Feb 25, 2021
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker Press Conference Transcript February 25
Governor of Massachusetts Charlie Baker’s coronavirus press conference on February 25, 2021. He announced plans to move into phase 4 of the reopening process next month. Read the transcript of his press conference with updates for the state here.
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Charlie Baker: (00:00)
The one bartender who was here and I really do hope at some point, that sort of thing will be possible again here in the Commonwealth. I do want to thank Sarah Lovely and Mayor Driscoll for being with us today. You guys have been awesome partners in so many ways over the course of this very difficult year. And I think part of what we’re here today to talk about is the fact that we are finally making some progress on a lot of things that will dramatically hopefully, improve people’s ability and some of their choices as we go forward.
Charlie Baker: (00:36)
Obviously, we have been fighting a second surge of the COVID-19 virus since the mid fall, and we’ve seen many positive trends in our public health metrics pretty much since the turn of the new year. I also want to thank the owners of Ledger for hosting us here today. And I hope that table is six there by the cook area, that’s good.
Charlie Baker: (01:04)
Today there are currently about 875 people hospitalized with COVID, which is down from 2,428, which was our census on January four. That’s a 63% decrease. Across all intensive care beds, we’ve seen about a 52% reduction since early January, and yesterday, the Department of Public Health reported 1,788 new cases out of 114,127 new tests. That’s a less than 2% positive test rate, which we hadn’t seen numbers like that since you go back to October. That does bring the total number of tests that have been conducted here in the Commonwealth, which has the second highest testing per capita totals in the country since the beginning of this pandemic, to almost 16 million molecular tests. And the seven day average, as I said, has dropped below levels we haven’t seen in months. These are all really good signs, and we now have a vaccination program that ranks number one in the country among the 24 states that have at least 5 million people. And among all 50 states, we’ve been in top 10 now for vaccines administered for the past three weeks.
Charlie Baker: (02:16)
As of yesterday, over 1.9 million doses have been shipped to Massachusetts, and over 1.5 million doses have been administered. Yesterday, the lieutenant governor and I visited the new vaccination site Natick, which is being run by Lab Corp. The other mass vaccination site that opened this week is down in Bristol County. It’s in Dartmouth, and it’s run by Curative and we’re looking forward to seeing them continue to enhance our performance to vaccinate people down on the south coast. Today, the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston is operational as a mass vac site. And that site will begin with 800 shots a day and ramp up to 2,000 shots a day over the course of the next couple of weeks. And in anticipation of getting more doses from the feds, we’ll continue to ramp up more personnel and more sites in order to be ready when we see the big increase in supply that many of us have been waiting for for a while.
Charlie Baker: (03:10)
50,000 appointments were booked this morning on the state’s website. And as a reminder, I just want to point out once again, that we get a limited supply of vaccines from the feds each week, it’s about 130,000 first doses. We have far more people than that who are eligible here in Massachusetts to get vaccinated. And it’s important for people to understand that we think it probably will take a month for everybody who’s newly eligible to be able to get their first appointment. And I know we tell people who are very anxious to get that vaccine to be patient, and then that’s frustrating, but the simple truth is unless and until we see a big increase in supply, people are going to have to assume it will take them a little while to get that first appointment and to get that first vaccination. Testing capacity, obviously our ability to find and isolate people continues to perform and the drop in hospitalizations and cases overall is really good news.
Charlie Baker: (04:12)
I think most people remember that in November in response to an increase in new COVID cases and hospitalizations, we did implement a stay at home advisory and several closures and restrictions on businesses. We understand that all of those closures and restrictions are enormously difficult for businesses and for their workers. And today, thanks to everybody’s commitment to wear masks, to distance when appropriate, to avoid crowds and to do their part to stop the spread, we can move forward with the reopening plan and take some of the stuff that we did previously off the table.
Charlie Baker: (04:47)
For example, effective March 1st, Massachusetts will move back into phase three, step two, that will allow indoor performance venues and indoor recreational activities to reopen and capacity limits across all sectors will increase to 50%. Massachusetts will then move to step one of phase four of our reopening plan effective March 22nd, as long as the public health data continues to get better. That will make it possible for several large venues, many of the businesses that have been closed since the beginning of the pandemic, to plan to reopen with strict safety measures in place and capacity limits as of, I said, the 22nd of March.
