need. Our administration has been working to source, procure and transport PPE for manufacturers in China. The collaborative approach between our administration, the crafts, and many others to bring respirator masks from China on the new England Patriots plane is reflective of the significant and complicated effort it takes to get this valuable equipment to Massachusetts.
Charlie Baker: (10:07)
Over the past few weeks, our administration has been working with several partners and Chinese officials to purchase and ensure the delivery of over seven and a half million pieces of PPE and supplies. This equipment was flown to Massachusetts on six different charted flights, which have been landing in Boston from April 20th through last weekend. Masks make up the vast majority of the equipment totaling over 6 million surgical and procedural masks. The shipments also include about 800,000 swabs, nearly 400,000 coveralls and over 125,000 gowns. Once the shipments arrive, our administration works through MIMA, the state police, the national guard, and the department of public health to inspect, warehouse, test, and then distribute PPE to the entities who need it.
Charlie Baker: (10:59)
These shipments are a big win for Massachusetts and for the folks working on the front lines who need this very important equipment as they risk exposure to COVID-19 every day. And we’re grateful for the wide range of partners who have helped make it happen. Starting with the Chinese council general in New York, Huang Ping. Last month, I reached out to Ambassador Huang and asked for his assistance. We’re grateful for everything he and our partners did to facilitate these shipments. In addition, we had help on the sourcing and procurement side from the global infrastructure partners and specifically JP Sun and former world bank president Jim Kim, who’s also been instrumental in helping formulate our contact tracing initiative with partners in health. The Chinese firm Ningbo Small, also perform crucial work around sourcing and procurement, especially on the ground in China.
Charlie Baker: (11:54)
Additionally, a number of other partners play key roles on transportation and logistics, Ocean Air, a Boston based company, specializing in supply chain logistics, help secure these crucial flights and Delta airlines allowed for use of their hangar at Logan airport, where the equipment was sorted and prepared for distribution by the national guard.
Charlie Baker: (12:17)
I’m also grateful to the efforts of our team here in the Commonwealth, which are led by Gary Lambert, who’s our assistant secretary for operational services. He led a team that included our office Massport MIMA, and our partners from McKinsey. You’ve been working with the command center, this included nightly checking calls with the team on the ground in China, as we worked to move this equipment through the process.
Charlie Baker: (12:38)
And finally, I want to thank our chief of staff, Kristen Lepore. She’s done tremendous job leading this effort and coordinating an incredible amount of moving parts to land these planes with the supplies that people need. These shipments from China are adding significantly to our inventory, and we also continue to work a variety of channels to procure equipment wherever we can. Pleased to say that today, Steward Healthcare also-
Charlie Baker: (13:03)
… announced that they’re donating 50,000 isolation gowns to the Commonwealth and those gowns will be distributed to communities like Taunton, Brockton, Dorchester, and Mattapan, and Methuen. We’re also grateful to Steward for this partnership and their ability to bring this much needed equipment to the front lines.
Charlie Baker: (13:23)
Let me close with this. The initiatives that we laid out today are crucial to our efforts to continue to fight the virus, but they also lay the groundwork for a successful reopening of our economy on a phased-in basis. Implementing our longterm testing strategy will be critical to keeping people safe, even as we start to open things back up. And our work to sustain our supply of PPE is crucial because that equipment is going to become even more important as people begin to return to work and need to keep themselves safe. We’re pursuing what we would call a responsible approach to this.
Charlie Baker: (14:04)
Our top priority is fighting the virus as we return to something like a new normal. And with the steps we’re continuing to take on these and other issues, we’re ensuring that we’re well positioned to reopen without giving up all the important progress that you and we have made so far.
Charlie Baker: (14:22)
None of the information I shared with you today would be possible without the hard work, creativity and determination of our residents and many others. From our staff here in the Governor’s Office, the Command Center, to the men and women of our National Guard and everyone else who’s given a hundred percent to serve the residents of this great state, seven days a week, meeting every challenge in our path, we’ll continue to keep fighting the virus and to make Massachusetts safe, as we work to get you all back to a new normal. With that, I want to turn the podium over to the Lieutenant Governor.
