Kudos to Massachusetts Governor Baker

Kudos to Massachusetts
Governor Baker

© David Burton 2021

Governor Baker Gives Pandemic Update

     The state of emergency that was in effect in Massachusetts since Governor Charlie Baker implemented it at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March of 2020 came to an end on 15 June 2021. “The science shows that vaccinated people are well protected against the virus and unlikely to spread COVID,” Baker said at a news conference called to announce the end of the state of emergency.
     Back in the Spring of 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic was rapidly escalating in the state, Baker used his emergency powers to place restrictions on businesses in the state and instituted a mask mandate to try and stop the spread of the virus. These restrictions and most mask requirements ended on 29 May 2021. At that time, coronavirus case rates, hospitalizations and deaths were rapidly falling in Massachusetts as 4.1 million people - nearly 60% of the population - were fully vaccinated. At that time, Baker said the state of emergency would remain in place for another month “to figure out if there are things we need to work with our colleagues in the Legislature to address.”[1]

     Back in April of 2020, as the pandemic was exploding, Massachusetts Governor Baker took the lead in urging the Trump administration to lead efforts to expand the nation's capacity to test for the new coronavirus, saying the move was "hugely important" to reopening the economy.
     "I think the country needs to dramatically expand its testing capability and this is an issue where the federal government, I feel, has to lead," Baker told NBC10 Boston in an interview.
     In in call for more federal aid in testing, Baker proudly said that Massachusetts was among the top five states in the nation when it came to the number of tests administered on a per capita basis. He also called on the federal government to help by providing additional funding for work on treatments to fight the virus. Baker stressed that governors throughout the Northeast would need to coordinate on reopening and that the state's ambitious contact-tracing system would need to be working well, so that any flare-ups could be quickly tracked down and contained.
     "I think the plan people are working on is one that can work on a go-forward basis but we're going to have to be cautious and careful," Baker said. "We don't want to give the virus a chance to bloom again."[2]

     Just how successful were Gov. Baker’s efforts to defeat the coronavirus? Consider the following from the Memorial Day weekend in 2021.

     “For Dr. Jeremy Faust, the moment he realized the pandemic no longer dominated his workday came over Memorial Day weekend, when he didn’t see a single coronavirus case over two shifts in the emergency room at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
     “Kerry LaBarbera, an ER nurse a few miles away at Boston Medical Center, had a similar realization that same weekend, when just two patients with COVID-19 came through her unit, one of the busiest in New England.
      - - -
     “Massachusetts and the rest of New England - the most heavily vaccinated region in the U.S. – {were} giving the rest of the country a possible glimpse of the future if more Americans {got} their shots.
     “COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the region {were} steadily dropping as more than 60% of residents in all six states {had} received at least one dose of the vaccine.
      - - -
     “In Massachusetts, health officials {by Memorial Day 2021 had} determined that none of the state’s cities and towns {were} at high risk for the spread of COVID-19 for the first time since they started issuing weekly assessments last August {2020}.
      - - -
     “ ‘It’s an incredible change over such a short period of time,’ said Dr. Tim Lahey, an infectious disease physician at the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington.
      - - -
     “{Massachusetts} for the most part also embraced the recommendations of public health experts over economic priorities throughout the pandemic . . .” (Ref. 3)

     Charlie Baker, the governor of Massachusetts, deserves a large part of the credit for this defeat of the deadly pandemic that was threatening Massachusetts and the rest of America during 2020 and 2021.

     Some 6-months into the pandemic crisis, in June of 2020, Governor Baker’s handling of the pandemic crisis was already receiving approval from the citizens in the Bay State. According to a poll conducted there in June of 2020, 71% of the 500 respondents to the survey believed the state was headed in the right direction. These views of the commonwealth were far more positive than the opinions about the nation at large. Unlike Massachusetts, states like California and Florida were seeing spikes in COVID-19 cases and experiencing reoccurrences of the virus because they were attempting to reopen their economies too soon.
     Baker got high marks for his handling of the coronavirus response and his overall leadership, with 74.5% saying they approved of the governor’s four-phase reopening plan and 81% saying they backed his handling of the COVID-19 outbreak in Massachusetts.
     The chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Medicine at Baystate Health in Springfield said that he believed Baker had effectively worked to combat the pandemic. “I believe Governor Baker is really, really using his resources and advisors and backing up with data whatever strategy Massachusetts has adopted, and I think it’s working, and it’s based in science, not politics,” he said.[4]

     The success of the efforts of the governor and his administration in gearing up for the coming life and death struggle with the coronavirus were early-on noted by a March 2020 analysis that used 51 unique metrics to place Massachusetts among the top 8 jurisdictions having the “Most Aggressive Measures in Limiting Virus Exposure” out of 50 states and the District of Columbia surveyed in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic.[5]