Charlie Baker: (05:28)
Step one of phase four includes indoor and outdoor stadiums, as well as arenas and ballparks like Gillette Stadium, Fenway Park, and TD Garden, which will be permitted to reopen with a 12% capacity limit. These facilities will also be required to submit a plan to the Department of Public Health, to demonstrate the safety measures they’ll be employing in opening up to the public. Also effective March 22nd, and subject to public health data, gathering limits for event venues and in public settings will increase to a hundred people indoors and 150 people outdoors, and outdoor gatherings at private residence and in private backyards will remain where they are now, which is a maximum of 25 people and indoor house gatherings will remain at 10.
Charlie Baker: (06:15)
These large venues employ a lot of people, and many of them have been out of work for a very long time. We’ve been watching how these venues perform in other states and believe with the right safety measures in place, they can operate responsibly and safely here in the Commonwealth as well. They’re big operations that take time to prepare, and I hope today’s announcement will help them and their employees plan for that return to work. We understand there are additional businesses that are listed in phase four that are still waiting for a signal from us with respect to their ability to reopen. And we’ll continue to work with these industries and to monitor health metrics and hopefully be able to get them open at some point in the future. Lieutenant governor will go into more details about this update in a minute.
Charlie Baker: (07:02)
As we continue to make progress here in Massachusetts and get closer to the other side of all of this, we know how difficult these restrictions have been and continue to be for businesses both large and small across the state. And today’s announcement is a good sign and a move in the right direction toward getting back to that next normal, but we know businesses continue to hurt, and that we have to find ways to help them get through all this. And that’s why in October, with the support and participation and authorization from the legislature, we announced a grant program through the Mass Growth Capital Corporation of over $700 million was designated to small businesses impacted by COVID-19.
Charlie Baker: (07:43)
It’s the largest fund of its kind in the nation. It’s helped businesses in all corners of our state, including Ledger here in Salem, which is where we are today, to pay staff and rent and to help them serve customers safely. Matt, want to thank you and the team for all you’ve done, and obviously we thank you for hosting us today. And today we’re announcing an additional 1,108 businesses that will be receiving COVID-19 relief grants totalling another $49 million. To date, we’ve awarded more than $593 million of direct support to over 12,000 small businesses here in Massachusetts.
Charlie Baker: (08:18)
As we look forward, the Commonwealth will continue to do everything we can to stop the spread, to roll out vaccines, to carefully reopen our economy and to keep the people in Massachusetts safe. But getting to the other side of this still requires everybody to keep doing their part as the vaccine process rolls out. Everybody knows what that means, wearing masks, being sure that they distance, washing their hands, and to the extent possible, spending as much time as you can with what we call your own household. We’re almost there, we’re going to continue to move forward. And if all goes according to plan and the fed’s increased supply, we could be in a very different position a couple, three months from now. I now want to turn this over to the lieutenant governor, who’s led a big piece of our reopening effort to discuss some more details associated with this plan.
Karen Polito: (09:11)
Good afternoon. Thank you, governor. It’s great to be here in Salem at Ledger, congratulations to the owners and your staff, you got a pretty special place here. And I just want to acknowledge our partners in government, Mayor Driscoll and Senator Lovely. Thank you for your leadership and your hard work over these past very challenging months.
Karen Polito: (09:33)
On May 16th of last year, working with members of our Reopening Advisory Board, chaired by myself and Secretary Kennealy. We announced a four phased plan to reopen the economy, based on improvements in public health data. As of October, we had progressed to step two, of phase three in this plan. In mid-December, due to a second surge, we returned the whole Commonwealth to step one of phase three. This closed certain businesses, reduce capacities across a broad range of sectors, and tightened several other workplace restrictions. We know this has not been ideal. In fact, it has been very, very challenging for businesses all across our Commonwealth, including ones like the restaurant here at Ledger. And I’d like to once again, just thank everyone for working through these restrictions, being creative and innovative and really forging ahead, retailers, restaurants, other downtown and main street businesses trying their best to get through.
