Nov 13, 2020
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker Press Conference Transcript November 13
Governor of Massachusetts Charlie Baker’s coronavirus press conference on November 13. Read the transcript of his press conference with updates for the state here.
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Gov. Baker: (00:06)
So good afternoon. Today we’ll be talking about some of the work that the command center is doing with some of our colleagues from the hospital community to start planning for setting up field hospitals. We’re pleased to be joined by Eric Dixon who is the CEO of UMass Memorial in Worcester and by MEMA director Sam Phillips. With respect to the daily update yesterday the Department of Public Health reported 2,482 new cases, the seven day average positivity rate is 2.9%. 98,075 tests were reported and over seven million tests at this point have been administered in Massachusetts. Since the spring, we’ve worked to expand our testing program in a pretty big way and we now have the capacity to do at least 100,000 tests a day and have been floating around in that vicinity on a number of days in the last few weeks.
Gov. Baker: (01:03)
661 individuals have COVID and are in the hospital and 151 are in the ICU. Across the nation and around the world as we talked about before, we’ve been seeing an increase in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations and since Labor Day here in Massachusetts, cases have increased by seven times and over the same period of time hospitalizations have increased by two times. Today we have about 661 individuals in the hospital compared to about 178 on Labor Day and the numbers clearly have been trending in the wrong direction since the end of summer. We have been talking to and working with our hospitals all the way through this exercise dating back to last spring and have been talking recently with them about treating an influx of COVID-19 patients and last spring among other things we made the very difficult decision to have hospitals focus almost exclusively on COVID patients at the expense of almost everything else to ensure that we had enough capacity to serve those who had COVID and as a result over that period of time, there were many people who put off getting routine and in some cases serious medical care which created a secondary problem.
Gov. Baker: (02:26)
Since then we’ve been working closely with the hospitals to work to prevent having a similar kind of circumstance play out here this year and we believe that it’s possible to create the capacity that we need here in Massachusetts to treat non-COVID medical care and COVID medical care as we work our way through this surge. Hospitals are currently operating at about 73% of capacity and ICU capacity, this is overall, is at about 50%. The hospital community is prepared to make an additional 400 beds available on their own by converting acute care beds into ICU beds and last spring I think as people know we stood up about five field hospitals which had a total of about 1,000 beds between them. These sites serve as space for patients needing a lower level of care so that more seriously ill patients could be treated in the hospitals. Over 700 patients were served between the sites at the DCU in Worcester and at the Boston Hope Site in Boston and three of those field hospitals were ultimately not used in the spring.
Gov. Baker: (03:40)
We’re announcing today that we’re going to re-establish a field hospital with 240 beds at the DCU Center in Worcester. MEMA and the command center have activated plans to mobilize that site and we expect it to be available for patients if needed by the first week of December. The National Guard, as they did last year, will support the setup of this facility, and UMass Memorial will serve as the clinical partner for the site which will be staffed by professionals from their team.
Gov. Baker: (04:10)
The command center and MEMA are continuing to have discussions with other hospitals and local officials to identify other locations for field hospitals if they are needed and Sam Phillips will speak about this in a bit more detail in just a minute. We have been working with our colleagues in the hospital community for quite a while to make sure that they have every resource they need to fight the virus but we also need everyone else to play their part in this fight. As most people know, yesterday the commonwealth reached a tragic milestone, 10,000 confirmed COVID deaths here in the commonwealth. This merciless virus has undoubtedly impacted practically everybody one way or another here in Massachusetts and reaching this unfortunate milestone serves as a reminder that COVID is a complex and potentially deadly virus. We get the fact that for many people it can be mild or even invisible which is one of the things that makes it particularly insidious but we can all if we have it spread it to some others for whom it could be a life-threatening and extraordinarily dangerous illness, and that is really in many respects where the tragedy comes from. We’ve learned a lot about this virus since last spring but we still have a long way to go and at the end of the day the tools we have put together only go so far. We can only set up so many extra beds. Every single person in Massachusetts needs to appreciate the significance of their role in dealing with the spread of this virus. People need to change their behavior and get serious about who they spend time with, how they act, and why Massachusetts is at risk primarily because of a lot of the things people do when they put down their guard.
