On June 22, Governor Baker received all D’s and F’s on a report card rating his reopening policies based on how they prioritize the health of Black and Latinx residents, low wage workers, and others that have been most impacted by COVID-19.
The Task Force on Coronavirus & Equity, a coalition of 94 public health, community, and labor organizations, released the report card to monitor progress on four key criteria that they announced on June 4, 2020.
The report card was released as Massachusetts entered Step 2 of Phase II of reopening, bringing far greater numbers of workers and consumers into contact at indoor dining, offices, and services that require close personal contact. The latest move in Massachusetts occurred while 23 other states experienced increases in COVID-19 cases.
“We are eager for a safe reopening for the sake of workers, small businesses, and our overall economy, but Governor Baker’s reopening policies to date have shown a disregard for the health of Black and Latinx residents, low-wage workers, and others who have been hardest hit by COVID-19,” said Carlene Pavlos, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Public Health Association, which coordinates the Task Force. “It’s not too late to change this. We call on the Governor to immediately implement commonsense policies that value the lives of the communities that have borne the brunt of the pandemic.”
Governor Baker’s Performance on Equitable Reopening Policies
|Criteria||Letter Grade||Status||Immediate Recommendations|
|Data Shows Infection Rates Dropping for All||D||While overall state infections, hospitalizations, and deaths continue to fall, it is impossible to know whether overall statewide data mask inequities and it will be impossible to understand who is being most impacted in the case of a future surge. While state data on race and ethnicity has improved – clearly showing a disproportionate impact on Black and Latinx residents – nearly 35% of cases are still missing data on race and ethnicity. The state is not tracking any data on low wage workers, people with disabilities, people who don’t speak English, and others who have likely been hard hit by the pandemic. Governor Baker has not prioritized the collection of data that would allow inequities to be clearly understood. The Governor signed a bill to improve state data collection and reporting 15 days ago, and we are awaiting information on when and how it will be implemented||Governor Baker should issue guidance or regulations to implement the data bill requirements immediately.|
|Enforceable Protections for Workers + Support for Small Businesses||F||The Baker Administration has issued requirements for workplaces across a variety of sectors that have reopened. However, the Governor has done nothing to address the extremely limited capacity that currently exists to ensure safety standards are being met. The entities with enforcement authority – local boards of health and the Department of Labor Standards – do not have anywhere near the staff or resources to respond to or enforce workplace safety protections on the scale necessary. Further, current guidelines do not allow for timely enforcement action in the case that employers are putting workers and the public at risk. Instead of enforceable protections, employers are only required to provide a self-attestation that they are compliant with safety standards, ignoring core tenants of occupational health practice and denying a role for workers in safety assessments||Governor Baker should amend worksite safety guidance immediately.|
|Accelerate & Expand Testing||D||The Governor is falling dramatically short of meeting his own goal to perform 45,000 tests/day by the end of July. In May and June, Massachusetts averaged less than 10,000 tests/day. Testing is not widely available for high risk people who do not have symptoms (including essential workers, people living in congregate facilities, and residents of the communities most impacted) despite this being a stated goal of the Administration. A new state testing website does not recommend testing for high risk, asymptomatic people. While pop up sites recently offered testing aimed at people who had attended protests, these sites were open for just two days before closing. A plan has been developed that would expand testing to meet these goals, but has not been implemented||Governor Baker should update testing guidance immediately and encourage asymptomatic people who are high risk to seek testing.|
|A Seat at the Table||F||The Governor has not consulted with or engaged the groups most impacted by reopening decisions and has ignored calls to name a Recovery Advisory Board to advise him on decisions about future phases of reopening (and, if needed, reclosing), including guidance for standards and enforcement. Essential workers, Black and Latinx communities, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ people, and older adults will be most affected by these decisions but have no seat at the table. Likewise, municipal public health leaders who are responsible for education, communications, and enforcement at the local level, have not been consulted on important decisions. While useful, the DPH health equity advisory committee was not convened for this purpose.||Governor Baker should name a Recovery Advisory Board immediately with representation from the communities most impacted by COVID-19.|
Coalition Announces Four Criteria for a Reopening that Protects All Residents
On June 4, the Task Force on Coronavirus & Equity released four criteria necessary for an equitable reopening in Massachusetts. The criteria, backed by a coalition of more than 100 organizations, are:
- Infection Rates Dropping for All Groups
- Enforceable Protections for Workers + Support for Small Businesses
- Accelerate and Expand Testing
- A Seat at the Table for Those Most Impacted