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.

Baker said the federal government does not appear to be developing guidelines covering such decisions or setting rules for so-called vaccine passes. In the absence of federal action, Baker said, he does not believe an individual state should try to do so on its own.

“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.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

“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.