Karen Polito: (10:42)
For nearly a year, businesses have had to come up with these different strategies to continue to operate and be a part of the communities where they are so loved. The safety guidance, the protocols, all of that took a lot of investment, training, and follow through every day to make sure that they were adhered to so that your employees and-
Karen Polito: (11:03)
… every day to make sure that they were adhered to so that your employees and your customers felt safe and welcomed in your establishment. And as trends continue to move in the right direction, we’re pleased to take additional steps. And today it is a definite step forward in our reopening plan. As the governor said, due to public health metrics continuing to trend in a positive direction, including drops in average COVID cases and hospitalizations and increasing vaccination rates, effective March 1, which is Monday, all cities and towns will move into Step 2 Phase 3 of our reopening plan.
Karen Polito: (11:39)
This will allow indoor performance venues, such as concert halls, theaters, and other indoor performance spaces to reopen at 50% capacity with no more than 500 people. Indoor recreational activities like laser tag, rollerskating, trampolines and obstacle courses will be allowed to reopen at 50% capacity. All sectors with capacity limits will be permitted to operate at a 50% capacity and this will exclude employees.
Karen Polito: (12:08)
Examples of these industries includes arcades, fitness centers, libraries, museums and office spaces. Drive-in theaters, construction labs and manufacturing remain unaffected by capacity limits. Restaurant will be permitted to host musical performances. This is good news, Governor. You might be returning back to this very room in the near future.
Karen Polito: (12:33)
The percentage capacity restriction first adopted for restaurants in the midst of the December surge will be removed, but six foot social distancing, limits of six people per table and 90 minute limits remain in place. I see a lot of nods from the back of the room.
Karen Polito: (12:51)
Food courts will remain closed and effective March 1, Monday, fitting rooms will also be permitted to open in all retail businesses. As the Governor stated, effective March 22nd and subject to public health data, the gatherings limit will increase for event venues and public settings, but will stay the same in private settings, such as your residences and backyards.
Karen Polito: (13:16)
On March 22nd, again subject to continuing positive trends and COVID health data, event venues and public settings will be permitted to have 100 people indoors and 150 people outdoors with private settings remain at 10 indoors and 25 outdoors.
Karen Polito: (13:34)
At the same time, the commonwealth with move into Phase 4, Step 1 of our reopening plan. This feels good. This means that indoor and outdoor stadiums, arenas and ballparks will be permitted to reopen with a 12% capacity. This will include large venues like Gillette Stadium and Fenway Park that are defined as having a capacity of 5,000 people or more. Opening day is in our near future.
Karen Polito: (14:02)
Venues with capacities under 5,000 will remain subject to the indoor and outdoor performance venue guidance, and it’s separate capacity restrictions. All large venues will be required to submit a plan to DPH before opening.
Karen Polito: (14:17)
This phase of the reopening plan also includes overnight camps to open this summer. Exhibition and Convention Halls may reopen in order to host meetings and events, subject to gathering limits and event rules. Dance floors will be permitted and open at weddings and events only.
Karen Polito: (14:37)
We expect that with continuing positive health trends, we will be able to open other Phase 4 industries at a later date as Step 2 of Phase 4. As we continue to move through the plan we ask that residents continue to wear masks, social distance, and practice good hygiene. We are definitely close to the other end of this, but with COVID still with us we all need to continue to do our part.
Karen Polito: (15:06)
I am confident as is the Governor and our entire team that we will come back stronger than ever and we just need to hang in there until we get through the end of this. Continue to wear your mask, wash your hands, do all the things that you know so well. And at this time I’d like to turn it over to my partner in this reopening effort. And I just want to thank Secretary Kennealy and his team for their hard work as well. Secretary Kennealy.
Mike Kennealy: (15:40)
Thank you, Governor and Lieutenant Governor, it’s been a great partnership on re-opening. Thanks to the team of Ledger for hosting us here today. Mayor and Senator, great to see you in person after a nearly year of Zoom events and phone calls. Great to be here in person and Salem.
Mike Kennealy: (15:56)
With today’s reopening announcement I think we can all see much brighter days ahead. Since we began the reopening process with the release of our plan on May 18th of last year, we have always let the data and public health metrics guide our decisions. And this is why we are now moving forward with reopening. Even as we transitioned to Step 2 of Phase 3 on Monday, with an anticipated move to Phase 4 next month, we know that businesses like Ledger face significant challenges.
