Baker laissez-faire on vaccine requirements
Says he won’t require state employees to be vaccinated
GOV. CHARLIE BAKER said his administration will leave it up to businesses and organizations to decide whether they want to adopt vaccination requirements for employees or patrons, and added that the executive branch of state government won’t require its employees to be vaccinated.
“I don’t think we’re going to require people [working in the executive branch] to be vaccinated, no,” Baker said at a State House press conference on Tuesday. Asked to explain his rationale, he said: “It’s still a free country last I checked. My company, our company, the executive branch of state government, is a lot different than any other business in Massachusetts.”
The Republican governor’s stance on state workers puts him at odds with two Democrats eyeing his job – former state senator Ben Downing and Attorney General Maura Healey. Baker has shied away from taking a stance on so-called vaccine passes and the notion of businesses treating vaccinated people differently than non-vaccinated people. But on Tuesday, as he announced a series of steps to lift most state COVID restrictions by August 1, he clarified his position.
Baker said many businesses and employers can set their own vaccination requirements now. In recent weeks, many colleges and universities, including most institutions that are part of the public UMass system, have announced that students will need to provide proof of vaccination in order to return to school in the fall. Businesses are also starting to set ground rules for workers returning to the office.
“This would be almost impossible to do at the state level if the feds aren’t going to to anything,” Baker said. While the governor did not support uniform ground rules for vaccination requirements, he did urge the federal government to set vaccination ground rules for international travel.
Within Massachusetts, Baker said, he would leave decisions on vaccination requirements up to individual businesses. “I fully expect that as this moves forward you’re going to see businesses make a lot of decisions based on the nature of their business, the nature of their customers here, the nature of their community, and the nature of the way they feel about all this stuff. People are going to make different kinds of decisions about how they’re going to handle this,” he said.“I don’t think we should do that with a one size fits all. I think we should let businesses, employers, organizations, based on the people they serve, the folks who work for them, and the nature of whatever the particular concerns they might have about spread and about COVID, drive the way they make decisions about how to handle this stuff,” he said.
“The idea that we should have one set of rules for all of them as we come back out of this doesn’t make any sense to me at all,” he said.