May 22, 2020
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker Press Conference Transcript May 22
Governor of Massachusetts Charlie Baker’s coronavirus press conference on May 22. He said “There’s a lot at stake here” and issued a strong warning about COVID-19 going into Memorial Day weekend, encouraging people to wear masks.
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Mayor Rivera: (00:06)
Thank you. Thanks to the Governor, Lieutenant Governor for being here, Secretary Sutters, Deb Wilson from Lawrence General, John Silver from Greater Lawrence Family Health Center, Lynnn Stouffer from Mass General Brigham and the folks from Pawtucket Medical. Thank you all for being here today, all the partners. Senator Feingold, Representative Moran, Representative [inaudible 00:00:26], Representative Deborah Stanks again for always helping out. I remember a little while ago, when the Governor first ran for Governor, I was helping his opponent. I was trying to beat him, and thank God she lost because he’s been great. Don’t tell her I said that, she knows. He’s been great and the support that he’s provided our community in times of crisis, this one is no different than the snowpocalypse, the gas crisis, and now this pandemic. The delegation has always been there to support us too and making sure we get every dime we can get from Beacon Hill. And so thank you all for all the work you guys do.
Mayor Rivera: (01:12)
Not since the Civil War, have we seen this kind of national emergency that has caused very difficult decisions to be made daily. It’s no surprise Lawrence has been a hotspot for this virus. We’ve had community spread in our community since the beginning. Today we stand at fifth highest number of infected residents and forth per capita. The state’s numbers have leveled off and our have been decreasing, but Lawrence cases keep growing. As of last night, we had 2,729 cases, and have lost 109 residents. So this is an awful virus. The actual number of residents though, we know is higher than that, something that this testing facility will help us clarify.
Mayor Rivera: (01:54)
For Lawrence, this virus has been a perfect storm. Lawrence residents are the workforce of the Merrimack Valley and so many are continuing to work as essential workers. Some of them, most of them are the most underpaid and the most vulnerable and still they go to work in their essential jobs. Small and family businesses along with gig economy workers, we have about 1400 Uber drivers in Lawrence and taxi drivers, all these contract workers have had to find shelter in the safety net of the unemployment insurance benefits. And as you can see on TV, and if you’ve seen on Facebook, the many, many food lines. Shutting down also cost the in-home in large daycares to displace those daycare workers and those businesses and availability of that service to workers. And of course, I’m not sure we will ever begin to heal from the tragedy and losses of the nursing homes that has caused so much loss and death.
Mayor Rivera: (02:57)
So I was chosen by the Governor to be one of the 17 people on the reopening committee and doing that work, and thanks Lieutenant Governor for your leadership on that. We got a presentation from the Mass High Tech council about a plan to go back to work. And they showed us that a large variety of possible strategies exist to reduce the spread of the virus. Amongst them, you know them, so a lot today masks and face coverings, personal hygiene, and social distancing. Other like being sure we don’t have large events. And so today I’m announcing an executive order with the board of health canceling all public events in the city of Lawrence, celebrations and parades through December, 2020. Already organizations like [inaudible 00:03:44], 4th of July fireworks, and the feast of the three saints, who’ve been doing it almost 90 years have canceled their events.
Mayor Rivera: (03:51)
In Lawrence, we’ve issued a $300 fine for not wearing your mask. And yes, our police officers are out there patrolling for masks. We’re utilizing all of these strategies, but still we need to do all the most effective strategies we can, masks, personal hygiene, stay at home if you’re sick, social distancing. But the best of all is testing and tracing. Contact tracing is one of the most important strategies in slowing the virus. We not only need to know who contracted the virus, but also who they’ve been in contact with. And you got to thank the Governor and his team for the foresight to get partners in health started right away, creating such a broad and wide contact tracing program, and leading nationally on the matter. And thanks to our local partner, Greater Lawrence Family Health Center, and their work to help partners in health.
Mayor Rivera: (04:47)
At this new testing that’s behind us, with this new testing, we will be able to do both drastically increased testing and helping the contact tracing with the help of our community partners. The goal for the new facility is to do a thousand tests for residents a day. If this crisis has shown us anything, it’s that inequalities and disparities that exist across our society, in our health system, in employment, in childcare, and education. Opening a testing site like this one in a highly populated in low income community is a major step to closing that gap. The gaps that create healthcare inequalities in these same communities. I appreciate the healthcare insurance companies for abiding by the department of insurance directives on lowering the cost and high rates of insurance reimbursement for this effort. Everyone is pitching in.
Mayor Rivera: (05:43)
We’re urging all doctors who deal with Lawrence people to be liberal with their testing referrals. If a patient is calling you looking to be tested, you should test them, provide them the referral, send them to this site because the more data we can collect, the better equipped we will be to fight this virus. Again we asked doctors to be very liberal with their referrals to the testing site. So part of this is that today I’m proud to announce that the city of Lawrence is going to invest a million dollars to test a thousand residents a day from our cash reserves. This is being payed for by the taxpayers of the city of Lawrence. To get an appointment all you got to do is call the COVID-19 community screening line from Lawrence General Hospital. The number’s right here, but it’s also (978) 946- 8409. You will be checked for Lawrence addresses, IDs as part of the process.