Mike Kennealy: (16:28)
We’re so grateful to you for your patience and your partnership throughout this pandemic to keep people safe. I’m pleased that we’re able to help Ledger and thousands of other restaurants across the state through direct financial support. And these businesses continue to need the support of their customers and communities as well. So please make reservations, order takeout and buy gift cards.
Mike Kennealy: (16:51)
Today, as the Governor mentioned, an additional 1,108 businesses are receiving COVID-19 relief grants totalling more than $49 million in awards to help with expenses like payroll, benefits, utilities, and rent. All of these businesses meet the demographic and sector priorities set for the grant program, ensuring that the hardest hit get the relief they need.
Mike Kennealy: (17:16)
More than half of today’s grantees are restaurants, bars, caterers, operators of personal services like hair salons and nail salons, and independent retailers. Additionally, more than half of the awardees are women and minority owned businesses. Now this does not happen by chance. This has been a focused strategy since day one.
Mike Kennealy: (17:36)
When the program was open for applications, there was a deliberate effort on the part of Mass Growth Capital and many partner organizations, especially those serving communities of color, to encourage businesses to apply and to help them with their applications. Especially those with language and conductivity barriers. And this round of awards in particular is due to the work of the team at Mass Growth Capital to not let an otherwise eligible application be denied simply because of missing paperwork.
Mike Kennealy: (18:08)
For the last few weeks the team has been doing outreach to applicants that met the program’s priorities, informing them that something was missing, working with them to rectify the problem, and in the case of today’s awardees, to get them a grant. With today’s announcement, the Baker-Polito administration, as the Governor said, has now awarded well over $500 million in direct financial support to around 12,000 businesses impacted by the pandemic.
Mike Kennealy: (18:35)
These are not insignificant dollars. In fact, as the Governor mentioned, our business relief program is the largest of its kind in the nation. These small business grants will help companies across Massachusetts get to the other side of the pandemic. The improving public health metrics are allowing the commonwealth to advance through the reopening of the economy. And the ongoing vaccination rollout will allow everybody to put this terrible time behind us. Thank you.
Charlie Baker: (19:16)
Speaker 1: (19:16)
Governor, just back to the 50,000 people that signed up on the website today, a lot of people that we’ve talked to are concerned that it crashed again. Whose fault is that and can you fix that? What’s the problem?
Charlie Baker: (19:29)
So first of all, there were no widespread outages on the site this morning. There are three scheduling platforms. Two of the scheduling platforms I think performed as anticipated. One of the scheduling platforms had wait times up there that just didn’t make any sense. But the system overall weathered a very significant surge of interested people this morning and remained online and booked 50,000 appointments over the course of the morning.
Charlie Baker: (19:59)
I think the big challenge we have here and I continue to talk to our team about this is, is there a way… And, I’m wide open to thoughts and ideas if people have them. But, is there a way when you only have a certain number of appointments you can book, and that’s the 130,000 plus or minus in first doses that we get every week, when you have so many people that are anxious to get vaccinated?
Charlie Baker: (20:27)
And we said many times that it’s going to take a while for everybody to get that first appointment when they become eligible. But I totally get and understand why people want to do it now and get it done now. And that’s why I really hope that when the folks at Pfizer and Moderna have talked about doubling their production in March, relative to what they did in February, and when the feds talk about approving Johnson & Johnson, that this is going to be for real.
Charlie Baker: (20:55)
Because being able to book far more appointments than we can book now, would make a really big difference. We have approximately 450,000 requests from our provider network that delivers vaccines every week for that 130,000 doses. One of my hopes here is that if the feds can increase supply, I think we can move a lot faster and it will take a big piece of the anxiety and the frustration that I know so many people feel out of this process.
