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As Massachusetts Works To Contain Spread Of COVID-19, Some Call Rollback 'Inadequate'

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker on December 8, 2020.
Sam Doran
State House News Service
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker on December 8, 2020.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has reimposed some restrictions as COVID-19 cases continue to rise. Some doctors are saying we're not seeing the true surge in case numbers yet, and the worst is still ahead.

Restrictions that took effect Sunday in Massachusetts put tighter limits on how many people can dine together indoors and how long they can stay.

Roller skating and trampoline parks must close, and other businesses are seeing some capacity limits decrease modestly.

Matt Murphy of the State House News Service joins us to talk about the position Baker seems to be taking on restrictions, and whether he's left the door open for more rollbacks.

Matt Murphy, State House News Service: Yes, I mean, I think that door is certainly still open. The governor made clear, as he has throughout this pandemic, that he watches these numbers. He likes to see at least a couple weeks’ worth of data.

So what we're hearing him say now, with this new set of restrictions being put in place, he's going to want to see whether or not it has an impact over the next couple of weeks.

Now, the big caveat: a lot of these steps are being taken because we're seeing hospitalizations — the number of people in ICU beds, on ventilators — climbing. And the real concern here is that the health care system gets too overwhelmed to care for these patients. 

If this situation worsens considerably, then I think you could see the governor maybe accelerate his timetable for considering new or additional steps.

I know some doctors are saying that what they think the governor announced last week and what went into effect Sunday is inadequate to address the surge the state is currently experiencing.

But the governor has said that he wants to take a look, and see if this starts to flatten the trajectory of the spread of the virus that we've been seeing over the past few weeks.

Carrie Healy, NEPM: Baker last week sent that long-awaited police accountability legislation back to lawmakers. The governor could have signed it. He could have vetoed it. But he took that third option of returning it with changes. How likely is it that lawmakers will accept them?

He did send it back with amendments, and probably not as many amendments as many people thought he might.

There's still time left for the legislature to consider changes. This is a big, complex bill. So it's not surprising that the governor has some additional recommendations.

The fact that he's not challenging them on things like qualified immunity for police officers is interesting, and could help in these negotiations with lawmakers.

But one thing that's different here, when the Democrat-controlled legislature, with a supermajority, usually does basically whatever it wants: in the House of Representatives, they do not have a veto-proof majority. And the governor has made clear that he does not intend to sign this bill, and would likely veto it, if they sent it back without the changes he has requested.

So there is some additional impetus there for lawmakers to try and work with the executive on this if they hope to get it done in the next couple of weeks.

Electors cast the official vote for president on Monday. In Massachusetts, that vote is being cast for President-elect Joe Biden. As this year has just been riddled with changes to the way everything is done, is there a provision for electors to meet remotely, or will they be gathering in one spot?

They will actually be gathering Monday in the Statehouse, in the House chamber, to cast this vote. Secretary of State William Galvin will lead the proceedings and the electors will gather in the chamber, which normally seats about 160 members, plus staff.

Massachusetts has 11 Electoral College votes. Tthey will be distanced and there will be safety protocols. The law requires them to gather. What we're not going to see today as some of the gathering celebration that would typically take place for this ceremony. I think they're going to come in and do their business as required by law, and try and do it as safely as possible.

One of those electors, Ronald Valerio of Auburn, died unexpectedly last week. What's the plan to replace him?

They are going to have to select a new elector to replace Mr. Valerio. There are two alternates, Thomas Holloway or Lesley Phillips, who have been selected in in the case that one of the electors could not fulfill their duties. So the college itself will choose one of them to cast the 11th vote.

Keep up here with Beacon Hill In 5.

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