Mayor Rivera: (06:37)
Now this investment comes in an uncertain time in our economic history. No one knows what budgets will bring in the fall, but we are facing a crisis of magnitude no one has seen in generations. But I feel that the city of Lawrence is in a strong enough financial state to be able to weather this storm. We were able to get out from under 10 years of state oversight last year, by continuing submitting balanced budgets on time without use of one-time funds, having operating surpluses in eight of the last 10 years, keeping property taxes low, having multiple bond rating upgrades. But most importantly, we have saved for multiple years, 14, 15, $16 million in cash reserves. So I’m here to tell you that Lawrence is as prepared as any community can be to fight this war and heal after. And I’m just excited to get started testing. I’m going to say it in Spanish now, sorry. [Spanish 00:07:31]
Mayor Rivera: (07:31)
I know that was a lot, but I think it’s important that we make sure that we communicate all this stuff into the right languages. I’ve had an opportunity to do this next thing a lot, mostly because he spends a lot of time in Lawrence. I hope it’s not just because he lives in the North Shore, it makes an easier trip here. I think it’s because he actually likes Lawrence and the people up here just a little bit more than everyone else in the Commonwealth, don’t tell nobody.
Mayor Rivera: (15:19)
But our Governor has been doing great. And if I’ve had a three crisis, in the snowpocalypse and the gas crisis and this, he’s had it a hundred times worse, because he had to do it for the whole Commonwealth. And I think in an environment, he won’t say it, but I’ll say it, that the federal government hasn’t been as helpful as it could have been. And so Governors have had to find their own way. And I’m just happy that our Governor is a policy nerd and a guy who cries when he thinks about how this stuff impacts people, my friend and our Governor, Charlie Baker.
Charlie Baker: (15:57)
So thank you very much mayor. And I know I speak for the Lieutenant Governor myself when I say.
Charlie Baker: (16:03)
And I know I speak for the Lieutenant governor myself when I say how thrilled we are to be here today to participate in this announcement and in this partnership. I want to thank representative Moran and representative Minicucci. And I also want to thank Sarah Feingold for being here. And I also want to give a shout out to the two chiefs, Vasquez and Moriarty. Where’s the other one? Okay. Those guys, you learn a lot about people when you’re in the middle of a crisis and we spent a lot of time with those two gentlemen and with the mayor and his team during the natural gas explosions up here a couple of years ago. And well, you guys can have my back anytime.
Charlie Baker: (16:52)
I also want to thank Deb Wilson for being here today and for the folks from greater Lawrence family community health center as well. I want to thank the team, the mayor’s office, Lawrence general hospital and the community health center for putting together this testing initiative. And I just want to say that for us, we have had an opportunity to collaborate with the hospital and with the community health center on numerous occasions. The hospital I think had about a $17 million supplemental payment as you work your way through this crisis, the community health center got about four and a half million. And I think you also got a rapid testing machine and 15,000 test kits this morning, which should help kick this thing off.
Charlie Baker: (17:42)
And I also want to thank the mayor once again for his support and his participation on the reopening advisory board. Lieutenant governor made quite clear to me on a number of occasions that the mayor’s participation, his insights and his commitment to finding a path forward was enormously important to the success of that. I do want to give a update on our daily testing activities and on our hospitalization work. Yesterday over 11,000 new tests were reported by the department of public health in their daily report. That brings our total number of tests conducted across the Commonwealth over half a million. Around 9% of the tests reported yesterday came back positive. That continues the trend that’s been at or below 10% now for a little over a week. I think we all remember that in the early and middle part of April we were testing it around 20 or 30% positive in those tests.
Charlie Baker: (18:38)
And as we’ve amped up and ramped up our testing, we’ve seen the percentage continue to decline, which is a good thing. With respect to our hospitalizations due to COVID-19, yesterday we had about 2,396 patients who were hospitalized due to COVID. And that represented a decrease of about 120 hospitalizations compared to the day before. That continues the trend that’s had a few bumps along the way, but basically has been moving in a positive direction for about a month. And as we said repeatedly, this public health data is the primary mechanism through which we can track how COVID is impacting our communities. And it also helps us make decisions with respect to how we move forward in reopening our economy. On Monday we announced a new public facing dashboard that had six indicators that we’ll use to track positive performance with respect to managing COVID trending positive or negative.
Charlie Baker: (19:39)
And our hope is that as times go by, we can continue to slowly and carefully reopen different sectors and that the dashboard will keep moving in the right direction. But as the mayor said and as we’ve said on numerous occasions, how quickly that all happens in many respects is up to each of us, government employers and individuals. We all need to remember our role and the opportunity we have to fight against the virus. It starts with face coverings when you can’t distance from others. It’s also all about creating distance wherever you can. It’s about keeping your hands washed frequently using hand sanitizer, being vigilant with respect to your own symptoms or symptoms with others. And also making sure that you wash surfaces on a regular basis. The more we do of that, the more we bake that into the way we live our lives every single day, the harder we push back on the virus.
Charlie Baker: (20:35)
And now with respect to the mayor’s announcement, the partnership between the city of Lawrence and the healthcare partners in this community is a great example of how we can all work together to increase access to testing. The city’s decision to invest a million dollars and build out the capacity to test a thousand Lawrence residents per day is a huge step forward to dramatically scaling up testing here in Lawrence. There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has had a proportionate impact on gateway cities like Lawrence. Many of these municipalities at one time or another have emerged as hotspots. And to support these communities statewide we focused on partnering with our community health centers to ramp up their testing. Greater access to viral testing helps us better understand infection rates and who’s infected with COVID-19 so we can support efforts to trace and help isolate and support people in isolation and reduce the spread.
