Charlie Baker blames clusters for coronavirus rise in Massachusetts


Governor Charlie Baker says a “troubling” pattern of COVID-19 clusters is to blame for the recent spike in Massachusetts cases.And at a press conference on Friday afternoon, Baker forcefully denounced a series of “disturbing reports of large gatherings” where people did not wear masks or socially distance themselves, which he said was contributing to the increase.

“These gaps in judgment – these missed opportunities to guard the gate that we have all worked so hard to close – are contributing to a small, but significant, increase in positive cases here in Massachusetts,” the Republican governor said.

Baker reiterated that, for the most part, Massachusetts residents had “done the right thing,” driving down the rate of coronavirus infections and hospitalizations in the previously hard-hit state, even as other parts of the countries were facing “uncontrolled epidemics”.

“But COVID doesn’t follow any rules,” he said. “We must not and cannot let our guard down.”

However, Baker ticked off a number of instances where people were doing just that.

The governor mentioned a group of rescuers in Falmouth which resulted in at least eight cases and a group linked to a house party in Chatham. He also announced that officials were investigating potential clusters linked to an unauthorized football camp in South Weymouth, a high school graduation ceremony in Chelmsford, a big party in Wrentham and a 90-person party in Cohasset.

Baker said the rallies were planned by young people and adults and demonstrated “sometimes a reluctance to accept” the “invisible” and highly contagious nature of the virus. The governor said another group recently reported at a Springfield hospital occurred after employees “lax” about wearing masks in rest rooms.

Officials are also investigating several cases of COVID-19 linked to a party on a private boat in Boston Harbor, he said, although it is not clear whether Baker was referring to the same cruise that took been photographed and widely reported earlier in the week.

“The situations I just recapped are a recipe for disaster and must end if we are to continue to reopen and get back to a new normal,” Baker said.

Marylou Sudders, Secretary of State for Health and Human Services, said on Friday that group investigations are launched when ttwo people, who are not from the same household, test positive for the coronavirus after being at the same event. And she said they could swell in much more widespread epidemics, noting that Weymouth football camp included children from 17 different communities.

Baker had previously rebuffed the idea that Massachusetts might need to turn the tide of its reopening plan, blaming the recent increase on people simply not following state guidelines. In the past two weeks or so, the state’s positive COVID-19 test rate – which was at 30% at its peak in Massachusetts – has fallen from 1.7% to 2% in the past two weeks. Baker called this a “slow creep”. But if that continues, he said the administration “should consider a number of options,” including reducing the 25-person limit for indoor gatherings to a smaller number.

“If we continue to see increases in positive test rates, we’re going to have to make some changes,” Baker said.

While acknowledging that undoing some plans and other sacrifices – especially during the limited hot New England months – can be “difficult,” Baker reflected on the much greater difficulties that local health workers have faced. at the start of the surge in COVID-19 cases. in Massachusetts, often working double shifts without proper protective gear to save lives.

“If it all goes south, it’s going to land on them.”

“When I talk to one of these people now, they’re like, ‘I’m so grateful that Massachusetts has finally come to the point where we could actually catch our breath, understand what our staffing models must look like, maybe. even be spending a day. every now and then, and not spending every moment of the day worrying about how many people I was going to have to try to save or lose when I got to work, ”said Baker.

“If it all goes south, it will land on them,” he added. “And they’re the ones who just finished helping us dig under really difficult circumstances.”

As of Thursday afternoon, there had been 8,375 confirmed deaths from COVID-19 in Massachusetts, as well as 109,400 infections in total.

At Friday’s press conference, the administration also announced the launch of a new “#MaskUpMA” campaign, with videos of Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and others urging locals to cover up. face. The entire state delegation to the House also posed for a photo to kick off the public awareness effort on Friday.

Baker noted that the state’s contact tracing team would work with local authorities to investigate potential clusters and follow up on people who may have been exposed to the virus. He said contact tracing was a critical part of the state’s COVID-19 mitigation efforts, as it could notify potentially infected people before they spread the disease to others.

“But the best way to run a cluster is not to have one in the first place,” Baker said.

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