Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker Taking Criticism For Handling of Coronavirus Pandemic

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Charlie Baker may be one of the most popular governors in the United States, but many are not happy with the way he is handling the current coronavirus pandemic.

Baker took flak this past week from various angles.

Last weekend the Massachusetts governor put in place many restrictions on public activity. As a result, gatherings of 25 or more people are banned, schools statewide are closed, restaurants and bars are takeout-only, nursing homes cannot have visitors, and most elective surgeries are not allowed.

As of 4 p.m. Saturday, March 21, Massachusetts had 525 confirmed cases, according to the state’s Department of Public Health. One person, an 87-year-old Winthrop man, died Friday of the virus, the first in Massachusetts.

Yet the death rate has remained low in Massachusetts, leading some to conclude that not all of the restrictions on public life are necessary.

Some, like Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr, believe the threat coronavirus poses to the state is being overstated, as he wrote in a column earlier this week, before anyone in the state had died of the disease.

“Let’s take a look at fatalities of Massachusetts residents in the last month, as of Tuesday afternoon:

From coronavirus: zero.

From illegal-alien unlicensed drivers from Brazil wiping out a family from Whitman down in Florida: four.

You worry about the supply of toilet paper, I’ll worry about the supply of guns. If you have the latter, you don’t have to worry about someone taking away the former from you,” he wrote in a column published on Tuesday, March 17.

As of the afternoon of Saturday, March 21, nearly 13,000 had died of coronavirus worldwide, and 288 in the United States, according to Worldometer.

Barnstable County commissioner Ron Beaty, a Republican critic of Baker, issued a statement last weekend suggesting it might be appropriate for people to ignore what he described as the governor’s overreach.

“Governor Charlie Baker’s most recent emergency decrees are now becoming oppressive toward Massachusetts residents, taxpayers and voters, and quite likely meets the definition of tyranny,“ Beaty said in a mass-email message on Sunday, March 15.

“At this stage of things, it is clear that the Governor’s latest official actions are unreasonable, possibly cruel, and indicates an unwarranted arbitrary use of power and control,” he continued.

“Peaceful civil disobedience by our citizens may soon have to be implemented!” he concluded.

Baker’s protocols severely limiting the size of public gatherings resulted in many churches closing their doors to congregants. It seems increasingly likely that the policy could prevent people from attending church on Palm Sunday (April 5) and Easter Sunday (April 12), which are among the most poignant days in the Christian liturgical calendar.

That is a concern expressed by Mark Pease, a candidate for Dracut Board of Selectmen.

“No gathering of more than 25 people?? Faith based events?? Does that mean a Church service, is Easter cancelled?? I didn’t think we lived in Cuba, but maybe I’m wrong,” he told the Lowell Sun earlier this week. “Is this in any way Constitutional? I believe in the common sense of the residents of Dracut. Let the local businesses and religious groups operate as usual and decide if they want to serve the public.”

Pease sent New Boston Post a follow-up statement on the matter late this week.

“My comments have been called irresponsible,” Pease said in an email message. “However, I have only been representing what the folks of Dracut have been telling me. So, when Government statements and policies:

Create Panic. Shutter Businesses and tank the economy. Trample the Constitution, and no one says a word, who is being irresponsible?”

He also clarified his position on how people should be handling the virus.

“I believe in the common sense of the people (and businesses) of the Town (and Country),” Pease said (parentheses in original). “If you are sick, stay home, if someone in your household is sick, stay home, wash your hands, if you don’t want to shake hands no one will be offended. Common sense is sorely lacking today.”

“Many small businesses cannot survive a shutdown of more than a month,” he continued. “The wizards that are making these decisions don’t seem to realize this problem. Furthermore, what will happen if a Church wants to have an Easter Sunday service? Will everyone be forced to leave? I pray that some sense of normalcy is restored in the very near future.”

Andrew Beckwith, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, said that the governor’s priorities in this situation are incorrect.