Charlie Baker: (21:32)
If you couple that with the other work that’s being done by community health centers and local boards of health in conjunction with partners in health and with the Commonwealth, it’s an army of folks working every single day to reach out to people who test positive and to reach out to their close contacts and do all we can to help support them as they isolate during that 14 day period. Now since March, our testing capabilities have scaled up dramatically. Two months ago we were conducting a few hundred tests per day. By partnering with many of our private and commercial labs like Quest and LabCorp and the Brown Institute, we significantly increased our testing capacity. And today we’re consistently at or around 10,000 tests per day or above that. And we have the capacity to test up to 30,000 people per day. And to increase the number of people we’re testing, we’re focused on making testing much more available something the mayor also talked about.
Charlie Baker: (22:29)
We’re grateful to many of the municipal and healthcare and other partners who are working with us to stand up testing sites across the Commonwealth. That includes the many community health centers that we’re working with to increase testing in high density communities. I also want to thank companies like CVS and Walmart who’ve launched and are expanding drive through test operations across Massachusetts. All in, we now have a network of over 250 testing sites across Massachusetts. And a week ago we announced a new website at mass.gov/covidtestmap, which you can visit to find a testing site that’s near you. The department of public health has also expanded criteria on who can be tested. Now, anyone who is symptomatic or is identified as a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 test case is eligible to be tested. That expanded criteria will also apply to the Lawrence residents who take advantage of this new testing site here in the city. Massachusetts as I said before, remains a top five player in per capita testing across the country, but we’re committed to doing even more.
Charlie Baker: (23:40)
On Monday we announced our phase reopening plan for the Commonwealth. The plan will go slow and in phases and hinges on that public health data and those six key indicators I mentioned before to understand where the infections are and how our hospital system is holding up. Phase one’s underway and we’ll be in phase one for at least the three weeks we talked about when we announced it. And we’ll continue to follow the data to determine whether or not we can move on to the second phase. That public health data is a critical driver and we’re also asking the federal government to help us continue to expand our testing capability statewide. In the coming days, we’ll submit a plan to the federal government which will lay out our medium and longterm testing strategy. The plan will include assistance to boost overall capacity from 10 to 15,000 tests a day to 45,000 tests per day by the end of July and 75,000 tests per day by the end of December.
Charlie Baker: (24:41)
That plan if implemented would make us the largest testing per capita entity in the world. It also involves expanding our lab space, expanding testing for high risk settings, like state hospitals, group homes and correctional facilities and also doing randomized testing for surveillance purposes and access to faster turnaround time for testing generally. And that report and that application will obviously be available when we file it next week. I want to close by saying that while testing is a valuable and critical tool in the fight against COVID, it is not as the mayor and I both said before, the only one. People have a big role to play in this with respect to the behavior you exhibit and the behavior that you deliver every single day. Social distancing, hygiene, covering your nose and your mouth and wiping surfaces clean frequently and as often as possible. And if you keep doing your part, we’ll keep doing ours and we’ll get through this together. And with that, I’ll turn it back over to the mayor.
Mayor Rivera: (25:55)
So the testing is one piece of the recipe. I’m a fat kid so I like to talk about cake. So it’s the cake recipe. It’s just one piece of it. So you wouldn’t have a cake without eggs. So you have to do the testing and the masks and the hygiene and the distancing and the stay at home if you’re sick. That makes a nice cake. Otherwise you have a coronavirus cake. No one wants to eat that. Nobody wants to eat that. The next person I want to bring up here, I just have to say that in Spanish. [foreign language 00:10:22]. Next up is a person who is in charge of our great hospital. It really is a world class institution for a safety net hospital. And they do the best work that we can possibly expect from our hospital here for the residents of the city of Lawrence. Unfortunately for her, she just started and they were like, “Hey, why don’t you become the CEO? Oh, also here’s a pandemic.” But she’s been great at it. Our friend and our leader at the hospital, Deb Wilson.
Deb Wilson: (27:16)
Good afternoon friends of Lawrence, mayor Rivera, secretary Sadders, Lieutenant governor Polito, Senator Finegold, representative Minicucci and Moran, and secretary [inaudible 00:27:30] and Lieutenant governor Polito and the governor thank you. On behalf of Lawrence General Hospital and our collaborators on this project, the greater Lawrence family health center, Pentucket medical partners health care now known as mass general Brigham and Always Health. On behalf of all of us mayor, thank you so much for being the kind of leader who not only sees what the residents of the community need, but you’re the type of leader that does absolutely everything to make that happen.
Deb Wilson: (28:02)
From the first days of the pandemic mayor Rivera has been engaging with the hospital to try to tamp down the virus. He even held a press conference in March at the hospital, strongly urging people to stay home. Our entire community has been able to count on your leadership mayor Rivera, not only during the COVID-19 crisis we are facing today, but during the Columbia gas explosion crisis and every day. You’ve been Lawrence General’s ally and the best kind of mayor whose compassion and forward thinking is saving lives and keeping our community safe. This testing site is a credit to your leadership. Thank you, mayor Rivera.