Speaker 2: (21:32)
[crosstalk 00:21:32] reopening announcement. Does this mean that the second surge is over? And what does it say about, in terms of the variants that we’ve seen in other parts [crosstalk 00:21:41] How quickly can you snap back? It’s a lot harder to cancel Red Sox tickets and a wedding reception than it is a restaurant potentially. These are long-term plans that people make. Can you snap these businesses back if the numbers [inaudible 00:21:57]
Charlie Baker: (21:59)
There are a couple of things going on here. Remember, at this point in time we’ve vaccinated 65-
Charlie Baker: (22:03)
Remember, at this point in time, we vaccinated 65% of the population over the age of 75. And there are folks in that community … And that by the way, is about 10 points higher than the national average. And those folks are continuing to get vaccinated because they continue to be eligible. We vaccinated over 90% of all of our skilled nursing facility residents and over 70% of their staff. And that 70% of the staff number’s important because obviously those folks deal with the people who they’re taking care of every day, who are part of the residential community there. And that’s 20 points higher than the national average as well. Part of the goal here was to make sure we got to a bunch of the most vulnerable populations. And there’s a bunch of reasons for that.
Charlie Baker: (22:49)
One is it certainly preserves life and it protects the people who are most at risk of COVID to begin with. But the second thing it does is it means you’ll see hopefully less of those folks who are prone to end up being hospitalized and God forbid passing away, ending up getting hospitalized at all. One of the big things we have always worried about with respect to COVID from the beginning is hospitalization rates. The big challenge for us in the spring and us through the fall is as those hospitalization rates for COVID go up, they take away bed capacity for people who are dealing with other medical conditions.
Charlie Baker: (23:28)
And while I certainly worry about the variants and why I think we are in a race against time to get people vaccinated as fast as we can, which is why I would love to see the feds put additional vaccine in front of every state, including us here in Massachusetts, I do think by choosing and targeting very particular populations that we were most concerned about … Remember we also made a decision very few other states made to vaccinate staff and residents of people with mental health issues, staff and residents of group homes for people with developmental disabilities, home healthcare workers, personal care attendants, people who deal with a lot of seniors who have medical conditions or people with disabilities. I mean, we chased a whole bunch of folks early on and got pretty decent vaccination rates out of them, who are among those who either work with people who ended up getting hospitalized or who run the risk of getting hospitalized themself. And I do believe that means that as we continue to vaccinate people, we will take additional risk associated with the healthcare system off the table.
Speaker 3: (24:38)
And if Fenway reopens for a baseball game, will it continue to be a vaccination center?
Charlie Baker: (24:41)
We’ve talked to both Fenway and Gillette about this, and I don’t have a hard answer for you on that one today. Obviously they’re important players in this vaccination effort and we’re going to try and figure that one out.
Speaker 4: (24:52)
And Governor, quickly, just to follow-up on Steve’s question. So, you were just saying if in fact we get more vaccine, that the website will be able to handle large amounts of people who try to sign up.
Charlie Baker: (24:54)
Well, when you go on that website and you find out that there are 69,520 people in front of you, which is one of the things I saw this morning from a friend of mine who is trying to get an appointment. He knows how many appointments are available. So for him, that’s a frustrating experience. If you really want to be able to deescalate some of the anxiety and the frustration people have, the more opportunity we have to say yes when someone goes to that site, when those new appointments go up every week, the less likely it is people are going to run into something where they see a number like that and they just say, “Geez, I’m not going to be able to get an appointment today,” which I’m completely familiar with the frustration for it, because I’ve got a lot of people who I know who fall into those categories.
Speaker 5: (25:56)
Governor, how do you address the frustration of people who say, “This is great. We’re trying to get to the other side, this entire relieving plan, but I couldn’t go online today and still book an appointment for my vaccination. So what kind of progress is that really for me?”
Charlie Baker: (26:08)
Well, we have made progress. I mean remember, that site’s book 300,000 appointments so far, and Massachusetts has first dosed about 1.2 million people. And that number will go up. The number of people who will get first dosed is going to go up by at least 130,000 every single week. But everybody who wants to get vaccinated isn’t going to be able to get vaccinated right away. And I get the fact that that’s frustrating and anxiety provoking for everybody, but we can only go as fast as the supply permits us to go.
Speaker 6: (26:49)
Governor, some of the biggest groups are yet to come. Are you considering perhaps smaller steps so that there isn’t a stampede effect? Perhaps lowering it to 60, 55 or just bringing in certain essential workers instead of all essential workers.