“The churches I’ve heard from are all doing the right thing in this crisis on their own initiative,”
he told New Boston Post in an email message. “It is really troubling, then, to see the MA Health Department nevertheless include church assemblies in their ban on gatherings of more than 25 people but carve out specific exemptions for, among other things, youth athletic events.  What message are we sending in a moment of international crisis when we say that sports are more important than corporate worship and prayer? We should trust the discretion of our faith leaders at least as much as coaches and avoid a disturbing and unnecessary violation of our cherished First Amendment rights.” 

A spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Health did not respond to New Boston Post’s request late this week to respond to Beckwith’s comment.

Baker also received criticism for the state’s decision to exempt abortion from the list of elective procedures now restricted by Massachusetts hospitals.

Writing for the pro-life web site Live Action, Caroline Novielli said that Massachusetts has its priorities wrong.

“Despite the fact that abortion is an ‘elective’ procedure’ — and one that ends an innocent human life — the abortion industry appears to have coordinated efforts with Massachusetts government officials to normalize abortion as an ‘essential’ procedure (as opposed to ‘non-essential’) during the COVID-19 pandemic,” she wrote.

Massachusetts Citizens for Life condemned the decision, as reported by New Boston Post on Wednesday, March 18.

“We were disheartened to learn that, upon Governor Baker’s approval, elective abortion will still be permitted in the coming weeks, even while other elective surgeries have been prohibited due to the coronavirus pandemic. Women’s health and safety should be our top priority now, as always. Risking exposure to the highly contagious disease during visits to abortion clinics not only puts our women at risk but their families and those of clinic workers as well. This is yet another indication that the once-popular abortion-rights mantra ‘safe, legal, and rare’ is a complete farce,” Massachusetts Citizens for Life said in a written statement.

Jim Lyons, the chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Party, castigated the abortion exemption in a column published by New Boston Post on Thursday, March 19. Lyons, who is chairman of the state party that the governor belongs to, did not criticize Baker in the column, instead calling the abortion decision a “poor and ill-advised judgment” that “was made in the Massachusetts state bureaucracy.”

On the left, some Massachusetts politicians think Baker is not doing enough to stop the coronavirus spread.

An open letter addressed to Baker and signed by Democratic state Senators Jamie Eldridge (Acton) and Becca Rausch (Needham), 17 state representatives, 11 city council members from Cambridge and Somerville, and Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui demanded that Baker issue a “Shelter In Place” order on Tuesday, March 17.

“By ‘Shelter In Place,’ we mean people must be asked to stay home except for essential needs. Vulnerable populations must stay home. Everyone should stay home except to get food, care for a relative or friend, get necessary health care, or go to an essential job. Going outside for walks is permissible, but there can be no congregating in groups and there can be no interaction with playground structures of any kind.”

State Representative Mike Connolly of Cambridge, one of the supporters of “Shelter In Place,” argued on Twitter that Baker should use the pandemic to counter urban homelessness.

“A person sleeping on a bench just steps from several hundred vacant @MIT dorm rooms in #CambMA this evening. Our colleges and universities should immediately offer to make space available for people experiencing homelessness — and @MassGovernor should order them to do so!”

Connolly renewed his call for sheltering in place on the afternoon of Saturday, March 21:


The first cases in Massachusetts have been linked to a conference hosted by biotechnology firm Biogen. State health officials have traced 97 of the state’s 525 cases to attendees and their household members:

Last weekend, the left-leaning Boston Globe criticized Baker for what the newspaper felt was too slow of a reaction to the pandemic.

An editorial published on Saturday, March 14 read, “So why didn’t reports of an outbreak at a Biogen conference in Boston lead to swift action sooner? And why are governors in other states taking a more high-profile role in helping institutions respond to the coronavirus crisis and offering more information to the public?”

“Certainly many of the problems facing the state, including a shortage of tests lamented by doctors at Massachusetts hospitals, have their roots in Washington. But the ineptitude at the federal level is another reason why stronger leadership is needed at the state level.”

The press office for Governor Charlie Baker could not be reached for comment by telephone or email to respond to criticisms of how he has handled the pandemic.