Speed and Candor Missing in Massachusetts Governor’s Response To Coronavirus, Democratic State Senator Says

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2020/08/14/speed-and-candor-missing-in-massachusetts-governors-response-to-coronavirus-democratic-state-senator-says/

Lateness in responding to certain acute problems and secrecy concerning key data mar the Massachusetts state government’s response to coronavirus, a Democratic state senator said.

State Senator Patricia Jehlen (D-Somerville) made the comments during an online forum Thursday, August 13 hosted by Somerville Democrats.

Jehlen called the administration of Governor Charlie Baker “extraordinarily late” in tending to nursing homes, noting that many nursing homes were short-staffed and that workers there may have spread coronavirus among nursing home residents and into their communities. She said state officials “did a good job once they got started.”

“But 65 percent of the people who have died of the Covid in Massachusetts were in nursing homes,” said Jehlen (at -24:03 of a video in a Facebook video of the forum on the Facebook page of Somerville Democrats). “They should have been on it from the very first.”

As of Thursday, August 13, 8,568 people in Massachusetts had died of coronavirus, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Of those, 5,621 died in long-term care facilities. The percentage is 65.6 percent.

Jehlen also criticized what she described as the Baker administration’s past and continuing secrecy when it comes to coronavirus data:


And then the other thing I would say is I’m very disappointed in their lack of transparency. During the whole nursing home crisis at the beginning, we asked and asked and asked for them to tell us where are the cases, how many cases, how many deaths?  “Oh no, it’s a matter of privacy.”

And now they’re saying that about the cases in the emergency child care programs. We need to know:  What happens in child care settings? How does the disease spread? What are the dangers? What are the ways to prevent casualties?

If they keep being so secretive, I don’t understand. They give us so much information, but it overwhelms you, and you don’t have the information that you need to make decisions. As parents, as people who operate child care centers, as school leaders, we need to know. They say it’s a matter of privacy. I have never understood that.


(Those comments came at -23:28 of the video of the forum.)

A spokesman from the governor’s press office could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.

The Boston Globe reported Thursday, August 13 that state officials have denied the newspaper’s request for data on coronavirus cases in emergency child-care facilities serving the children of workers the state deems essential, citing privacy. The state’s nine U.S. representatives and two U.S. senators (all Democrats) have signed a letter to the governor asking him to release the records, according to the Globe.

Jehlen, who is running for re-election, appeared in the online forum Thursday night with Gary Fisher, a retired teacher and Cambridge resident who is running against her in the Democratic primary September 1.

The two agreed on most issues that came up during the forum. They both said they support single-payer universal health care provided by the government; transferring certain police functions and budget expenditures to other government employees, such as social workers; higher taxes; rent control; and allowing 16-year-olds to vote in local municipal elections.

Jehlen represents the Second Middlesex Senate District, which consists of the cities of Somerville and Medford; and portions of the city of Cambridge (Wards 9, 10, and 11, which includes the northwestern portions of the city that border on Watertown, Belmont, Arlington, and Somerville) and portions of the town of Winchester (Precincts 4, 5, 6, and 7, which take up the southern and western portions of the town that border on Medford, Somerville, Lexington, and Woburn).

Progressive Massachusetts gives Jehlen a 92 percent rating for the 2019-2020 legislative term so far. She got a 94 percent Progressive Massachusetts rating for the 2017-2018 legislative term.

As of 2019, Jehlen’s lifetime American Conservative Union rating was 3 percent.

No Republicans will appear on the September 1 primary ballot in the Second Middlesex Senate District.