Deb Wilson: (28:49)
I would also like to thank secretary Marylou Sadders for keeping the residents of Lawrence and all the patients that we care for at Lawrence general and public health at the forefront of your mind and focus. You have been at the other end of the phone, advocating for testing equipment supplies and critical funding for us. And you do this every day, thank you. And thank you, Lieutenant governor Polito for your exemplary leadership during this pandemic. And finally thank you governor Baker. We so appreciate your statewide leadership and your coming to Lawrence to support this endeavor. We need and truly appreciate your continued leadership to see us through this pandemic. Thank you very much governor Baker. As you’ve all heard today Lawrence has the fourth highest number of positive COVID cases per capita. Our goal in setting up this nine lane drive up COVID-19 testing center is to make testing readily available and accessible in our community so that we can stop community spread.
Deb Wilson: (30:03)
To establish this testing center a host of healthcare stakeholders came together. These organizations worked collaboratively with the hospital to operationalize this testing site so that it would be seamless for our patients and providers to get tested and get their lab results. I think it is fair to say that the teams from the hospital, the health center, Pentucket medical, Mass General Brigham and Always Health are very proud of what they’ve accomplished by coming together to bring something so meaningful to this community. Thank you John Silva, Lynn [inaudible 00:00:30:40], Dr. Garrett Bombard, David Siegel and all of your teams for pulling this off. I would like to give special recognition to a leader at Lawrence general who drove this undertaking over the past several weeks. Many thanks to Robin Heinz, senior VP of strategic operations, along with a wonderful team she worked with to make this happen. Dr. Ann Maryanne, Ellie [inaudible 00:00:31:09], Jess O’Neil, Missy Carol, Layla Wolinsky and Rob Denise, a heartfelt thanks to these dedicated LGH team players.
Deb Wilson: (31:19)
We did have stumbling blocks along the way. PPE and testing supplies of course, but one major challenge was funding. When we told the mayor that Lawrence general hospital can stand this up, but we can’t do it alone and we don’t have the financial resources we need, the mayor stepped up and the city of Lawrence under the mayor’s leadership provided $1 million. Thank you mayor Rivera. The mayor and all of the collaborative partners came together and made this happen so quickly and we’re very proud of this testing site and the impact that it will have. This testing site will save lives and it will allow our community-
Deb Wilson: (32:02)
… save lives and it will allow our community and our hospital to get back to caring for some basic, but also life-threatening health needs. I should mention that this pandemic has stretched the hospital’s resources and capacity beyond words at times. More than 70% of our inpatient bed capacity has been dedicated to caring for COVID-19 positive inpatients. Each and every employee at LGH has played a significant role in fighting this pandemic. We have exceptional physicians, providers, nurses, and staff. We’re also very fortunate to have an exceptional leadership team, including Dr. Eduardo Haddad. He has been right beside us every step of the way. Our board of trustees has also provided guidance and support through the entire crisis. A special thank you to our delegation for their unwavering support. Senator Barry Finegold, representative Frank Moran and Christina Minicucci and as well as Congresswoman Lori Trahan.
Deb Wilson: (33:11)
We truly appreciate everything all of them have done for Lawrence General. I would be remiss if I didn’t think Ellen Murphy Meehan, our legislative advocate and staunch supporter of Lawrence General. She is amazing and she shows her true passion for our hospital and this community every single day. It’s been humbling and inspiring to see our medical community care for these sick patients. And at times, it’s been heartbreaking to witness the devastating impact of the coronavirus locally. Today, we have a great story about a male in his 40s who was admitted with COVID-19, intubated and treated in our ICU for almost a month. As he continued to recover, he was transitioned to a med surg floor where he eventually tested negative for COVID-19. He was discharged to an ALTEC yesterday after a 47 day length of stay. We are truly heartened by these patients’ stories.
Deb Wilson: (34:16)
And that’s why this Lawrence COVID-19 testing site is so, so important. Lawrence residents of all ages who have COVID symptoms and those who have been identified as exposed through contact tracing will obtain a doctor’s order from their PCP and be scheduled for an appointment right here behind us. They will drive through and nurses and staff from the hospital in Pentucket Medical Group will swab those patients. And within a few days, the patient will get a call from the hospital or the health center with results. Our goal is to test 1000 Lawrence residents a day and to stop the spread of this life threatening virus and help our community return to living normal, healthy lives. Thank you all for coming together to help our community and Lawrence General fulfill its mission to care for residents of Lawrence and this region. Thank you.
Mayor Rivera: (35:18)
Deb, thank you again for your leadership on this by showing us it was possible. And then for bringing the staff together to make it happen. I think that your leadership in such a short time has had a huge impact. So thank you very much for all you do.
Mayor Rivera: (35:38)
So a lot of city staff were involved in this process so I just want to make sure we call them out. I know the governor talked about our two chiefs, Chief Baskin and Chief Moriarty. They do a great job every day. Mike, Captain Michael Mana from Lawrence Fire Department, who’s in charge of our special services and our public health who are here with us today. Martha Velez, who leads our humanitarian effort every time, a veteran of the gas crisis, all of them. And Martinez Dominguez, who also is helping out with the homeless crisis in our city, all of them dropping what they do normally to make a stand up, all kinds of new things in this COVID-19 environment.