Gov. Baker: (06:18)
This isn’t a guess or a warning. There’s a growing base of evidence across the country that a big part of what’s been driving the increase in cases and hospitalizations is in many respects what I would call the individual acts of many people engaged in familiar activity on a casual basis with people they’re familiar with and there have been several studies that have been done that have shown that people’s social circles have actually grown since last spring primarily as a result of people getting comfortable that the virus had receded. But the math here is pretty simple. As cases increase, hospitalizations will increase too. Now because so many people in Massachusetts continue to wear masks in public places and when they go out, continue to socially distance, continue to do many of the right things, the rate of growth and hospitalizations has been at nowhere near the same clip as the rate of growth in cases, but the simple truth is they’re both heading in the wrong direction and they’ve been heading in the wrong direction now since Labor Day.
Gov. Baker: (07:41)
We all have a critical responsibility to understand and appreciate that we can play, as individuals, as families, a big role in reducing the spread of this virus. People should remember to get tested. We have Stop the Spread sites across the commonwealth, we have over 250 testing sites, and as I said earlier, we’re now testing somewhere between 80,000 and 100,000 people a day and the turnaround time on average is less than two days with respect to getting results.
Gov. Baker: (08:18)
If you’re not around members of your immediate family and I mean your immediate family, you should wear a mask, indoors and outdoors. I know that sounds aggressive but the simple truth is this expansion of people’s social circles and this desire to get back to something like normal is a big part of what’s driving case growth and ultimately hospitalizations not just here in Massachusetts but across the country.
Gov. Baker: (08:54)
In many respect, it’s a big part of where the greatest opportunity we all have as individuals rests with respect to not only protecting ourselves but protecting the people we care about. Make no mistake, this also has an impact on things like work and on things like school. We should not forget about that as well.
Gov. Baker: (09:23)
Go to work. Most people at work are doing all the right things. We’ve done thousands and thousands of inspections and surveys. Communities have done thousands more. People at work, people with customers, people with their own employees are doing the things that are recommended. They’re wearing face coverings, they are distancing, there’s hand sanitizers all over the place, and people generally are stepping up. Schools have proven to be relatively safe at every level, K through 12 and up through college. There are a lot of people who said that when the kids came back to school in the fall, when the kids came back to college, that would be a disaster. It wasn’t. Why? Because we worked really hard with the Broad Institute and the colleges to put together testing regimens which people abided by, participated in religiously, and kids for the most part did the right things.
Gov. Baker: (10:42)
In the places and spaces where we’re supposed to do the right things, people are doing the right things and it has made a big difference with respect to especially hospitalizations but everybody has to play and in those small moments, in those small groups, in those most familiar settings, people need to recognize and understand that the role they play here is an important one.
Gov. Baker: (11:13)
If you need another example let’s talk about youth hockey. It wasn’t so much the actual act of playing youth hockey that created the very significant cluster across New England that came out of this. It was the 12 hours or 14 hours that adults and kids were spending at a rink, playing in round robin tournaments, where the kids were spending far more time horsing around with each other, no offense meant to kids on that one, I had three, then they were actually playing on the ice, and where the grownups were spending far more time socializing with one another in the parking lot or in the facility than they were spending actually watching their kids play. People who knew each other, familiar settings, casual behavior, and the silent spread of the virus just roared through that community.
Gov. Baker: (12:27)
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is, and I know it sounds like I’m lecturing and I probably am, but how important it is for people to truly wrap their head around this concept that the innocent acts of small gatherings is where COVID is finding its greatest opportunity to spread. You’re probably going to hear this three or four times from me between now and Thanksgiving too. Because if you look at what happened in Canada and their Thanksgiving was in October.
Gov. Baker: (13:02)
… in Canada, and their Thanksgiving was in October, two weeks later, their numbers spiked for exactly the same reason. We didn’t put that stay-at-home advisory in place without thinking real hard about it. We did it to send a message that if people want to have the kind of holiday season, a safe holiday season, one where businesses are open and available, that people who work there and people shop there were supervised, organized, inspected, recreational and entertainment venues are available, where our hospital system is actually managing a load that they can carry, people need to think real hard about the role they can play as individuals in helping us work our way through this. We’re living in a pandemic. I know some people would prefer to think otherwise, but it’s true and it’s real and it’s all over the country. In fact, it’s all over big parts of the Western world. I know that people are tired of dealing with COVID. Believe me, the Lieutenant Governor and I shake our heads over how much time we continue to spend on this issue. The vast majority of people in Massachusetts, the vast majority of the time, are doing the right things and it has made a difference. Just look at the trajectory of cases back in the spring and look at the trajectory now, it’s really different. But the trajectory now is sustained and troubling, and everybody needs to step up and help ensure that we get our arms around this. We have a ton of testing capacity, we have a ton of tracing capacity, we have a ton of PPE. We’ve learned a lot about this thing, but we can’t get from here to there without the help of everybody here in the commonwealth.