Lieutenant Governor: (14:56)
Thank you Governor, and good afternoon. Over the last few weeks, our team has been working hard and has been focused on planning for our next steps as we move towards reopening. As the governor just talked about. We are all anxious to get to a new normal, but for some of Massachusetts’ most vulnerable populations, this time has been so difficult.
Lieutenant Governor: (15:23)
I would like to take a moment to reiterate our message to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault throughout the Commonwealth and our message is, you are not alone. We continue to work with our partners at community provider organizations statewide and are grateful for their efforts to expand services and support to survivors during this crisis. Last week at the governor’s council to address sexual assault and domestic violence, we announced a new flyer that details Safelink resources for survivors, as well as the online chat options. It reads, “Have you or someone you know experienced sexual, physical, or emotional abuse? You are not alone.” This new visual aid is the result of ongoing collaboration with various partners and we are grateful for their continued work with the council. We are appreciative of our colleagues in the legislature, especially Representatives Cronin and Decker for working closely with us on these efforts. We’ve worked with DPH, DHCD, Mass Housing and their networks, and I’d also like to thank the Mass Food Association, Mass Medical Association, MOVA, and the district attorneys across our Commonwealth for their continued collaboration.
Lieutenant Governor: (16:45)
Through this partnership, we hope to amplify this message and have asked that this flyer be distributed to the grocery stores and convenience stores where it can be displayed in locations with significant foot traffic to ensure visibility such as at the cash register. We also continue engaging local sexual assault and domestic violence programs in communities across our Commonwealth. The flyer will be available in the following languages and will be made available for download on the mass.gov website. It will be available in Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Vietnamese, Arabic, Cape Verdean Creole, and [Camir 00:17:26] .
Lieutenant Governor: (17:27)
In addition to the Safelink flyer, I would also like to share updates to the trial courts application process for restraining orders. It’s 209A and harassment orders 258E. These application forms have been repackaged as one document to streamline and expedite the electronic paperwork process. While these applications are available online, we want to emphasize that you must still contact the court to begin this process, and they should not be emailed directly to the court unless an individual has already contacted the clerk’s office and told to do so. This change and these forms application process includes important updates, original signatures are not required to accept the application.
Lieutenant Governor: (18:18)
Furthermore, if individuals are unable to, or it is unsafe to complete the required paperwork, advocates may assist with its completion. However, again, we would like to remind folks that it is required to contact the court before submitting this paperwork. Court staff is also available to assist individuals with these applications over the phone.
Lieutenant Governor: (18:42)
And I want to reiterate, if you are at home with someone who has sexually or physically abused you, please call for help when you have a moment of privacy to do so. If you have experienced sexual assault and domestic violence within your home, or are concerned about a loved one who may be experiencing violence, please call the Safelink hotline for support and resources or visit casamerner.org/chat. The Safelink toll free number is 877-785-2020. Deaf and hard of hearing individuals can reach Safelink via video relay service. And if you cannot safely call or are not comfortable doing so, you can instant message with a trained advocate at the National Domestic Violence hotline. That’s www.thehotline or www.loveisrespect or www.rainn. R-A-I-N-N. And again, if you are in immediate danger, please call or text 911. Thank you.
Lieutenant Governor: (20:04)
I’d like to turn it back over to the governor.
Charlie Baker: (20:05)
Speaker 3: (20:05)
Governor, you said universal testing has its limits. Do you think that we can safely reopen without it?
Charlie Baker: (20:15)
So, first of all, if we reach the testing goals that we’re seeking to achieve, we’ll be the largest and highest tester on a per capita basis anywhere in the world. Actually, by a significant margin. I think from where we sit, the most important thing we need to do with our testing strategy is to make sure we’re testing in the places where people have the biggest concerns. People who are symptomatic, people who are close contacts of those who are symptomatic, people who work on a regular and continual basis with people who have COVID-19 or are suspected of having it. Folks who work in congregate care settings and 24 hour settings. Those are the populations that I think we all agree are the ones that are most at risk. And that’s where our primary focus is going to be.
Speaker 3: (21:04)
It sounds like the cheaper [inaudible 00:21:08] would like to see widespread testing and they never got [inaudible 00:21:16] to feel comfortable enough to reopen. They also want some more information from the state regarding childcare [inaudible 00:21:21].