Mayor Rivera: (36:12)
And I just want a round of applause for the city staff that’s involved in this every day. So how does a community that has some of the poorest census track in the Commonwealth save $14 million, $15 million, $16 million every year? We have a great state delegation. They make sure that we get at least a million dollars a year for fighting crime and police officers in our community. And so I think it’s just appropriate to hear from our leaders from the state delegation, leading with my friend who used to play football against me. Well, he used to actually win. We used to lose over and over high. My friend, Senator Barry Finegold.
Sen. Barry Finegold: (36:57)
Good afternoon. What a beautiful day. This is exactly why we put up with those cold winter days for days like this. The city of Lawrence has so many resilient people and truly, truly amazing people. And we’ve been through so much. As the mayor mentioned, the gas disaster and now this. And it also happens to be Memorial Day weekend. And yes, we have social distancing barbecues, but it’s also a weekend that we say, thanks. We say, thanks for those who have served and served our country. But I think this weekend’s especially that we need to thank a lot of people. And I first start with our medical providers, the way they’ve stepped up, amazing the way they stepped up. Thank you, Deb. Thank you, John. And I’m not ashamed to say this, our political leaders. I want to thank Governor Baker, Lieutenant Governor Polito, Secretary Sutters. This is one of the hardest things that any elected official has ever had to deal with. And I think they’ve done a great job and they deserve a round of applause.
Sen. Barry Finegold: (38:15)
And having this testing today goes such a long way and it truly matters because so many of those people that you’re seeing on the front line, in our grocery stores, delivering our goods are here right in the city of Lawrence. And that’s why we need this testing here today. So it is a sunny day and the sun is shining on all of us. So I do believe that the future is very bright here in the city of Lawrence and the future is very bright here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Thank you all very much. And I’d be remiss to thank this great mayor who has always been there through so many times. So I’m going to hand it back over to him, but I think he deserves another round of applause for the job that he’s done as well.
Mayor Rivera: (39:15)
I’m just afraid of all of you. So I’d make sure I try to do my best job as possible. I don’t want you guys getting angry with me. The governor has been great, Lieutenant governor and her staff. Every time we cal, they really are very supportive. But when the woman who was in charge of helping human services from the Commonwealth gets put to be in charge of the task force to lead this fight against COVID 19, you think, “Maybe if I call her, she might not have a minute to talk, or if I text her, she might not have a minute to return the text,” but Marilyn Sutters has not been that way. She has allayed a lot of my fears. I’m not a doctor so no one really knows about this stuff, unless you’re in the medical field. She’s allayed a lot of our fears and helped us every day. So again, I know people have been congratulating a lot of people, but every day, she’s got to wake up and figure out a way to beat this vicious virus. And I think she’s doing a great job. A round of applause for our Secretary Sutters. Again, another Lawrence kid who’s out there making sure that he beats the bushes for as much resources for our community, my former boss in the city council, my friend Frank Moran, representative Frank Moran.
Sen. Frank Moran: (40:31)
Thank you, Mr. Mayor. First of all, I want to thank the mayor for his leadership that he showed over the past year and a half or two years. The mayor has gone above and beyond expectations. And he’s, like you said earlier, he’s a Lawrence kid that really cares about our community. This epidemic has touched me very, very personally. I lost a brother of mine about a month ago and I lost an uncle of mine about a month and a half ago, almost two months ago. So for me, this is personal.
Sen. Frank Moran: (40:54)
We need make sure that we follow all the guidelines that are currently being provided out there. These people behind me are out there working day in and day out to make sure that we’ll beat this pandemic and also that we can out there and make sure that we send the proper information to make sure that people out there are following this guidelines. I want to thank the governor, I tell you. The governor has been on the forefront of this pandemic since day one. And I want to thank him again. Can you guys give him a round of applause for me? He was the first person, when he heard about … what my family was going on, he was the first person to send me a text and says, “We’re with you, Frank.” I want to make sure that you understand that we’re doing the best we can, of what we’re doing here in this Commonwealth.
Sen. Frank Moran: (41:34)
And I want to thank the governor for that. To me, that meant a lot. Again, my name is Frank Moran. I’m your state representative and I really want to thank everybody that’s involved in this. It’s been very [inaudible 00:41:44] again. And I want to thank the Lieutenant governor as well, Secretary Sutter’s as well. And Lawrence General Hospital. My God, seriously. I can’t say enough of what they did while my brother was in there in that ICU for the past … He was there for 25 days and my parents and I could not see him for 25 days, but I was able to get information from the staff that were able to sometimes even Zoom video so I could see my brother. So I want to thank the staff of Lawrence General Hospital for everything that you do and for what you did for my brother and my family. Thank you. And again, thank you, everyone.
Mayor Rivera: (42:21)
And Frank will tell you, while all that stuff was going on in his family, he was making sure that the elderly folks in our community were getting masks and he was delivering boxes and boxes of face coverings for the elderly in our public housing, and elder living facilities. So thank you, Frank, and we’re with you.
Mayor Rivera: (42:40)
The new newest member to our delegation, but not new to our community, her and her family have been a big part of the building out of our communities across the Merrimack Valley, my friend and our state representative, Christina Minicozzi.