Gov. Baker: (16:21)
I visited a school yesterday, it’s an elementary middle school in Carlisle. It’s been pretty much in-person since they started the school year. It was a reminder to me, it’s the first school I visited in a really long time, like probably back to before this whole thing started, but it was a vivid reminder to me of what in-person education means for kids. Younger kids with visual aids and a teacher and an aide walk in the room, very distanced, everybody wearing a mask. I did not see a kid without a mask on, and I saw a hundreds of them and they seemed completely comfortable with it. But you watch that in-person learning experience and the first thing I’m reminded of is what we’ve lost, on behalf of so many children in Massachusetts, since this thing started last March and why it’s so important that we recognize and understand that the actions we all take have a big impact on things like whether or not these kids, all of them, get to have this kind of experience.
Gov. Baker: (17:48)
When you watch the interplay between a teacher and a classroom, where that teacher can look directly at every student and see who’s getting it and who’s not and stop and say, “Do you really understand what I’m saying?” and work it through with that child in the moment, it’s impossible for me to imagine how you could possibly deliver on that with the same degree of success and effectiveness through some other means.
Gov. Baker: (18:28)
Believe me, we all know how important it is for people to continue to be able to work. I can’t tell you how much mail, online and written, the Lieutenant Governor and I have both gotten from people talking about not just the fact that the work helps them pay the bills, but about how work creates a purpose, and how worried they are that as these cases go up they’re going to lose their ability to continue to be able to do something that almost everybody says was so much more precious than I realized until it almost got taken away from me.
Gov. Baker: (19:18)
I don’t want to use this sports analogy because I overdo it all the time, but people need to understand that the time is now, this is real. The more people do to take care of the business of battling COVID, not just when they’re doing formal things, but when they’re doing all those informal things too, the more likely we are as a commonwealth to weather what is obviously a really significant growth in cases, hospitalizations, and all of the calamity that comes with that.
Gov. Baker: (20:17)
I really do hope that people take this message to heart, because we can do a lot of things and we will, but in the end, we need everybody to play and to up their game and to recognize that the benefits dramatically outweigh the temporary inconvenience and some of the awkwardness that comes with incorporating these very simple strategies into everything they do.
Gov. Baker: (20:57)
With that, I’ll turn it over to Sam.
Thank you, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary Sudders, and Dr. Dickson. On behalf of Secretary Turco and the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security and all of my colleagues at MEMA, thank you for inviting me here to speak about the alternate care site reactivation at the DCU Center in Worcester.
The opening of a field hospital takes a small army of people to plan, transport, construct, and of course, to operate safely for patients. As the Governor and Secretary mentioned, this is a mission MEMA has previously coordinated with the command center and many other partners when we set up five field hospitals in the spring. This week, we’ve begun the process that will add up to 240 beds within the healthcare system to support hospitals and healthcare providers continue their vital COVID-19 response and their equally important mission of providing day-to-day healthcare services for millions of residents during a pandemic.
Under the direction of the command center over the next several weeks, MEMA will coordinate the construction build-out of the field hospital at the DCU Center, including everything from logistics, packing, shipping four tractor trailer’s worth of beds and related equipment and supplies. We are incredibly grateful to have the support of many partners, including the DCU Center, UMass Memorial Health Care, and the city of Worcester. All have stepped up, once again, to take on the roles they performed so well during the spring.
UMass Memorial will again lead all clinical operations at the field hospital. We will work with the DCU Center on issues related to the physical space and set up, and we will partner with the city of Worcester on security planning and compliance with various local health and safety requirements. If all goes according to plan, and we expect that it will, the field hospital will be ready to accept patients during the first week in December. As mentioned, we also continue evaluating other locations for field hospitals if opening additional sites becomes necessary.
