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Baker: No End to Labor of Stopping Virus, No Quick Route to a Vaccine
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
02:59PM / Thursday, September 03, 2020
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BOSTON, Mass. — The Labor Day weekend message from Gov. Charlie Baker was clear on Thursday: The work of containing COVID-19 continues.
 
Baker used his now semi-daily encounters with the capital press corps to renew his call for vigilance around practices of hygiene, social distancing and face coverings that experts say will limit the spread of the novel coronavirus responsible for killing 8,800 Bay State residents and 185,000 Americans overall.
 
He also acknowledged that a life governed by those practices "stinks."
 
"We know that many of our residents are tired," said Revere Mayor Brian Arrigo, who joined Baker at the news conference. "They're tired of hearing from us. They're tired of restrictions and of the sacrifices that they continue to make to protect themselves and their loved ones.
 
"And I can certainly understand where they're coming from."
 
So can Baker.
 
"The mayor made an excellent point when he talked about the fact that people are tired," Baker said. "I got news for you. I am too. So is the lieutenant governor. So is Secretary [Marylou] Sudders. And so are a lot of the people who work on our teams.
 
"None of us were brought up anticipating that we would end up living a significant portion of our lives away from a lot of the people that we normally spend time with. I've said before, there is a group of about 10 people outside of work that represent the entire universe of people that I've spent time with and my wife has spent time with since March. The constant inability to hug people, to engage in any kind of traditional group gathering that we would normally do as a matter of course … is psychologically exhausting."
 
And it has been economically devastating for many in the commonwealth. On Thursday, Baker cited just one statistic that shows the impact of the global pandemic: Logan Airport in Boston, which was handling 450,000 passengers per day before the pandemic, is handling about 50,000 per day right now.
 
"It stinks," Baker said. "It stinks. A lot of this stinks. But it's part of what comes with COVID, and, honestly, it's why we've been so aggressive about trying to get this notion across that the most important thing we need to do as a commonwealth is to beat this thing back. The more we beat it back, the more opportunity there is for people to feel comfortable that they can do some of the things they were doing before."
 
Baker is not expecting a quick fix in the form of a vaccine that will make the world safer.
 
That, too, he said, requires hard work, and he rejected the idea that the FDA should "fast track" a vaccine.
 
"I've been on the phone with Moderna [Therapeutics] a number of times," Baker said. "I've been on the phone with Pfizer. I've also spent time at Beth Israel Deaconess with the [Johnson & Johnson] folks who are running a clinical trial.
 
"The clinical trials … typically involve around 30,000 people. It is incredibly important that those trials run, that they run the way they're supposed to … and that the results of those trials get factored into any decisions about what gets done next."
 
Baker declined to speculate about what sort of timetable that creates for delivery of a vaccine.
 
"The last thing we should do is change the way these processes work," he said. "I know everyone wants to get there in a hurry. I understand why. And I'm completely sympathetic to why so many people who can't do the things they used to do would love to have a vaccine tomorrow.
 
"But we have a tried and true process for developing these sorts of things, and it needs to be pursued according to the rules and protocols and standards that have always been in place before. … It shouldn't be based on a date. It should be based on a process and a set of protocols."
 
Revere's Arrigo joined Baker to talk about the commonwealth's intervention team that is taking a more aggressive approach to public education and enforcement in high-risk communities, including Chelsea, Everett, Lawrence, Lynn and Revere.
 
Baker said that the intervention efforts will be expanded to include other municpalities, including, perhaps, Westhampton, the lone Western Massachusetts community currently categorized as "red" in the state's red/yellow/green classification system; with 10 total cases and five in the last two weeks, the Hampshire County town has a daily incidence rate of 20.99 per 100,000 residents, a little more than Revere's 20.87.
 
Statewide, Baker on Thursday announced the creation of two new COVID-19-related state websites: www.mass.gov/stopcovid19 and www.mass.gov/backtoschool.
 
The former offers targeted information for residents in high-risk communities and general information for municipalities. The latter gives information about why most Massachusetts communities can safely return to in-person instruction and offers guidance for how to accomplish that goal safely.
 
"The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is launching a public service campaign to help remind parents and students and teachers that we all have a responsibility to keep each other and our communities healthy and safe," Baker said. "We can return to school safely if we all do our part. The campaign consists of television, radio and mobile ads, billboards, ads on public transit, as well as a new website created to help families find information they may be seeking about going back to school."
 
Back to school and Labor Day weekend are, of course, synonymous in the minds of many New Englanders. Given the opportunity later in Thursday's news conference to share a more uplifting message going into the holiday weekend, Baker jumped at the chance.
 
"In the beginning of the summer, we were in a really rough place," he said. "If you go back to May 18, basically, nothing was open. … Half a million people who weren't working in Massachusetts at the beginning of the summer are working now. That's progress.
 
"We should be proud of the fact that that's happened because it wouldn't have happened without the people of Massachusetts stepping up every day and doing the things they needed to do to stop the spread. But we still have a long way to go, and it's important for people to understand that."
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