Mayor Rivera: (42:55)
By the way, she also does the masks herself too.
Christina Minicozzi: (43:00)
Hi, everyone. I don’t do the masks myself, but I have an amazing group of women in this community who have been making masks like this beautiful one that I have here. They’ve been making them out of their homes for the past month and about 500 or 600 of them have come to the city of Lawrence in the past week. But I am so excited to be here. I am the daughter of a nurse, of a large general hospital nurse of 35 years. I have so much respect for what nurses do every day. And what happens in this hospital here is an unbelievable feat. And sometimes I can’t even imagine that they are able to pull off what they can pull off every day. So I am so thankful for Lawrence General, the partnering with the mayor. The only way that we are going to stop this virus is if we can continue to test people and find out who has this as soon as possible and help them protect their families.
Christina Minicozzi: (43:47)
And that is the thing that I keep telling everybody over and over. As we’re reopening, this is great and we can start seeing some business opening a little bit, but it doesn’t mean that we have to stop being vigilant. And having this testing site right here in Lawrence is going to make a huge difference in keeping the people of this city safe and all the people who are working the front lines every day, here in the hospital, but also providing food and all of our hard city workers who’ve been here, keeping us safe. So thank you everybody for having us today. Thank you, governor, Lieutenant governor. The total rock star Secretary Sutters, by the way, she’s amazing. And thanks for everybody for being here.
Mayor Rivera: (44:27)
So we’ll take questions now.
Speaker 3: (44:29)
Mayor, what would you say is the biggest challenge [inaudible 00:44:32]? And also, Memorial Day coming up [inaudible 00:44:36]. it’s going to be sort of expect people to [inaudible 00:44:39] social distancing [inaudible 00:44:41].
Mayor Rivera: (44:43)
So we’re 6.7 square miles. And if you take up the roads and the river, we’re probably more like 4.8 square miles. And so I think about how close we are to each other, that sometimes the social distancing isn’t really possible, but that’s why staying home, if you’re sick is important. That’s why social hygiene is important. That’s why we put such a serious emphasis on the masks. What we learned during the reopening committee research that provided for us was that testing and tracing can bring the, are not down 2.5 points, but a mask worn all the time by as many people as possible can move it 1.7. So yeah, we’re going to do the testing and tracing, but the mask, if you put the mask involved, we will slow down the spread. So that’s been a problem for us, the language issue. I think people who are immigrants in our community come here leaving really bad situations. And so they come here expecting better situations. So unfortunately, some of them have come during the gas crisis and then also this. And so we’re making sure that some of the poorest and the most needy amongst us get food. That has not been an issue. Thank God for the Boston Food Bank and places like that, has made sure that we get the funding that we need. The governor’s effort to do the Commonwealth fund. That money has come to our community foundations. Those types of things have been very helpful. But again, not knowing everybody who has it has been the biggest stumbling block.
Mayor Rivera: (46:04)
Because if somebody has it, you can just tell them to stay home and quarantine. But if they don’t know, they’re going to go to work, and again, we have the workforce of the Merrimack Valley. They’re not going to work in downtown [inaudible 00:00:46:14]. They’re going to work in Tewksbury, to Demoulas, the Market Basket warehouse. They’re going to go in Newburyport, to a restaurant. They’re going to go to Lowell, a restaurant or to deliver boxes at one of the other warehouses. So this testing was the final notch of all things.
Speaker 4: (46:33)
Governor Baker, question, governor, about Memorial Day weekend coming up. I know the plan state beaches to be open Monday and yet they’re already very busy today, you might imagine. What do you expect?
Charlie Baker: (46:47)
Well, first of all, I want to echo what the mayor said, which is that it’s very important for us to respect the power of the contagion in this virus and to recognize and to understand that we have things we can do to prevent the spread. The biggest thing we can do is to wear a face covering if you can’t keep distant from people. And there’s a lot of studies out there that show, if two people are wearing a face covering, that takes 80% of the opportunity of that virus to move from one person to the next. Distancing, hugely important. Hand-washing, sanitizing, these are these are things we can all do. We just have to do them and do them regularly.
Charlie Baker: (47:32)
And my advice to everybody over the weekend, it would be the same advice I would give to my friends, I would give to my kids, I would give to my neighbors, which is respect the virus and understand the distancing and face coverings, if you can’t stay distant, are your two greatest allies in preventing the spread. And the other thing I would say, and Lieutenant governor and I said this many times, one of the big things we’ve all learned about COVID-19 and about coronavirus, generally over the course of the past four …
Charlie Baker: (48:03)
… about coronavirus generally over the course of the past four or five months is how many people can get it, and give it to others and never know they had it.
Charlie Baker: (48:12)
Back in January and February, people said, “Gee, there seems to be about a three to five-day period of time here before people start showing symptoms.” And then as you got from February into March, people started saying, “Well, they’re actually may be some group of people, don’t know how many, who are never going to show symptoms.” And that as we got a little farther along, people started saying based on the data and the research that may be as many as 20 to 40% of the people who get this never show symptoms.
Charlie Baker: (48:41)
And that’s why if you feel healthy and you feel good at this time in this commonwealth, if you can’t distance yourself, you should wear a face covering because you may in fact be a carrier. And a lot of people spend a bunch of time on Memorial Day weekend with family. Family usually means things like moms and dads, and in some cases, grandmas and grandpas. Wear a face covering, not only for yourself, but for the people you come in contact with. This is in many ways, one of our greatest weapons in the fight against COVID. And wash your hands, a lot. Sanitize. Keep the distance. Be careful.