In closing, let me again thank the many frontline and essential workers who have made it their mission to keep us all safe during one of the greatest pandemics of our lifetimes. It’s an honor to support them and work alongside of many of them at MEMA, but it’s not enough to just recognize and thank them. Each of us needs to make a commitment to them. For each person who has given so much during this response, who’ve gone through so much, to the people who step up and work at the DCU Center for a second time, the construction workers, doctors, nurses, EMTs, security guards, custodial staff, and volunteers, we need to commit to them right now that we will wear a mask and follow the public health guidelines that we have heard so often. When we wear a mask, practice good hand hygiene and keep a safe distance from others, we help stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.
By taking measures to protect ourselves and our families, we also keep the frontline and essential workers safe. They have been showing up to serve us every day and we can choose through our actions to serve them as well. I’m confident that we will. Thank you. Now, I’d like to pass it to Dr. Eric Dickson.
Dr. Eric Dickson: (24:29)
Thank you, Sam. On behalf of all healthcare workers across the state of Massachusetts, I want to say thank you to the citizens of the commonwealth that are following the rules, that are wearing their mask indoors and outdoors unless they are with their immediate family, that are minimizing any social gatherings, that are keeping the social distancing that we know works and stops the spread of this infection.
Dr. Eric Dickson: (24:54)
I think in Massachusetts, we have most people doing the right thing most of the time, but that’s not enough. We need everyone doing the right thing every day. Because we don’t have that, we are seeing a significant rise in the number of hospitalizations across the state, of patients suffering from this awful disease, COVID-19. At our own medical center in Worcester, we are full. We are right now starting to cancel elective procedures at some level and are not able to take the tertiary referrals from smaller hospitals that depend on us. That is because we haven’t all followed the rules, and so we will stand up once again the DCU field hospital.
Dr. Eric Dickson: (25:39)
Once again, I will have to ask our caregivers to rise to the occasion and to take care of our communities when they need us most. I know they’re up for the challenge. I know they can do it, but frankly, they shouldn’t have to do it. We should be able to control the level of the spread of this infection and we shouldn’t need additional capacity, but we do. So my plea to you is on behalf-
Dr. Eric Dickson: (26:03)
… but we do. So my plea to you is, on behalf of the healthcare workers around the state who ultimately are the ones that are bearing the burden of dealing with this disease and have to go into rooms and risk getting infected themselves, please, please, everyone follow the rules every day. That’s my message to you. And I want to thank the lieutenant governor and governor and Secretary Sudders for having the faith in UMass Memorial to be able to complete this mission. We won’t let you down. Thank you.
Gov. Baker: (26:39)
Speaker 1: (26:43)
Governor, why only one per hospital at this point? And I know Hampden County is having some issues, Bristol. Are there others that you could perceive pretty quickly have to open, or is just Worcester the issue right now?
Gov. Baker: (26:52)
Worcester has what I would describe as the biggest issue at the moment. As Eric said, they’re basically full. I think we’re currently talking to our colleagues sort of north to New Hampshire and west to New York and south down to Rhode Island and Connecticut. And I think you’re likely going to see us set up others, but we want to do it on a stage basis, working with the hospitals and the care providers in those areas so that we have the ability to do it and do it right.
Speaker 1: (27:27)
Are you still thinking that you will not need to close down businesses, segments like gyms, and perhaps indoor dining at restaurants?
Gov. Baker: (27:35)
Well, we’ve said all along that our biggest goal with respect to everything is to make sure that we follow the data. And the data here and the data in many other places, and there are now been a series of national stories written about this, it’s pretty clear that it’s private activity and private citizens that are driving a big piece of this. And I think of the stuff like the youth hockey piece. I think of that as private activity as well. And we’ve done more than 10,000 inspections of operating businesses in Massachusetts that serve customers of one kind or another. And the number that have been found in violation of our rules is very small.
Speaker 2: (28:21)
Governor, quick math question. We’re about a week into the new wearing masks in public and stuff like that. Do you guys have any estimates on what that could reduce as far as the number of cases when we get a couple more weeks into these new restrictions? Is there any sort of math? I don’t know if the secretary [inaudible 00:28:40].