Charlie Baker: (27:02)
So, there’s a couple of really interesting points in that. The first is when the program was basically put together with respect to how eligibility would work and what was in each of the phases, the assumptions people had about how much supply would be available were a lot different than what they turned out to be. And then the feds have acknowledged that the rollout is slower than they anticipated it would be. And that’s part of why these announcements about Pfizer and Moderna enhancing their production schedules and J & J getting approved makes such a big difference, especially if they move quickly enough to actually change the game in March, which starts next week.
Charlie Baker: (27:37)
I think we have a lot of capacity to vaccinate people in Massachusetts right now. I mean as I said, we get 450,000 requests plus or minus from people that are in the vaccination business here in the Commonwealth for first doses, and we can’t come close to meeting that demand with what we have available. I do think if the feds dramatically increase the amount of vaccine they make available, we will be able to vaccinate more people, fewer people will be frustrated, and we’ll be able to put what I think at this point is a fairly significant community out there that can vaccinate people and are designated and certified to do so to work.
Speaker 7: (28:20)
Governor, I have a question.
Speaker 8: (28:23)
Governor, today the [Front Law 00:28:24] CEO said that the state has the technology to have a centralized registration system that the federal delegation has been asking for, a lot of people have been asking for. Why isn’t the state going forward with the centralized registration system?
Charlie Baker: (28:36)
So I’m not familiar with what she said. I’ll make sure we get back to you later today on that one. I’m not familiar with what she said.
Speaker 8: (28:45)
And if the website is still crashing when you have the number of people trying to sign up today that we have signing up, how is more vaccines going to solve that problem?
Charlie Baker: (28:52)
Well first of all, the website didn’t crash today. First of all, there were no widespread outages on the site today. There was a lot of information that showed up on the site that made people deeply unhappy, and that part I get. I think if you have more vaccine available and more appointments that you can make available to people, then people move through the system. But if your system only has the 130,000 or the 50,000 that were available through the website today that are available for first doses, and you have hundreds of thousands of people or more who are eligible, and they end up being number 69,214 in a waiting room, that’s a lot of people sitting around doing nothing.
Charlie Baker: (29:41)
I mean, one of the reasons why additional supply would make a big difference and additional appointments would make a big difference is you wouldn’t have so many people just parked. You’d have people actually in the process of doing the actual scheduling of their appointment, which at this point in time, you have far more people, way more people waiting than you have actually scheduling an appointment at any point in time.
Speaker 9: (30:08)
Governor, [crosstalk 00:30:08] restaurants are … Governor, we’re happy both reopening, excuse me. But I wonder, many of them hang on by a tread, a lot of folks across the state. What can the state do moving forward to help make sure that these restaurants who are basically just barely getting by start to flourish again? I know there’s loans. Is that going to continue? What else can you do?
Charlie Baker: (30:27)
Well, this grant program that we talked about today is the biggest program of its kind in the country, not per capita, not per GDP, biggest period. And those 12,000 businesses that have benefited from that program, many of them fell into exactly the kind of spaces that run up and down downtowns all over Massachusetts. We have additional resources that were made available by the legislature earlier this year to do a number of different things. I mean, one of the things I was talking to Mayor Driscoll about, I would really like to see us continue to deliver on the Shared Streets program we developed, which makes it possible for downtown businesses, many of which are restaurants and other entertainment venues, to be able to use their front door or their back door, whichever one happens to be the most appropriate one for them, to expand their footprint and to be able to serve more people.
Charlie Baker: (31:25)
I think the other thing I would say is that we have capital funds made available through the economic development bill that we’ll be able to put to work to support a lot of these businesses as well. But the single biggest thing that I think is important to remember today when it comes to restaurants and other indoor entertainment venues, and even the outdoor ones, is as COVID cases go down, as vaccinations go up, you will find people more comfortable and more willing to go out and play a little bit. Now we want them to go out and play with their household. I mean, we’re still very concerned about some of the issues around gatherings, but I do think for many of these places, it’s not just a function of the rules, it’s also a function of the larger context in the environment. And the good news associated with the drop in case counts and the drop in hospitalizations and the increase in vaccinations is, part of the message there is it’s okay to go back to doing some of the things you were doing before.