Charlie Baker: (21:21)
Well, first of all, as I said, if we actually pull this off, it will just be the largest testing program on a per capita basis anywhere. And I think it will be focused on the areas, both from a sort of highest risk of exposure and biggest concern with respect to exposure on a go forward basis, which is where we believe the efforts should be. With respect to some of the enablers, transportation, childcare and the like, those will be represented in the report that’s filed on Monday.
Speaker 4: (21:54)
[crosstalk 00:21:54] Governor, Tony Evers in Wisconsin had his stay at home order overturned by the high court, conservative justice in Wisconsin. How far do you believe your emergency powers go when you’ve got state of emergency in place, does that give you the right to say whatever you want about our future?
Charlie Baker: (22:10)
So I would say that these are all judgment calls, obviously, but Massachusetts is easily by any standard, one of the hardest hit states associated with COVID-19. We’re top four, top five in every awful category you can think of. And while we’ve seen declining rates of positive test results, and while we have seen declining rates of COVID hospitalizations and ICU bed days over the course of the past few weeks, we continue to be a state that has a significant number of people who test positively every day. Although we are testing in places where we would expect to find people who will test positive. And our healthcare system continues to carry a fairly significant load on this.
Charlie Baker: (23:10)
But I go all the way back to when we issued our initial advisory, it was an advisory. And the reason we issued an advisory at the time you may recall, was because I did not believe that we should issue an order that told people in Massachusetts, that they had to stay at home.
Charlie Baker: (23:25)
What we said at the time, was this is an advisory and that we believe we will all be a lot safer if everybody does their part and cuts down on non essential trips, finds a way to take a walk or visit a park to get outside. But to the extent that people could stay at home, that would be in the best interests of themselves, their families, their neighborhoods, and their Commonwealth. And when you look at all the mobility data that’s been generated by Google and others, Massachusetts, once again is a top five player in terms of people’s willingness under an advisory to adopt those principles and practices themselves, which we are enormously grateful for.
Speaker 4: (24:12)
[crosstalk 00:24:12] advisory the people aren’t going out as much as you just said, with the mobility data that you have, but are you concerned that there are some that are going now, depending on what happens Monday, they’re going to ignore it even more down the road?
Charlie Baker: (24:24)
I think people for the most part, understand that as we move forward on this phased implementation, it’s going to be incredibly important, maybe even more important, that people take seriously, the guidance and the criteria and the protocols that are going to be part of that report. I can’t say this one enough. People need to wear face coverings and masks if they can’t distance. And it’s just as much about protecting you from somebody else as it is about protecting somebody else from you.
Charlie Baker: (25:02)
Very significant portion of the population that gets infected with COVID-19 never develops symptoms. They walk around. They are absolutely carriers. They are completely contagious, and they have no idea that they have the virus. The evidence with respect to masks and face coverings, if both people are wearing them, the likelihood of transmission drops dramatically. This wasn’t necessarily something people were talking much about when this all got started, but as time has gone by, and the amount of asymptomatic carriers based on testing and other research has been demonstrated, and as other work has been done with respect to the value and the benefit of people wearing face coverings and masks, that is in many respects, one of the most important things people can do. And I think we would really like, and I know-
Charlie Baker: (26:03)
… I can speak for everybody, to have a successful phased opening. And part of the way we have a successful phased opening is people pay attention to and act on the guidance that at this point, some of which is universally understood and appreciated and it’s stuff people can do. And for me, that’s the big issue here, which is that people need to understand how important what they do as individuals and as organizations is going to be to the success of the reopening as we go forward.
Speaker 5: (26:40)
[crosstalk 00:26:40] testing has dropped. You were doing 13,000 tests only May 1st, and now we’re down to 8,500 and a point that’s hit even lower than that. Why has it gone down?
Charlie Baker: (26:51)
Well, some of it has to do with… people need to get tested. Okay? And for the most part in Massachusetts under the current rules there are criteria and guidelines associated with who can get tested, unless you work in certain industries. In which case there’s testing available on the drive-thru basis. I think some of the stuff I talked about, which involves expanding some of the criteria through which people can be tested going forward, will certainly enhance our numbers. I would guess that you would agree with that. And the development of these 10 drive-thru sites that CVS is putting up will also enhance our ability to test. [crosstalk 00:27:31] But we have capacity. What we need to do is create additional testing to fill the capacity that we have. Yeah?