Gov. Baker: (28:42)
It’s really going to come down, to some extent, how much benefit we’ll get from the orders that we issued two weeks ago. It’s going to be a function of how much people comply with them. And I think, in some respects, that’s a very hard thing to measure. I don’t know. Some of the studies that have been done that say if you do this with respect to masks, then you get this benefit. They’re pretty hard wired. And honestly, I think the whole issue around masks generally is a little more complicated than that.
Gov. Baker: (29:18)
I mean, my view would be that the two things I think are most important about wearing masks are number one, it’s not a secret that a big chunk of the folks who get this virus, even the people who become symptomatic, will, in some cases, go a few days asymptomatic, but contagious. And there are also a lot of people who get light to no symptoms that they think they have an allergy or they think they have a cold or they’re just kind of achy because they think they haven’t been sleeping well. And they are contagious and they don’t know it necessarily, but they’re perfectly capable of giving it to somebody for whom it could be a really big deal. So for me, goal number one in this has always been there are lots of good reasons to wear a mask because you may be sick and you may be contagious and not even know it.
Gov. Baker: (30:07)
And the second, of course, is the flip side of this, which is those same people may be relating to and connecting with you and you don’t necessarily know that they’re contagious and able to make you sick. And if both people are wearing this, it does two things. Number one, it dramatically reduces the likelihood of transmission from an infected person to an uninfected person. And the second thing it does is if there is transmission, it’s dramatically less transmission, which significantly reduces the viral load that lands on the other person, which does have the potential to reduce how badly and how sick they get, how badly they get it and how sick they get. And I think we now have eight or 10 months of sort of universal agreement about those issues amongst most of the folks in the healthcare world. Eric, I don’t know if you want to speak directly to this issue or not, but it just seems to me that it’s pretty clear that it’s the right way to go for a whole bunch of really good reasons.
Speaker 3: (31:13)
Gov. Baker: (31:26)
Well, I mean, part of the goal we have with the hospital community is to continue to talk to them about how we can supplement their existing infrastructure so that they have the ability to do what they need to do. And our goal at this point is to do all we possibly can to make sure that we can keep schools open and we can keep businesses operating. Especially since, at this point, there’s a ton of data that says that schools and businesses, generally speaking, are not what’s driving the spread at this point in time.
Reporter 1: (32:04)
Governor, I just talked to a Harvard epidemiologist. I asked him about opening field hospitals. He said that’s like having a broken faucet that’s gushing and trying to solve the problem by mopping up. I mean, he understands the need for it. But he’s big on [inaudible 00:32:13] and big on testing in home, you can do it yourself twice a week. He describes it as brush your teeth, take a test, and if you’re positive, stay home. That that could be a real answer to this. And he has no faith that the administration in Washington is going to do that, at least not before mid-January. He said companies in Massachusetts could make these tests right now, distribute them right now, that would make a huge difference. Can you imagine taking that kind of action if there isn’t anything forthcoming from Washington?
Gov. Baker: (32:46)
So I would say, based on the information we’ve gathered about testing generally, is there has been significant progress made on improving both the quality and the price of self-administered type tests. We’re not there yet, but if you take a look at that BinaxNOW test, for example, which the federal government bought 150 million, is that right? They bought 150 million of those tests. They paid five bucks a piece for them. And that’s the price most people say is probably going to end up being close to what they land in the market at. There’s a lot of evidence and a growing base of evidence that those tests are quite accurate and produce a result in 15 minutes. And the big issue at this point is the Fed’s bought them all that were set up for manufacture in the short term. We’ll probably end up getting a couple of million of them and we’ll use them to support a variety of enterprises like schools and long-term care and that type of thing. But once you get past the point of the Fed purchase and the Fed distribution, I’m fully expecting that test is going to become available. And it would work. It’s currently approved to have a skilled person collect the sample. Okay? But it’s actually not a deep nasal test. It’s the front of the nose. It’s five spins on each nostril. I have to believe at some point, as people get more comfortable with this, it’s possible. I believe at some point people will start talking about that test as a self-administered test. And as I said, both on sensitivity and specificity, the scores on that thing are quite good. And I think we will have that type of test available for wide distribution. And that will be, I think, as the person you were talking to suggested, a real game changer with respect to people’s ability to monitor and measure their own state of play day in and day out.