Charlie Baker: (49:29)
I mean people have worked really hard and given up a tremendous amount over the course of the past eight or 10 weeks to bend the trend on this, and we succeeded. And it’s because of the work that everybody did that we’re now here in a position where the mayor can serve on a reopening advisory board that’s chaired by the lieutenant governor, and we can start talking about a gradual, careful, data-driven, phased reopening. Don’t let a few nice days step on that. We need to continue to make the kind of progress that we’ve all made in battling this thing for the past two or three months.
Speaker 5: (50:18)
Governor, Mayor Walsh yesterday said [inaudible 00:50:23]. Are you willing to go that far when you, can we say that?
Charlie Baker: (50:28)
I think if you’re going to go out, be smart, be careful and respect the virus. I mean, a lot of people in my neighborhood… I mean, I live a five-minute walk from a beach. My wife and I walk our neighborhood all the time. It’s one of the few things we’ve been allowed to do under the advisory. Sometimes we go down and we walk along the beach, but we keep our distance. And many times, most of the time, we wear face coverings.
Charlie Baker: (51:05)
This is not about vanity folks. It’s about the safety and the health of your friends and your families. And it’s about our ability as a Commonwealth to continue to move forward on a phase basis to make it possible for a lot of people who lost their jobs, many of whom live in communities like this through no fault of their own, to maybe have a chance to go back to work. There’s a lot at stake here. Please be careful and respect the virus.
Speaker 6: (51:35)
Will state beach parking lots remain being closed this weekend and will they open Monday. Is that the way it works?
Charlie Baker: (51:40)
That’s the plan, yeah.
Speaker 7: (51:41)
This is the question for the mayor. Mayor, you mentioned testing referrals. What have you heard on that front? Are people having a difficult time getting those? Are doctors being too selective? What have you heard?
Mayor Rivera: (51:50)
Listen, I think that the guidance the CDC has put out at the national level is the problem. I think partly, they won’t say it, is because they weren’t prepared enough for how many tests they needed. So yeah, doctors were following CDC guidelines. And every time the CDC guideline can say, “Yeah, you can test more people,” they are going to test more people.
Mayor Rivera: (52:12)
But I wanted to give an extra push to the doctors to say, be a little bit more liberal with it. I think that the people that were being tested were people who were really sick. That meant somebody who was kind of sick was told to stay home in quarantine just in case. If a doctor tells you, “Well, just stay home and not get tested.” And your only thing is to stay home or go to work, your job that you could lose, people are going to work. Not so much that people who don’t know it, who don’t know they have it. Now they can say, “Well, my uncle had it, and we live with my uncle. Can I get tested?” That’s a tracing person, so that person should go get tested. And then they’ll know whether or not they have it, even though they don’t show symptoms.
Mayor Rivera: (52:49)
But I think that there’s a lot of talk about universal testing and who’s doing what. This is a law. If you’re a licensed person and you’re either got symptoms or you have them come in contact with somebody who has symptoms through the tracing, you can come get a test. Is that everybody? That’s not everybody. That’s not universal. I have neither of those things, so I can’t go get tested.
Mayor Rivera: (53:11)
But I think that at some point, we’re going to get to a point where you can get tests a little bit more widely. You can buy them, do them at your home and all those things. Those are expected down the line, maybe next year, things like that. But we want the doctors to be clear about this. Just be liberal with it. We got the tests. Let’s not have tests on the sidelines and not test people.
Mayor Rivera: (53:28)
And just to the point about the weekend. All you got to do is go through the obituaries of the newspapers. All you got to do is just look at the websites and the Facebook pages of the hospitals. You have to do a Lawrence… You can do Lawrence General. You should do other ones. People are dying. We sent tons of kids to fight in Vietnam. Nineteen Lawrence.
Mayor Rivera: (53:54)
boys lost their life in Vietnam. In short period, we’ve lost 109 souls. The governor’s right, we have to respect this virus You can drink with a mask on. You can just put the mask, take a drink, put the mask back on. Trust me, I’m going to find my way to get my hands on a burger this weekend. Trust me, I will not be deterred, but I’m going to have a mask.
Mayor Rivera: (54:20)
And my kids have been dying to have interactions with my father-in-law, who’s an older person, who we’ve got to basically isolate. And so everyone’s doing their parts. And don’t listen to these crazy people, “Well, wearing a mask too is a problem… ” Trust me. That’s what people say to me, Listen, if you drink water to lose weight, that’s a problem because you probably will drink too much water.” I don’t think I’ll have that problem. The same thing with the mask. You will not have that problem. Wear the mask. You can save yourself and save other people. This is something very serious, 109 souls.
Speaker 8: (54:53)
And Governor, a question. In regards to reopening… I’m a frontline worker, obviously, if you can’t tell. But childcare, there’s not enough emergency childcare. I can’t find somebody to take my kids and I can have two of my kids in daycare. And [inaudible 00:55:13] 15 months and under not being allowed into daycares, who’s going to watch kids? I’m kind of concerned. I called your office and called the governor this morning just to kind of-
Mayor Rivera: (55:21)
Speaker 8: (55:22)
[Inaudible 00:55:22] who I call for that to find out.