     Others were taking note of the success of Governor Charlie Baker’s efforts in combatting the COVID-19 threat. In July of 2020, it was said that “America as a whole was in coronavirus hell.” At that time, new cases were up 82% over the previous two weeks, to almost 50,000 per day. Florida alone was routinely posting more new cases than the entirety of the European Union.
     But, all the COVID news was not entirely bad. It was reported that a handful of Northeastern states had gotten things under control - especially Massachusetts, which had managed a tentative reopening without seeing a spike in new cases at that time. The state did this by following expert guidance and learning from other countries who had success in managing the outbreak.
     The basic strategy led by the state’s governor, Charlie Baker, was the same one that was working across the world. First, Massachusetts locked down hard to contain the initial surge of virus, and boosted its hospital capacity to keep them from being overwhelmed. Then the government set up a test-trace-isolate system - ramping up testing to catch new cases, tracing the contacts of everyone who had been infected, and putting them in quarantine either at home or in adapted hotels in some cities. Meanwhile, state authorities continually reinforced the importance of hygiene and mask-wearing, and remarkably, the population actually listened. Finally, reopening was conditioned on actually meeting the metrics recommended by national and international guidelines. And the state repeatedly delayed moving along its plan to make sure all the indicators were in the right place before proceeding.
     By July 2020, Massachusetts residents were enjoying the partial return of normal life, and on June 29 the state saw the first day with no COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
     True, Massachusetts had some particular advantages. It was, and is, wealthy and has a high density of public health institutions which helped out with containment.
     The sensible Massachusetts containment and reopening strategy required foresight, patience, and courage. Leaders had to see a step or two ahead to recognize that if the virus was not under control before they started reopening, cases would explode and they would be forced to lock back down anyway. They had to resist a certain epidemic of childish, foot-stomping demands for things to go back to normal immediately. At the same time, they had to set up an efficient test-trace-isolate bureaucracy – Governor Baker and his administration did.
     In other words, instead of just automatically doing whatever the most well-funded interest group was telling them, and trying to scapegoat others for any resulting disasters, leaders had to actually lead – the Massachusetts governor did.
     In addition, the citizens of Massachusetts had to come to understand and follow public health guidelines - above all, the necessity of wearing masks - at least when they were indoors in a public space.[6]

     A year later, by 15 June 2021, the day on which the coronavirus emergency in Massachusetts was ended, Governor Baker and the citizens of the commonwealth could congratulate themselves on the following:

  • Health care workers gave out the last jabs at Gillette Stadium, closing down the state’s first and largest vaccination site after nearly six months of operation. The Gillette Stadium site opened on 18 January 2021 and focused on vaccinating health care workers and first responders. Since then, more than 610,000 people received shots at the stadium.
  • Among the big states in the entire country, Massachusetts had the fastest rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine program.
  • Gillette Stadium was the first of seven sites set up in Massachusetts that were to close down their vaccination services after 15 June - closures Bay Staters can all hail as a positive swing back toward normalcy.
  • More than 3.9 million people in Massachusetts were fully vaccinated.
  • Although major vaccination sites across the state were shutting down, a “Vax Express” system was in effect that was offering shots at train stations across the Commonwealth.
  • On the last day of the coronavirus state of emergency, the coronavirus infection data dropped to record lows of eight COVID deaths and 44 new cases.
  • Since the beginning of the state of emergency, some 462 days earlier, the Bay State had recorded a total of nearly 18,000 COVID-19 deaths and more than 700,000 infections.
  • The 13 June report of 33 new cases was the lowest single day case count since March of 2020 at the start of the pandemic. The 44 new infections on 14 June were the second lowest daily count since the previous March. Both the 7-day average of confirmed deaths - 4 - and the average of confirmed cases - 85 – were record low averages for virus deaths and infections. The 138 COVID-19 patients in hospitals as of 14 June was also close to a pandemic low for the state. The 138 hospitalized patients were 5 more than the record-low of 133 patients on 13 June.
  • “Over the course of the last four or five months, the people of Massachusetts got vaccinated at rates that exceeded the rest of the country, which is a big part of why we’re here . . . with the lowest hospital count and one of the lowest case counts we’ve had since this whole thing began last March,” Gov. Charlie Baker said the day before the end of the state of emergency.
  • By 14 June, almost 8.3 million total vaccine doses were administered, and nearly 4 million people were fully vaccinated in the Commonwealth.
  • On 15 June 2021, after the tally of 44 new virus cases, the state’s count of estimated active COVID-19 cases had plunged to 2,636 cases, a significant decline from 36,775 cases in April of 2021.[7] [8]
     Further proof of the success of Governor Baker’s actions during the previous15 months came with the report that Massachusetts was tied with New York for the lowest positivity rate in the nation - 0.35%.[ 9]