Reporter 1: (35:03)
He pointed out that we need it to be convenient. I don’t want to have to go out and get a test-
Gov. Baker: (35:11)
Reporter 1: (35:14)
I know other people don’t want to have to go out and get a test. If I could brush my teeth, take a test, “Oh, gee, look, I tested positive.” Call in, “I’m not coming to work. I got to quarantine.”
Gov. Baker: (35:18)
Well, and then because you’re getting in a fairly short period of time, you can also stay away from the other members of your family or have them test as well. Do you want to speak at all to this? How am I doing on this? Okay, all right. But that is, in many respects, a huge part of the answer. Yeah.
Reporter 3: (35:31)
Governor Baker, [inaudible 00:35:33] is scheduled to have an exam tomorrow for captains. And we understand the state confirmed that some of the candidates for this exam have tested positive. Some of them are under quarantine [inaudible 00:35:43]. Are you confident that this exam can take place with procedures in place to keep everyone safe? And did it require an exemption to gathering [inaudible 00:35:51]?
Gov. Baker: (35:55)
I have no information on what you’re discussing with us, but Terry and I will make sure that we huddle and we’ll get you an answer by the end of the day.
Speaker 4: (36:03)
Governor, out in Pittsfield, we’re seeing restaurants shut down-
Gov. Baker: (36:08)
Say it again.
Speaker 4: (36:11)
Out in Pittsfield, they’re having a huge issue out there. Restaurants are only doing takeout and delivery at this point. Is that the right approach? And have you been in contact with people out there?
Gov. Baker: (36:19)
Well, we’ve said many times when it comes to local conditions that if local communities believe they need to go beyond what we’ve put in place or put a targeted proposal in place to deal with something they consider to be an immediate problem in their community, to go ahead and do that. I mean, what we basically said is you can’t be any looser than we are, but if you want to drill down on a particular issue you think is a problem in your community, have at it. I know that’s been an issue in other states where governors have tried to say local communities, mayors, city managers, city councils shouldn’t have the ability to go beyond whatever the state rules are on some of this stuff. I think we take just the opposite approach, which is if locals believe that they have a problem they need to solve in their community by being more aggressive than we are, then they should go ahead and do that.
Speaker 5: (37:13)
Governor, at what point do you decide, “Okay, this is a telltale sign that a new field hospital has to open up?” And I was wondering if Dr. Dixon could speak to what that sign was for Worcester, whether it was reaching a certain threshold of capacity below the 100 or 90 something percent?
Gov. Baker: (37:41)
Do you want to speak to that?
Dr. Eric Dickson: (37:42)
Thank you for the question. So when we built the additional surge capacity last time, we had a model in place. We were seeing a replication of the virus rate of about 2.5. Every person that got the disease was giving it to 2.5 people. And the model suggested that we were going to be completely overwhelmed at the hospitals at the high end, and that we’d be fine at the low end. We ended up in the middle. That’s often the case with the models. So that’s why we only needed two of the facilities instead of all five that were built.
Dr. Eric Dickson: (38:13)
This time, we’re seeing a transmission rate more in the 1.4 range. And anything we can do by wearing masks in all situations where it’s appropriate to do so, that’s going to lower that transmission rate. So you see a slower rise in the numbers, and it’s easier to predict when you would need to add extra capacity. Last time, we had to be up and running in eight days. This time, because that transmission rate is lower because most people are doing the right thing, we’ll have much more of a warning of, “Hey, we need a second site.” And so, there’ll be two or three weeks in terms of reasonably predicting when we would need that site. I will just say, in our Worcester stop the spread testing site that the governor has sponsored, we have point of care testing devices right there that are actively being-
Dr. Eric Dickson: (39:03)
Have point-of-care testing devices right there that are actively being tested, the self-administrated nasal swab. And if you wanted to come down and see that, this is through our partner at UMass Medical School, is conducting studies on those. So we believe those devices will become available. I don’t think it’s in the home because it requires a certain degree of hardware apparatus, but that would be something where you could actually see those devices being tested if you would like.
Reporter 1: (39:26)
And can I ask before you step down, staffing of the DCU Center, I know in the past there was lots of field hospitals originally for retired people coming back and the whole staff [inaudible 00:39:36]. But who’s going to staff and fund the DCU?