Speaker 6: (27:37)
Governor, you mentioned all the hoops that your administration has had to jump through to get PPE from China. I think there are a lot of business owners worried that they won’t be able to jump through all those hoops to get the PPE they need to keep themselves safe. What would you like to see as in from the White House, from Congress, to increase production here, or what can make this easier?
Charlie Baker: (28:00)
You want to speak to that one? We’ve developed a whole number of manufacturers who are making a variety of different supplies here in Massachusetts, that are important to employers. We’re making hand sanitizers in Massachusetts. We’re making a variety of gowns and coveralls here in Massachusetts. People are making masks here in Massachusetts, not necessarily N95 masks, but we have a lot of people that are making surgical masks and other kinds of cloth masks that employers can use in their day to day operations. And there’s tremendous increases in domestic production around those elements, which are the ones that I think in many cases are the most important ones to employers. What employers really care about is not so much what I would call PPE, but what I would call supplies. They care about disinfectant hand sanitizer and face coverings. And that in some respects is a slightly different kind of gear than the gear we talk about when we talk about healthcare.
Speaker 6: (28:59)
But should it have to be this hard that your administration has to go to China to get PPE for your healthcare workers?
Charlie Baker: (29:04)
Look, you go where you have to go to get it. And what I would say to that is there are domestic operations and organizations that are expanding domestic production on this stuff. But like a lot of things, it’s going to be important that people remain vigilant and aggressive on this. And I said many times that I think the federal government has a much bigger role to play here and in the absence of that, we’re just going to do what we need to do to make sure people in Massachusetts have what they need. [crosstalk 00:03:35].
Speaker 8: (29:35)
Governor, have you worked through, as far as [inaudible 00:29:39] what are the specific health metrics that you will be looking at to guide the decisions, whether you go phase one through two, or back again?
Charlie Baker: (29:51)
Well, they’ll be a lot of the ones that I talk about here every day, that have to do with…
Speaker 8: (29:55)
[crosstalk 00:29:55] specifically, so that other people will be able to track them [inaudible 00:30:02].
Charlie Baker: (30:01)
Well, the data that we track is made available in that data book that the command center puts out every day. It’s pretty comprehensive.
Speaker 8: (30:15)
So you go through all of those?
Charlie Baker: (30:17)
If you were to say to me, is there one magic thing, the answer to that is no. If the question is, do we pay attention to a lot of different metrics to draw conclusions about how we’re doing the answer to that is yes. And the way they relate to each other also has something to do with that too. If we make decisions to adjust our testing protocols, because we have community health centers, or mayors or, healthcare providers that tell us that they need help in particular areas with respect to testing, where they believe they have an issue and a problem, that’s probably going to have an impact on our positive test rates.
Charlie Baker: (30:53)
But that’s not necessarily an indicator of anything other than we adjusted our testing protocol to meet a request, or a need that came from somebody in the community. That sort of thing does get factored into the way that we think about the results that we get.
Charlie Baker: (31:11)
But the stuff associated with hospitalizations and ICU beds, that’s a pretty solid measure. And it’s one that is going to be based purely and totally on clinical guidelines, universally adopted across the Commonwealth. But there are other ones that are going to depend to some extent on what problem we’re trying to solve, or how we’re trying to assist our colleagues in different parts of the Commonwealth with respect to issues and circumstances and concerns that they have. [crosstalk 00:31:44]
Speaker 7: (31:44)
Has it been trending in the right directions? Is there one particular metric of all those metrics you look at that you say, “That’s just not moving in the direction, the [crosstalk 00:31:54].
Charlie Baker: (31:54)
Well, I’d like them all to move faster, obviously.
Speaker 7: (31:57)
Well, is there one that’s particularly concerning?
Charlie Baker: (32:01)
I think anything associated with the ICU stuff is particularly important to us, because it’s a really important element in helping people get better, especially people that get really sick. I think I said here about a month ago and the trends in the data have played out over time on this, that while the vast majority of the people who pass away as a result of COVID are over the age of 65. Roughly 40 to 45% of all the ICU bed days are people under the age of 60. All right. They survive.