     In combatting COVID-19, the Baker administration was a national leader in conducting more than 460,000 COVID-19 tests, making Massachusetts a top-5 per capita tester. The state launched a national model for contact tracing, committed over $1 billion in funding to support the state’s health care system during the emergency, and distributed more than 10.5 million pieces of personal protective equipment.[10]

     Governor Baker’s no-nonsense frequent covid-19 briefings kept Massachusetts resident updated on the pandemic and the state’s efforts at combatting the threat. These live briefings were short, informative and factual and avoided the pandering that would have come from most politicians. Baker kept these update sessions low-key and on target.

     Repeatedly, the governor updated the efforts being taken in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic and, when appropriate, changed direction in attacking the threat. In all cases, the efforts taken and the directions chosen were based upon the most current and reliable scientific evidence and information. These actions addressed not only the medical aspects of the problem, but also the social and economic issues that were so intimately intertwined. In the end, it appears that the actions that the governor instituted were successful in overcoming the pandemic with the least possible deleterious economic and social consequences.

     In early May 2021,the White House’s top COVID-19 advisor, Andy Slavitt, took note of Governor Baker's successes in combatting COVID-19 when he gave kudos to Massachusetts, Hawaii and Vermont for becoming the first three states with more than 70 percent of adult residents at least half-vaccinated.[11]

     Even as victory was being declared in the war on coronavirus, Governor Baker and Massachusetts residents were continuing to take steps to ensure that the defeat of the virus was complete and permanent.

     On the day following the lifting of the emergency restrictions, it was announced that Massachusetts residents who may have been exposed to COVID-19 could use a free smartphone service to alert others.
     The state partnered with Apple and Google to develop MassNotify, which can be quickly enabled through the settings on an iPhone or Android phone, to provide “an additional layer of awareness and safety for Massachusetts residents as the commonwealth reopens,” the Baker administration announced in a news release.
     By opting in, your phone will share anonymous codes with other MassNotify users. If another user with whom you’ve been near tests positive within two weeks, you would receive a notification. If you test positive, you can let other MassNotify users know anonymously. The technology does not track users nor divulge personal information.
     Governor Charlie Baker said the MassNotify exposure alert system was similar to those being used by 28 other states and 35 countries to boost awareness and blunt transmission of the virus as vaccination rates rose and businesses began to fully reopen.
     “Massachusetts leads the nation in COVID-19 vaccination, with almost 4 million residents fully vaccinated, which has had a significant impact on our progress in fighting the virus,” Baker said in a statement. “As we embrace our new normal, MassNotify is a voluntary, free tool to provide additional peace of mind to residents as they return to doing the things they love.”[12]

     As Massachusetts enters the summer of 2021, the coronavirus threat is in rapid decline. The state’s economy is in quite good shape. Public and private education is rapidly returning to normal. Thank you Governor Baker.

  1. Baker To End Massachusetts State Of Emergency On June 15, CBS Boston, 17 May 2021.
  2. Gov. Baker: White House ‘Has to Lead' to Expand Nation's Testing Capacity, 10 Boston, 20 April 2020.
  3. New England's success against COVID-19 could be a model, Philip Marcelo, yahoo! news, 5 June 2021.
  4. THE ROAD WE'VE TRAVELLED TOGETHER, www.mass.gov/doc/reopening-massachusetts-may-18-2020,
    18 May 2021.
  5. Most Aggressive States Against the coronavirus, Adam McCann, WalletHub, 7 April 2020.
  6. Massachusetts is an exception to America's coronavirus failure, Ryan Cooper, THE WEEK, 2 July 2020.
  7. 7Gillette vax site shuts down, Meghan OttOlini, Boston Herald, Page 7, 15 June 2021.
  8. Poll: Gov. Baker’s reopening plan gets high marks, and more than 71% of Massachusetts residents approve of state’s direction, but 69% say US is off track, Jackson Cote, msn.com, 25 June 2020.
  9. Another day of record low virus death, case rates, Rick Sobey, Boston Herald, Page 7, 15 June 2021.
  10. New York and Massachusetts leads nation with lowest single-day coronavirus positivity rate, Vanessa Rizzitano, WENY NEWS, 14 June 2021.
  11. Baker To Mark Vaccination Progress With Biden, Katie Lannan and Matt Murphy, www.wbur.org, 11 May 2021.
  12. Massachusetts launching MassNotify, smartphone app for COVID exposure alerts, Benjamin Kail, MASSLIVE, 15 June 2021.


8 July 2021 {Article_483; State_24}    
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