Rising COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts are coming largely from informal social gatherings like game nights and barbecues, not from workplaces or schools, Governor Charlie Baker said this morning.
The governor told more than 600 business leaders gathered virtually for the AIM Executive Forum that Massachusetts employers have brought hundreds of thousands of people back to work safely after the spring shutdown. COVID positive test rates dropped from more than 10 percent to less than one percent during the period when many companies re-opened their doors through the summer.
Baker said the state has conducted more than 10,000 inspections of workplaces and found that employers have overwhelmingly complied with the strict rules and guidance that are part of the commonwealth’s four-stage re-opening process.
“People bought in on the rules, people bought in on the guidance,” said the governor in remarks delivered on his birthday.
The challenge moving forward, Baker said, is to moderate surging case numbers without disrupting the state economy. He expressed concern that transmission through private gatherings will increase during the holiday season.
“I’m scared to death about Thanksgiving,” he said, adding that Canada saw a surge in cases two weeks after that nation’s Thanksgiving observance.
The governor acknowledged that it’s difficult to give up the social traditions surrounding holidays – or even business events. He mused that an AIM Executive Forum would usually be held in a hotel ballroom and provide audience members the opportunity to connect with old friends, meet new ones and perhaps do some business deals.
In response to a question, Baker acknowledged that credit-rating agencies this week issued an upbeat outlook for the Massachusetts economy, noting the commonwealth’s disciplined approach to managing its budget.
“To date Massachusetts has navigated the economic and fiscal disruptions of the pandemic without materially affecting its strong operating performance and remains well-positioned to continue doing so,” Fitch Ratings wrote Tuesday.
The governor thanked the scores of Massachusetts manufacturing companies that have pivoted to make desperately needed personal protective equipment during the pandemic. Companies such as Merrow Manufacturing LLC in Fall River and New Balance in Boston shifted in a matter of weeks to making surgical gowns and masks for front-line medical professionals.
“I can’t tell you how much we appreciate the ingenuity and creativity that manufacturers in Massachusetts have brought to this exercise,” he said.