Charlie Baker: (32:39)
They survive in part because as long as they don’t have other kinds of preexisting conditions. But a big part of the reason they survive is because we have ICU beds available to them that can help them and their bodies fight their way through it. So I pay a lot of attention to the ICU number, because I think it’s really important with respect to where our ability to help people get better.
Speaker 9: (33:03)
Tell us how the soldiers are doing. I’ve had some people write me and say that they have a National Guard person in your family who’s gotten sick with COVID-19, do you know how they’re holding up?
Charlie Baker: (33:17)
Are you talking about the ones that are working for us?
Speaker 9: (33:19)
National Guard troops, yeah.
Charlie Baker: (33:20)
Yeah, No, they’ve been in many respects, I should let you speak to them. They’ve been heroes in this and I’ve said several times that when you call, they come, and they do. And the number of different initiatives that they’ve been involved with, just not on a sort of one or two day basis, but have stayed on. The biggest one being the issues associated with our mobile testing program in nursing homes, which basically was the front runner to a national strategy with respect to testing residents and staff in nursing homes has been unbelievable. Do you want to speak to that?
Secretary Sudders: (34:06)
Good afternoon. I meet with the Colonel almost every day, who oversees the deployment of the National Guard within the command center. We have within the command center, we’ve used the National Guard. There’s 11 teams right now that are actually supporting the skilled nursing facilities, in terms of literally providing staffing in the nursing homes. So there are nine teams in nursing facilities by the National Guard. And two are actually in one of our state operated hospitals.
Secretary Sudders: (34:37)
Plus, as you know, we’ve had the National Guard out at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, where they continue to serve both in a medical and as they refer to it to medicine and muscle, that’s not my term, that’s theirs. So both in the environmental parts of the hospital of the Soldiers’ Home, as well as providing medical staff, they have. I’m not a dramatic person, they’ve been heroes to us whenever we’ve had a need, they just literally step up, “What can they do to help?”
Secretary Sudders: (35:11)
I’m sure they will be glad when they get back to their, whatever their lives were before they were called up to services as our guard. But they have truly, I think they would say that they have found this very meaningful work, particularly at the Soldier’s Home, as well as supporting the skilled nursing facilities.
Secretary Sudders: (35:33)
Plus, as you know, they really did roll out as a pilot, which lasted one day and then became a program, which is the mobile testing program. So for us, it’s those three plus as you know in Chelsea they’ve been distributing food and the like. You just ask them to step up and they just say, what can they do? It’s just been a privilege to really work with them. [crosstalk 00:35:58] I am certain that as across we have seen… I don’t think there’s any group that has been immune from testing positive with COVID-19. I have not heard that specifically from my daily briefings with the Guard. I will ask them, but that has not come up as an issue from the Guard. [crosstalk 00:36:20] Sorry, what?
Speaker 11: (36:24)
PMIs, you just put up some guidance on it now a reportable event. Can you just explain the importance of that, what you’re learning from the early data you’re getting on this pediatric syndrome?
Secretary Sudders: (36:34)
So we put out a public health order today. We actually believe that it was a reportable disease to the Department of Public Health, because communicable and infectious diseases are reportable conditions. But in the event that there was any confusion, there was a public health order issued today to require the reporting of the condition. There are nine known cases to us at this date. And literally just collecting the information.
Speaker 12: (37:07)
Can you compare that though to the vaping thing? Because I think that’s an important part. The fact that no one was looking for anything.
Secretary Sudders: (37:14)
Right. So one of the reasons you put out an order like this, as similar to what happened in vaping, as we have often talked, that feels like such a long time ago, of course. I’m sure as many of you, when you go to your physicians for your annual physical exams, I’m sure someone, you might get those questions. “Do you smoke? Do you exercise?” Duh, duh, duh, duh. But a year ago or so, no one asked were you vaping.
