Gov. Charlie Baker acknowledged Wednesday "there were a lot of mixed signals" about the coronavirus in the early months of the year, coming from federal officials and other sources.
Asked whether the state might have acted faster with better advice to stave off the spread of the virus, he said, "That's a little bit on everybody. But I hate to point too many fingers because we have continued to learn about this as we've gone along."
Baker's comments at a press conference came in response to questions about a WBUR investigation that reviewed 115 emails from federal authorities to the commonwealth in the first three months of 2020 and found they repeatedly downplayed the gravity of the coronavirus.
Week after week, as the virus was exploding overseas and quietly creeping across America, federal emails offering guidance to governors and state health officials well into March called the risk in the U.S. "low."
Congressman Joe Kennedy III, reacting to the WBUR report, said in a statement: "Thousands of Americans died because President Donald Trump downplayed, misled and outright lied about an emerging deadly pandemic." He said a "vacuum of leadership at the highest levels of our federal government" forced states to scramble to protect citizens and compete with U.S. agencies for medical supplies.
Baker noted that much of the thinking has evolved.
"Take the mask, OK? Back in February and March, Dr. Fauci didn't think you needed to wear a mask," Baker said. "I view him as probably one of the most credible people on this issue you're going to find anywhere in the country."
It's accurate that in the early days, U.S. health officials wanted to prevent Americans from buying up masks that health workers desperately needed. The White House Coronavirus Task Force did not call for the voluntary wearing of face masks until April 3, as scientists began to realize the extent of asymptomatic spread of the disease.
Baker started recommending face masks in Massachusetts a week later, on April 10. By then, the state had nearly 21,000 confirmed cases of the virus, and 599 deaths.
As the virus now surges in other parts of the U.S., Baker said, "I hope we all learned the lessons, not just here in Massachusetts, not just in Boston, but across the country and hopefully around the globe."
This article was originally published on July 01, 2020.