Speaker 10: (32:39)
Governor, Connecticut lawmakers were accusing you of focusing on the fact that there is still a deficit of the supply of vaccine, but they’re saying there still are some pretty obvious technology failures. People were also getting broken links today. [inaudible 00:32:52] Driscoll accused you of missing how broken the system is. I’m wondering if you can respond to that.
Charlie Baker: (32:58)
I continue to believe that our biggest problem under any scenario here is we don’t have enough-
Charlie Baker: (33:03)
The biggest problem under any scenario here is we don’t have enough supply to meet demand. And we have a lot of folks in Massachusetts who are able to provide vaccinations. We have regional collaboratives, we have provider organizations, we have community health centers, we have mass vaccination sites, lots and lots of capacity. I would like to have all of that capacity fully deployed all the time. That would be the fastest way to get through all of these phases and to get more people vaccinated. The biggest thing we need to do that is more vaccine [crosstalk 00:33:38].
Speaker 11: (33:38)
Governor, almost everyone I’ve talked to, a reasonable person, has said the issue is not capacity. It’s the issue of process with signing up on that website. Your administration has said they’re continuing to work on the keys to that website. What’s going to change between now and [inaudible 00:33:54]?
Charlie Baker: (33:55)
Well, hopefully the feds will send us more vaccine. That would make a big difference.
Speaker 11: (33:58)
[inaudible 00:33:58] more vaccine. I want to hear about the website.
Charlie Baker: (34:01)
Well, we’ve made a number of improvements to the website over the course of the past several weeks, which were all based on guidance and input we got from folks in the community. And we’ll continue to add functionality, if that functionality we believe will improve user experience and improve the functionality of the site generally. But if you have a million people who are eligible to sign up for an appointment and you only have 130,000 new first doses, every week you’re going to have a whole bunch of people who go on that site who are going to be frustrated about the fact that they can’t make an appointment. And I think being able to make an appointment is a fundamental element of how we enhance and improve people’s satisfaction with the site and with the process, generally.
Speaker 12: (34:50)
[crosstalk 00:34:50] the current CEO said there is functionality and include [inaudible 00:34:54] didn’t hear her comment, but she said [inaudible 00:34:57] is a random function that can be selected, where people could pre-register and then be randomly selected to make an appointment. You keep emphasizing the lack of supply, but you don’t seem willing to consider that there are changes that can be made to avoid people having to spend hours and hours each week and get no results.
Charlie Baker: (35:13)
So let’s talk a little bit about the random one. Would you be willing to give up a whole bunch of appointments that people could otherwise choose to sign up for themselves to make that possible?
Charlie Baker: (35:26)
I mean, the thing to remember here is every time you take an appointment, right? Random or whatever the mechanism is. You just took it away from somebody else who could have signed up for it. This is a completely zero sum game at this point. Every appointment that’s available is being filled. If every appointment that’s available is being filled, anytime you create capacity somewhere to do something like a random distribution, you’re taking it away from other people who could otherwise have signed up for it. And that’s why I say at the end of the day, the biggest challenge we have is we don’t have enough appointments.
Charlie Baker: (36:04)
And the reason we won’t have enough appointments is because we don’t have enough supply. If the feds increase the supply, we will increase gladly the number of appointments and people will book those based on the availability of additional appointments. But you can’t just magically create a thousand random appointments that you’re going to send out to somebody off a preregistration without taking it away from a bunch of other people who want to sign up and to get vaccinated. I mean, for me, that’s the big challenge here. It’s not like there are a whole bunch of appointments sitting around someplace that aren’t being used. Our challenge is more vaccine means more appointments, more appointments means more people get what they’re looking for, which is a chance to get vaccinated.
Speaker 13: (36:49)
Thanks, everybody [crosstalk 00:36:49].
Speaker 14: (36:49)
… of course, the real thing is driven by the data. And I thing going back to David’s earlier question. I have a function hall and a venue. When I started booking events. What happens if the data does go in another direction? Is there a possibility that people will be disappointed that they’re going to have to pull back again?
Charlie Baker: (37:04)
Well, keep in mind that we were fairly careful, I guess I would say, when we started back in May with the reopening, right? And at that point in time, a bunch of people said you’re going too fast. And a bunch of people said you’re going too slow, right? And a whole bunch of other things.