Mayor Rivera: (55:25)
Now, listen, here’s a real crappy answer to that. They don’t know what this thing does to kids. They have no idea. Kids are dying in New York from the inflammation stuff. During the conversations we had, we had some real tough conversations, that was one of them in the reopening committee, and I’ll let the to talk about it too. But they have no idea what this thing does to kids.
Speaker 8: (55:50)
And I understand. I have kids at home that I’m [crosstalk 00:55:53].
Mayor Rivera: (55:53)
We got to figure out that piece of it and then stand up more of the emergency daycare. I think in Lawrence, and maybe we should connect you with some of the… Some of it’s going on used, but it’s a hard thing to do because it’s not just the place you drop off your kid. It’s a place where kids have interaction with professionals, intimate interactions with professionals, developmental interactions with professionals. And so how do we do it in a way that doesn’t hurt the professionals, but also how do we do it in a way that doesn’t risk the kids?
Mayor Rivera: (56:23)
We don’t have any good answers, and I apologize for that because you’re busting your hump every day out there. But at the very least we could do is try to get some more emergency space open.
Speaker 8: (56:32)
Charlie Baker: (56:34)
Let me just add to that. First of all-
Speaker 8: (56:36)
Charlie Baker: (56:39)
… First of all, thank you. I have a lot of friends in the healthcare world and I’ve had some really tough conversations with them over the course of the past few months. I mean, I’m an older guy, so most of my friends in the healthcare world have been in this space for a long time. They thought they’d seen it all, until they saw this and experienced this and dealt with this.
Charlie Baker: (57:10)
And honestly, I know the media has tried really hard to help people understand what it’s like to have 70% of your hospital turned into managing COVID-19 patients. But it’s like nothing many of my friends have ever seen. And a lot of them are ER docs and they’ve been at this game a long time.
Charlie Baker: (57:35)
To you and to all your colleagues, I can just say God bless and thank you.
Charlie Baker: (57:39)
And on the childcare piece, the lieutenant governor and I, and Secretary Sudders and Commissioner Sam of the Early Education and Care Agency have all been working this one hard. We know that we need additional capacity and we know it has to be done in a way that is safe or at least very safe. And we expect that we’re going to have guidance on this shortly.
Charlie Baker: (58:07)
But I’ve had a lot of people say to us, “How come you didn’t have this ready yesterday?” And my answer was, this is one of those things we want to get right. And your concern about more is very much top of mind for us and we’ve heard that from a lot of people. And we do have 6,500 available slots in our existing emergency system, but they’re not all where they need to be for people who are looking for them, and we get that.
Charlie Baker: (58:33)
And we also understand the mayor’s point, which for some people, there’s a particular provider who they trust and they believe in, and what they want is that provider to determine whether or not they can operate under a new set of guidance. And we’re hoping and anticipating we’ll have something we can share with the community pretty soon.
Speaker 9: (58:51)
Charlie Baker: (58:51)
And I hope you get some time off this weekend.
Speaker 8: (58:53)
Speaker 10: (58:53)
Governor, do you envision how if people don’t respect the virus at [inaudible 00:58:57] on Monday, do you envision having to shut them down again?
Charlie Baker: (59:02)
One of the things that I think the lieutenant governor and I and I have been most impressed with and grateful for is that people in Massachusetts, the overwhelming number of people in Massachusetts, have been really good about abiding by the guidance or the advisories or whatever it is that we’ve put out or our colleagues in local government have been I’ve put out.
Charlie Baker: (59:27)
And honestly, I’m sure that over the course of the weekend, there will be some places where people don’t behave and live up to the terms of the advisories and some of this other stuff. But I believe that the vast majority of people will. Because for the past two and a half months, the vast majority of the people in Massachusetts have day after day done things they’ve never done before to put up with and fight against this virus, and to join together to defeat it. I expect that people will do the right thing.
Charlie Baker: (59:55)
And I’ll say one more thing about this. It’s Memorial Day weekend. There are a lot of people who’ve died for your right to live in a free democracy here in the United States, here in Massachusetts. Those people stood up, put on a uniform, most of them volunteered and marched directly into the field and the theater of combat; and Memorial Day is when we celebrate the ones who didn’t make it home and their families.
Charlie Baker: (01:00:39)
If you don’t want to wear a mask because you don’t like wearing a mask. If you don’t want a social distance because you don’t want a social distance. Please think about those families. Those moms and dads, those brothers and sisters, those sons and daughters of those who lost their lives fighting for your freedom. To put on that mask and just do it for them. Socially distant for them. Wash your hands for them. Because if they were here, they would be doing the same thing. Thank you.
Speaker 9: (01:01:19)
Speaker 11: (01:01:19)
Mayor Rivera: (01:01:23)
Hey, just real quick, just a little housekeeping. If John Silva and Lynn [Stoffer 00:01:01:30], can you raise your hands? I just want to make sure people know who you are. These are our partners that didn’t get to speak, but if anyone wants to interview them, they’re right there. Lynn, and I saw John around here, John Silva. And just a message for folks at home, please stay home if you’re sick, wash your hands, and wear your face covering. [Spanish 00:13:44], and we’ll all be good. Thank you so much.