Dr. Eric Dickson: (39:37)
Yeah. So we’ll use some of our existing staff. We’ll bring in some folks to replace them typically in the hospital or work at the DCU Center, and as necessary, we’ll have to shut down some clinical operations, such that we can redeploy people to the field hospital.
Dr. Eric Dickson: (39:58)
And we do have a website set up for anyone, nurse, doctor, respiratory therapist that would like to help, wants to be a part of this, UMassMemorialresponse.com. UMassMemorialresponse.com. And we could really use some folks that might have some additional capacity to come and help us out with the field hospital.
Reporter Jonathan: (40:20)
Dr. Dixon, could I ask you one more question?
Dr. Eric Dickson: (40:22)
Reporter Jonathan: (40:22)
Thanks for talking to me yesterday, by the way.
Dr. Eric Dickson: (40:24)
Reporter Jonathan: (40:24)
But I didn’t ask you about ventilators. How do you feel about your stockpile of those important kind of devices?
Dr. Eric Dickson: (40:31)
One of the great advancements and the things that we’ve learned over the course of the last nine months in caring for patients with COVID is how to keep them off of a ventilator. So right now we have 108 patients in central Massachusetts that are in the hospital suffering from this disease. Only nine of them are on ventilators. That number would have been more than like 30 or 40 even previously. So we really have new strategies and therapies that are keeping patients off the ventilators. And I do not anticipate that a ventilator shortage will be a problem during the second surge.
Reporter 3: (41:06)
Dr. Dixon, this week the governor of North Dakota said he would allow nurses who test positive continue to stay on the job even after they test positive. Can you imagine you might need to have such a situation at the DCU Center or any other hospital in Massachusetts?
Dr. Eric Dickson: (41:25)
Testing positive and being symptomatic and creating coughing and creating aerosols that can spread the infection is very different. And often a positive test is somebody that is in the convalescent stages and no longer infectious. So I think it is appropriate for some essential workers that have tested positive after a period of time where they’re asymptomatic to return to work, because they are, after all, essential. But we’re very strict about when they can return and to assure that they’re asymptomatic and there has been a period of time between the symptom onset and when they are able to return.
Dr. Eric Dickson: (42:03)
We see lots of people that remain positive for weeks, three, four, or five weeks out, even a couple of months. They’re not infectious. They just have the 200 base pairs necessary to trigger a positive test under a PCR condition. So many of the positives that we get of an asymptomatic population, there’s probably a convalescing patient that is no longer infectious.
Reporter 4: (42:29)
Doctor, you said fewer people are on ventilators. Also that fewer people have to be hospitalized based on the total percentage of past cases?
Dr. Eric Dickson: (42:38)
I think that the reason that we’re seeing fewer people hospitalized is the age groups that we’re seeing. We’re not seeing much in the K through 12, almost nothing. We’re seeing it in 19 to 39 year olds. What we saw on the first wave was an older population. It got a toe-hold in the nursing homes. It devastated them, and most of those patients required hospitalization, and many of them died, as you know.
Dr. Eric Dickson: (43:01)
In this newer population, spread mostly by social interactions, less of them will need to be hospitalized because of their age. And the hospitalizations are shorter in part because of new therapies and the age associated with it.
Reporter 5: (43:20)
Governor, some cities are recording issues with contact tracing, whether it’s language barriers, people who just aren’t picking up the phone, or test results coming in and not having enough staff to people that. Have you been hearing those concerns? And what, can, or is the state doing to help?
Gov. Baker: (43:32)
Do you want to speak to this?
So we are in… Oops, sorry. I can mumble, sorry. In the spring, the Contact Tracing Collaborative did about 30% of the state’s contact tracing for local boards of health, and just to give you the difference between spring and fall, now they’re about 60% of all the contact tracing in the Commonwealth. We’ve actually just authorized two new classes. We’re actually continuing hiring of contact tracers, and language is actually a very focused part of the recruitment. The contact tracers speak actually 16 different languages, and they created a specialty unit if the person who’s assigned to case didn’t have that language. But clearly we need to increase the number of people on the contact tracing team who have language other than English, one.