Secretary Sudders: (37:40)
And so one of the reasons that public health order that went out was so important was to have individuals report vaping and to remind primary care doctors and others to those kinds of questions. So the reason this order’s important is to put out what the symptoms are that primary care and hospitals should be looking for to report this condition. So we don’t know what the prevalences of the condition in Massachusetts yet. And that’s why the public health order was so important because what was happening was the Department of Public health was calling, our epidemiologists were calling the hospitals, but we wanted to put out what the conditions are so that we know what the potential prevalence of this is in our state. [crosstalk 00:38:29]
Charlie Baker: (38:29)
Can I have a footnote on that? One of the most interesting things about the vaping piece for me was it represented a crystal clear example of the fact that if DPH doesn’t put out something to the provider community that says, “Here’s a bunch of data that’s coming in from other parts of the country that we’ve been advised by the CDC, or HHS, wherever it came from. And these things represent-
Charlie Baker: (39:03)
… the potential for this. And this is something new that you don’t normally ask anybody about. COVID was like this too, right? I mean, a lot of us sit around and wonder how many people who got sick with respiratory infections, or got other people sick, or saw a whole bunch of people get sick with respiratory infections in January and February who didn’t test positive for the flu, all thought it was the flu, or something else like it? And I think one of the most important elements of this particular guidance, is you’re now going to have pediatricians and emergency rooms that may have seen some package of diagnoses that look like this, over the course of the past month or two and not known to ask the question.
Charlie Baker: (39:55)
And I think two things are going to happen. One is we’ll probably have, I would guess, more people who are potentially determined to have this, which will be a good thing. Because that will help people figure out what the best way to deal with it from a therapeutic point of view is, and it will also start to generate data that will make it possible to share that with the national folks, that they can distribute that out generally. So I think that’s actually a big deal.
Speaker 13: (40:26)
The advisory board, are they going to exist after Monday to introduce more phases. And are there any plans to release minutes, agendas, call logs, [inaudible 00:40:37] of these interacting with any information material for the public to analyze?
Charlie Baker: (40:43)
We’ve been talking about this stuff and we’ll put it on the list for Monday. We have talked about it. We’ll put it on the list for Monday as part of…
Speaker 13: (40:50)
Do things like minutes exist, for these meetings?
Charlie Baker: (40:53)
I don’t think minutes exist, but certainly who you guys have met with, yeah.
Speaker 14: (40:56)
Speaker 15: (40:56)
Governor, a pastor who was suing the state now because he is practicing social distancing and is cleaning and believes churches should be reopened. What would be your message?
Charlie Baker: (41:09)
We said many times that the removal of in person faith services, as part of the advisory in the order that we issued, was among the most difficult decisions that we made. I continue to believe that to be true. The advisory board has had robust conversations with the faith community this week, and we’re hoping and anticipating that that will lead to some positive development.
Speaker 16: (41:39)
Speaker 17: (41:39)
Governor municipal budgets are starting to feel the [crosstalk 00:02:43].
Charlie Baker: (41:39)
Say it again.
Speaker 17: (41:42)
Municipal budgets are starting to feel the [inaudible 00:41:46] of a number of cities, towns have the furloughs and layoffs. Should they be prepared for cuts in local aid, in education aid? And is there going to be state aid available to them?
Charlie Baker: (41:58)
Well, there’s a lot of… It’s hard to figure out exactly where we’re going to land on a number of elements associated with the budget. I mean, keep in mind that by pushing the April 15th tax filing date off to July 15th, we actually don’t know the answer to the biggest element of our spring season, which is what happens on April 15th? We’ll find that out in July. We are still only for revenue collection purposes, six weeks or so into this. If you think that it really… March, remember we actually exceeded our tax benchmark for the month of March, because this thing really didn’t land until you got right toward the end of the month. April was terrible, but April was terrible in part, because we had the full brunt of COVID. But also, nobody filed their tax payments that they owed, because they’re not due until July.
Charlie Baker: (42:57)
So local communities in the Commonwealth are still trying to figure out exactly where this all lands, both for closing this fiscal year and opening next year. You add to that the federal resources that have been made available and some of the guidelines and criteria that came with that. Which the feds have said on a number of occasions, they continue to process feedback on and potentially adjust. It makes a big difference with respect to what they say you can actually use that stuff for and what you can’t use it for.
