Massachusetts Governor Charlie D. Baker ’79 discusses the state’s pandemic response at HSPH | New
Massachusetts Governor Charlie D. Baker ’79 reflected on the state government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic and other health policy issues during a panel at the Harvard School of Public Health Thursday afternoon.
Baker, who has led Massachusetts through the pandemic, discussed managing the challenges of lockdowns, testing and surveillance during the rampant spread of Covid-19 with his former chief of staff, Steven Kadish, now a researcher principal at Harvard Kennedy School.
During Baker’s second term as governor, Massachusetts saw record Covid-19 cases, sometimes peaking among northeastern states in the number of Covid-19 deaths per capita.
Since the start of the pandemic, the state had reported more than two million Covid-19 cases and more than 21,000 Covid-19-related deaths as of Thursday night, according to a New York Times database.
Despite the CDC collecting the genetic code for the Covid-19 virus in January 2020, Baker said the slow process of developing a test has proven to be a serious challenge.
“The CDC had been given a fairly straightforward format to develop a test in January,” Baker said. “It was in March, and we still didn’t have a test to speak of.”
Baker said the state’s Covid-19 command center — headed by Massachusetts Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders — needed help from state bureaucracy departments.
“[Sudders] told us what she needed from other parts of the state government, and then we went shopping and brought a whole bunch of people to the command center who worked in other parts of health care,” did he declare.
In mid-March of that year, Baker said more than three million masks ordered by the Massachusetts government had “disappeared” after the federal government had taken them away for distribution “in places they thought more important”. In response, Baker recounted how he used the New England Patriots private plane to transport personal protective equipment from Alaska.
“We flew this route with charter flights seven or eight times over the next two months to get all kinds of stuff – swabs, gowns and gloves,” Baker said.
Kadish, who has served as an adviser to the governor throughout the pandemic, added that the use of charter flights to deliver supplies after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti inspired the Baker administration to use the Patriots’ plane. .
“We realized when other airports were closed that if we could get people’s private charters full of medical equipment and medical professionals, they could land in the Dominican Republic – the Dominican Republic — then go to Haiti,” Kadish said of the 2010 Emergency Response.
Asked about the pandemic’s impact on underserved populations, Baker said the state partnered with public health nonprofit Partners in Health when planning its Covid-19 response to focus on “hard to reach communities”.
Besides the virus, Baker noted food insecurity as a major issue during his tenure. He said the state used The Ride — a program that provides transportation for disabled Greater Boston residents — to bring food to residents of the state.
“The Ride ended up becoming a food delivery business over that time — kind of like Uber Eats, but nobody charges you for it,” Baker said.
At Thursday’s roundtable, Baker said a “really high-octane social media environment” has led the public to overlook government accomplishments because good work “doesn’t really generate a lot of news. “.
“If you’re boring, you don’t get a follow,” he said.
Outside of the public health challenges posed by the pandemic, Baker, a Republican, pointed out that some of his most enlightening experiences in government have been working with people from all political backgrounds, including Kadish, who is a Democrat.
“Most of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my life have come from people who disagreed with me,” he said.
—Editor Krishi Kishore can be reached at [email protected]