And secondly, giving the number of increasing cases in Massachusetts, we are actually starting to flex the role of the contact tracers to contact individuals through triage cases and contact people every other day, not necessarily every day. But there is always, if you get a call, so here’s my message. In addition to wearing a face covering, washing, good hygiene, and keeping physical distance, if you do get a call from a local board of health or the contact tracing team, please pick up the phone so that we can do the case investigation and support you in your isolation or quarantine.
Reporter 6: (45:06)
Madam Secretary, can I ask you a follow-up question? Dr. Dixon was talking-
Reporter 6: (45:09)
I’ll try anyway. Dr. Dixon was talking about lower death rates. You have 2,500 cases reported yesterday, 21 deaths. Now in the spring, that would have been hundreds and hundreds of deaths. For people watching and they’re thinking, well, the worst is behind us, it’s not that deadly anymore, what would you say to that person?
So what I would say is one of the things we know about this illness is it’s a lagging indicator. So cases today that actually people who are testing positive today, the impact, the effect that they would have on someone older, we might not see for a couple of weeks. So hospitalizations, deaths are always several weeks out.
So what I would say to people is you need to be very, very vigilant, particularly as we go into the holidays. And be very careful about spending holidays with individuals who are older, who have compromised immune systems or other medical conditions, because you may have a lovely Thanksgiving meal and you might have seriously infected someone in your family. And you won’t know it for a couple of weeks, which is obviously the experience that happened up in Canada, which as you know, their Thanksgiving is the second Monday in October. And then you saw their hospitalizations and their death rates spike. So you have to be very, very vigilant. And the numbers today, we will see the impact several weeks out.
Reporter Matt: (46:30)
Governor, [crosstalk 00:46:31] the House passed an amendment as part of the budget yesterday of expanding abortion access in the state. In the Senate, it appears to be on board with similar language. Would you veto that measure, or do you think it’s an appropriate time to be passing that amended budget [inaudible 00:46:47]?
Gov. Baker: (46:47)
Well, first of all, the Lieutenant Governor and I have been actively involved in working with the legislature on a variety of pieces of legislation to strengthen Massachusetts, both women’s access to reproductive health services in Massachusetts and also the rules and the laws and the statutes. And I’ve cleaned up a lot of the historical issues that we had here in our existing laws.
Gov. Baker: (47:11)
And that was all designed to both strengthen the laws here in Massachusetts, enhance access to reproductive health services, but also in response to some of what we saw going on at the federal level. And I think all of us believe that work was important. I have a long-standing history, Matt, as you know, of not commenting on existing legislation because it tends to morph a lot between the time people start asking me about it and it ultimately lands on my desk.
Gov. Baker: (47:43)
I do share some of the unhappiness that was raised by a number of members of the Republican party. That putting policy in the budget was something that both leaders in the House and Senate said they would not do. And it’s pretty hard to argue that this isn’t a major policy initiative that is now in the budget. Which, I mean, a lot of the folks on our side took all kinds of policy initiatives off the table and didn’t pursue them because the message was, we need to do this quickly. It needs to be done collaboratively. We’re not going to do policy in the budget.
Gov. Baker: (48:20)
This is definitely doing policy in the budget, which I think is a legitimate beef on the part of some of the folks on our side.
Reporter Steph: (48:26)
What other historical issues are you referring to that you cleaned up? Or is there anything that comes to mind, primarily?
Gov. Baker: (48:31)
I’m sorry. Say that again, Steph.
Reporter Steph: (48:33)
What historical issues that you’ve cleaned up are you referring to? Is there any-
Gov. Baker: (48:37)
Well, one of them has a bad name, but it was the Nasty Women Bill. Which there’s a lot of old, historical legislation in Massachusetts around women’s rights to abortion that was on the books, but was viewed as not relevant because of the SJC decision that had been issued many years ago with respect to women’s rights to abortion in Massachusetts.
Gov. Baker: (49:06)
But some of that stuff literally ran in direct conflict to the SJC decision. And I think all of us felt that cleaning that up and getting it either off the books or changing it, just in case, heaven forbid, something happened at the federal level, would be an important thing for us to do to make sure that we preserved and protected women’s access to abortion services in Massachusetts.
Gov. Baker: (49:29)
Reporter Matt: (49:29)
Reporter 5: (49:29)
Happy birthday, Governor.
Gov. Baker: (49:29)