Charlie Baker: (37:22)
We didn’t see a significant increase in COVID cases during that time. Everybody played by the rules. People had a really good summer for the most part. And when cases started to climb again in the fall, we had to make adjustments based on that. And nobody liked it. It wasn’t something that anybody looked forward to, but as our hospitalizations climbed, and as some of those other issues associated with our health care system started to get severe with respect to bed capacity and the like, it was important for us to make some very difficult decisions around a stay at home advisory, around capacity limits, and a whole series of other decisions.
Charlie Baker: (38:08)
We would not be here making this announcement if we didn’t think we had seen for, almost two months now, positive trends on cases and hospitalizations combined with a million, one first dose vaccines and a tremendous amount of high percentage participation among many of our most vulnerable populations that would normally end up in the hospital. Is it possible because of a variant or something else that we might see the numbers move in a different direction? Yes, but that’s always going to be the challenge that we face when we make decisions, but we believe based on what is available to us, what we know, what we’ve seen in the data, that at this point in time, we should be able to move what I would describe as forward.
Charlie Baker: (38:58)
Although, you could also say it’s back to where we were before the surge took off in the fall. And that the data at this point justifies that.
Speaker 15: (39:07)
Governor, do you know if any localities will not move forward if lost [crosstalk 00:39:12]?
Charlie Baker: (39:11)
Yeah, look. We said from the very beginning of this, that if communities want to go less aggressively or more conservatively than whatever it is we propose, that’s fine with us. And I anticipate some may and I’ll give you a reason why. Some may choose to do that because they’re concerned about St. Patrick’s Day, right? That’s a complicated time when it comes to COVID. Okay. And if some communities made a decision to say, you know what, we’re not going to do A, B or C until after we get past St Patrick’s Day, make perfect sense to me.
Speaker 15: (39:49)
Have you heard from [inaudible 00:39:49] officials if they will be taking advantage of that opportunity, or they will they be [inaudible 00:39:49] with this data?
Charlie Baker: (39:54)
I’m not sure what decision, but they certainly know what we are proposing today. And we gave heads up to most of the local officials. So they’d have the ability to decide where they wanted to fit and how they wanted to play. But that’s been true pretty much since the beginning of this.
Speaker 13: (40:18)
Speaker 16: (40:18)
[crosstalk 00:40:18] question. [inaudible 00:40:18] talked about double masking today. Doesn’t that kind of fly in the face of everything you’re announcing today? And do advocate that or not?
Charlie Baker: (40:20)
I think the guidance around masking is important and everybody should do whatever they think they need to do to be most comfortable. And depending upon what you do for work, who you engage with, what kind of situations you’re in, people need to make whatever they think is the right call. If somebody is concerned about their close contact with various populations, and they think a double mask would make them more comfortable in those circumstances, in those situations, they should go for that. And they should do that. I was glad to see, by the way, that the White House was talking about acquiring and sending a lot of N95 masks to many of the communities around the country that were hardest hit.
Charlie Baker: (41:11)
We would love to participate in making sure those get distributed out to people. But I think the most important thing about all of this is the distance, masking, over your nose. Doesn’t make anybody happy, but following the rules associated with that and making sure whatever kind of mask you’re wearing, there’s a bunch of rules. Hold it up to the light. If you can see through it, that’s a problem. If you could blow a candle out when you have your mask on, that’s a problem. I mean, there are a lot of very basic things that people should be thinking about with respect to masks and to safety. And what I would say about the double is that’s a perfectly appropriate decision for people in certain situations and circumstances.
Speaker 16: (41:55)
Governor, when do you think you’ll have more information about what’s going to happen in that vaccination site that [inaudible 00:41:59]?
Charlie Baker: (42:03)
Well, this really won’t be a… Yeah. I mean, we got them almost a month here to figure this out. Thanks everybody.
Speaker 13: (42:12)
Speaker 17: (42:13)
Governor, can you just quickly paint a picture of what Fenway Park will look like this year on the home opener?
Charlie Baker: (42:18)
I’m going to leave that one to Fenway Park to explain what it will look like. I’m sure there’ll be a big American flag hanging out off the Green Monster and left field. But beyond that, I got no idea. Thanks everybody.