Charlie Baker: (43:34)
And as I think everybody knows, Congressman Neil led the charge on the filing of a fairly significant state and local government aid package that I think is going to be taken up in the house tomorrow. So there’s just a lot of moving parts there. And I hesitate to comment on specifics around what’s going to happen, either to close the books are open next year, when there’s still a lot of stuff that’s kind of up in the air. I will say this, we have both talked at great length with our colleagues in municipal government and are going to do everything we can to make sure that they’re in decent shape heading into the fiscal year. They’re an incredibly important and valuable part of how our communities work their way through this problem that we’ve all got.
Speaker 18: (44:19)
Governor there’s a standoff in North [inaudible 00:44:24] right now, between the mayor and [inaudible 00:44:27] employers in that community. And it revolves around that ruling that your administration has made about whether this country should open or not. Each one is judgment call and you can see if we reopen, there’s going to be a lot of judgment calls about…
Charlie Baker: (44:43)
Speaker 18: (44:43)
I think it’s going to be astronomical. So are you concerned about, are you assembling a large group of arbitrators to make these decisions, whether you’re complying with these even overarching [inaudible 00:44:57] or not?
Charlie Baker: (44:57)
You know, I think what I would say is that, as a general rule, people for the most part have worked their way through discussions and comments over what was essential and what wasn’t essential. Which is going to flip to something that’s more like what’s permitted and whether or not somebody is actually abiding by the guidance. Either the general guidance or the industry specific guidance that the advisory board is going to issue. But that’s been a relatively manageable number of circumstances. And obviously if it turns out to be more than that, we’ll make sure we have the resources that are available to help people process it through.
Speaker 18: (45:41)
Can you say anything else about if you are planning to expand the program, Governor? You talked about the drive up [crosstalk 00:45:43]. Are they going to try to get these into many many more locations?
Charlie Baker: (45:47)
Well, they’re talking about 10 to start with, which is great, which we announced today. They’ve been a great partner on a number of these and the best part about them is, because of the scale of the organization, their relative proximity to us and the size of their footprint in Massachusetts, that gives us access to a very big player, who doesn’t have trouble accessing gear and supplies. Who likes being a big presence in the place where they already have a big footprint. So that’s just a good example of us benefiting from having a company like that with such a big role in Massachusetts.
Speaker 19: (46:24)
For those who can not afford or are physically unable to make their own masks, I was wondering if within the executive branch level, there are plans to work with municipalities and make sure they can get distributed to those who don’t have access? I know there’s a bill or two in the legislature. Are there any plans, short or long term, to work on that?
Charlie Baker: (46:40)
That’s certainly one of the things that’s on the conversation list with our colleagues in local government. By the way, a number of our, the folks that are making masks now, who’ve converted to make masks, have been pretty good about making them available to many of the folks in the communities that they either operate in, or a lot of their employees and customers live in. So again, I think this whole issue of Mert and creating this local manufacturing process around a lot of these key supplies, is going to be a really big and useful and important piece of this puzzle as we go forward.
Speaker 20: (47:14)
Governor, [crosstalk 00:47:14] having appeared today on mailing loading, given the concerns now [inaudible 00:08:21]. Where do you stand on mailing load capacity?
Charlie Baker: (47:24)
Honestly, I haven’t spent any time thinking about it at all. And I will think about it eventually. But my focus has been on what we’re talking about and what we’ve been dealing with here. I did say earlier when I got asked about this, that I fully expect that the vast majority of the votes that get cast on May 19th, which is when the first of the two special… I think there are two special elections on May 19th. There are two more in June. There will be no way to have those elections other than to have some sort of mailing capacity for it. Thanks.
Speaker 21: (47:54)
Governor, if there’s a US senate vacancy during your term, would you consider appointing someone who would be popular with republicans?
Charlie Baker: (48:05)
Now, you think your question was beyond the scope of my current line of vision. That one is way out there.
Speaker 21: (48:12)
[inaudible 00:48:12] of conversations.
Charlie Baker: (48:13)
Honestly, I haven’t spent two seconds thinking about that. Really haven’t. Okay. Thanks.
Speaker 23: (48:19)
We got to get going.
Speaker 24: (48:21)
Governor, did you say there was some swab test [inaudible 00:48:24] you can do yourself?